The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 58
(Part 2 of 5)

Presiding Judge: What is your full name?

Witness: Hansi Brand.

Presiding Judge: Would you now please reply to Mr. Bach's questions - try to remain calm and not get worked up.

Don't take it to heart - just speak slowly.

State Attorney Bach: Let us start with prosaic matters, Mrs. Brand. You were born in Budapest?

Witness Hansi Brand: Yes.

Q. And you went to school in Budapest?

A. Yes.

Q. When you were still at school, you joined the Zionist movement?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you also participate in hachshara?

A. Yes.

Q. And it was in fact when you were on hachshara that you met your husband, Joel Brand?

A. Yes.

Q. When did you get married?

A. In 1935.

Q. After that you set up a workshop and worked in the workshop together with your husband?

A. Yes.

Presiding Judge: What kind of a workshop?

Witness Hansi Brand: For knitwear, knitted goods.

State Attorney Bach: Mrs. Brand, you were active on the committee called "The Relief and Rescue Committee" in Budapest?

Witness Hansi Brand: Yes.

Q. And were you also active on that committee before the Germans entered Hungary on 19 March 1944?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell the Court what was the task of this committee and what was your task?

A. As shown by the name, the task of our committee was to act as a "Relief and Rescue Committee."

Presiding Judge: Please speak German, you will feel more comfortable.

Witness Hansi Brand: The task of the committee at that time was to ensure that the stream of refugees who entered Hungary from the various countries occupied by the Germans were given support, in order to find shelter. There were various possibilities at that time of accommodating these refugees, and it was my task to look after these people, who did not speak Hungarian, so that they would be clothed, would look decent, and also to get the necessary papers for them, so that they could show their identity, and also get housing for them. That is what I helped them with.

State Attorney Bach: Which countries did the refugees whom you looked after before March 1944 come from?

Witness Hansi Brand: The first ones came from Germany, then they came from Austria, and then from Poland and Slovakia, and some groups even came from Yugoslavia.

Q. Was your committee recognized by law, or was it a committee which worked underground?

A. All of our work was illegal. Under the law it was forbidden to have any contact at all with the refugees, so all of our work was illegal.

Q. What was the task of your husband within the context of this committee?

A. My husband was one of the first who set up the Va'ada, the committee, together with Otto Komoly, Rezsoe Kasztner, Samos Springmann and himself.

Q. The chairman of the committee was Otto Komoly?

A. Yes.

Q. What was your husband's special task on the committee, particularly after Springmann left Hungary?

A. After Springmann left Hungary, my husband, together with Rezsoe Kasztner became responsible for the various connections with the different couriers who brought us letters and money from abroad. Also, if I am to give details, there were specific duties with regard to looking after the refugees, and my husband was the person who organized the tiyulim.

Presiding Judge: What were these?

Witness Hansi Brand: Tiyul (in Hebrew) or excursion was the name used by the committee for escape.

State Attorney Bach: Mrs. Brand, you have told us that you looked after the refugees who reached Hungary. After 19 March 1944, were any new tasks assigned to you by the committee?

Witness Hansi Brand: After March 19, a totally different situation confronted our Va'ada. Earlier we had tried, with our Jewish hearts, to help the refugees who entered Hungary and to collect the necessary money which was needed for them to survive. Once the Germans occupied Hungary, we had another problem, since all these refugees were now doubly in danger, and the Hungarian Jews were also in a very dangerous situation. We had found out by experience that at a certain point people who had Christian papers were helped at least for a while, so we decided that I should arrange for this, that is to say, that various Christian papers should be obtained not only for the refugees, but in great quantities, so that Hungarian Jews could have them as well, in order to try to submerge with these Aryan papers.

Q. Who helped you in this work?

A. That was possibly even worse - the refugees who had got used to the whole thing over the years dealt with filling out and putting stamps on the necessary papers. I simply ordered the papers from the printer and collected them from him.

Q. Was there a particular specialist who helped you get the forms?

A. I did not have a specialist. The husband of a classmate of mine had a printing shop with which we were in touch all the time - after he had an idea of what had happened to the Jews in Poland and Slovakia, he said that he was prepared to print these papers for us.

Q. Was he Jewish?

A. Yes, he was Jewish.

Q. Did you live in your own flat all the time, or did you change your dwelling?

A. We had our own flat where we lived with the children and the whole family - we spent all those years there - but then it became known, because of the various dealings we had with the police, and so, because we were frightened, we always had alternative dwellings, so that precisely when the Germans entered Hungary, we were not living in our own flat but were on the Schwabenberg, in the same flat, the same house, where I saw Eichmann for the first time in my life.

Q. Where did you look after the refugees? Where would they come to?

A. Most of the refugees used to come to our flat or our factory.

Presiding Judge: Mr. Bach, are all these details necessary? My comment usually comes at the end, that I know already.

State Attorney Bach: Your Honour, they are of particular importance. I also wished to give the witness an opportunity to get used to the Court procedure.

Presiding Judge: We shall do that together.

State Attorney Bach: Mrs. Brand, I am sure you heard reports from your husband about his initial conversations with Eichmann.

Witness Hansi Brand: Yes, indeed.

Q. Can you tell me when you saw Eichmann for the first time?

A. The first time I saw him was, I think the day before my husband left for Istanbul.

Q. What was the purpose of your visit to Eichmann?

A. In official terms, the idea was that, as long as my husband was abroad, I should stay in touch with Eichmann and be sure to tell him when I received news from Istanbul. But during the conversation, I realized that some eighty per cent was in order to tell me personally that I, together with the children and the family, had to remain in Budapest as hostages.

Q. Where did this conversation take place?

A. On the Schwabenberg, in the Jewish Department.

Q. Apart from the three of you, who else was present?

A. I do not remember anyone else.

Q. Do you remember roughly how long the conversation lasted?

A. It took about half an hour, three quarters of an hour. I had to listen to all the details, and actually he kept asking if I was aware why he was making the trip and what his assignment was, and he told me everything in great detail. And then he told me that I should pay attention to everything, that it was a Reich secret, and that no one should find out about it, because then the consequences would be indescribable. That fact was stressed repeatedly - that it was a Reich secret.

Q. Mrs. Brand, you said previously that the purpose was, or that you understood the purpose of the conversation to be, to inform you that you and the children were hostages. From what did you gather this? From something the Accused said?

A. It was very obvious, although it was not actually said in so many words, "you will remain behind as hostages." I cannot recall that precisely. But I was told that I was not allowed to leave Budapest with the children, and that I had to report every day. By then we had had so much experience with our illegal work that it was not necessary to give any further explanations. What it means is obvious, if someone is told that he may not leave Budapest, and I have to report every day.

Q. You spoke of a Reich secret. Can you say whether Eichmann went into this Reich secret and told you in detail what the actual proposal was?

A. Yes, of course, the whole matter was explained to me, that he had offered a million Jews for ten thousand lorries, and that he had given my husband a passport, so that he should notify the free world of this and arrange the whole deal.

Q. In the conversation, was mention also made of the fate of a certain group of six hundred Jews? Do you remember that?

A. In the same discussion, of course, just as the other side put forward its position, so the Jewish side also repeated its demand that, as long as negotiations continued, there should be no deportations to Auschwitz, and since there had already been negotiations for six hundred certificates, which were ready with a transport ship waiting in Constantsa to take them off, there was talk about this, and the point was stressed that there should be some show of good will, and they were ready to help us, so that these six hundred people - that was one of the demands - that the six hundred people could leave Hungary for neutral countries.

Q. Mrs. Brand, you see the Accused before you - can you identify him as the man with whom you talked?

A. One hundred per cent.

Q. Do you remember if there was a signboard on the door of the office which you entered? I mean the office of the Accused. What did it say?

A. Sondereinsatzkommando - IVB - Jewish Department.

Q. How would you define the way in which the Accused behaved and spoke that day, in your first joint meeting?

A. My impression was that he was trying to create an atmosphere as if it was purely a business deal, a straight- forward transaction, and that we were business partners.

Q. And then, after that meeting, the day after, your husband left, and in fact you did not meet him again until after the War?

A. Yes.

Q. After your husband left, when did you first hear about deportations of Jews from Hungary?

A. To our horror we found out the next day that people were being crammed in large numbers into railway cars, forced in, ninety or a hundred to a car, whereas he had promised in my presence that people would be sent to Austria or somewhere else to wait for the outcome of the negotiations, and then all of a sudden they...I did not know where my husband was at that point, but he had already left, and then we found out that people were being loaded ninety and a hundred into one car.

Q. When you heard this information, what did you decide to do?

A. I decided that it was not for a woman to bear such responsibility, so I went to Kasztner, and we resolved that Kasztner should go up and see him the same day, to introduce himself and see him with me about the matter.

Q. See whom?

A. Eichmann.

Q. Until then Dr. Kasztner had not met Eichmann?

A. No.

Q. Did he agree to come with you?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you actually go to see Eichmann together?

A. Yes.

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