The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 59
(Part 1 of 6)

Session No. 59

16 Sivan 5721 (31 May 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the fifty-ninth Session of the trial open. There are again some technical matters to be dealt with. With regard to taking Novak's testimony, Mr. Hausner, do you know how much time you need to prepare your questionnaire?

Attorney General: Yes, we shall try and have it ready by tomorrow morning.

Presiding Judge: I appreciate that. Dr. Servatius, you have not given us Novak's full address. It merely says "Vienna."

Dr. Servatius: I believe I wrote "in prison" - "in the Vienna remand prison."

Presiding Judge: It does not say so, but we shall add it. What is his first name - Franz?

Dr. Servatius: I do not know, but at the prison it will certainly be known.

Attorney General: According to our documents, he is called Franz Novak.

Presiding Judge: Elsewhere it says "in the Vienna remand prison" - excuse me, Dr. Servatius, I overlooked this reference. It is not next to his name, but appears later in the application.

Presiding Judge:

Decision No. 63

It is hereby decided to request the Austrian Court to take the testimony of Franz Novak, held in prison in Vienna, in accordance with the arrangements for mutual legal assistance existing between Austria and the State of Israel.

I wish to announce that the morning Session on Monday of next week will commence at 10:30 instead of nine o'clock.

Is Mrs. Brand in the courtroom? Please come to the stand. Please sit down, Mrs. Brand. You are still testifying under oath.

Witness Hansi Brand: Yes.

Judge Raveh: Mrs. Brand, at the end of your testimony yesterday, you mentioned some interim agreement in Constantinople. What does that mean?

Witness Hansi Brand: Two or three weeks after my husband left for Constantinople, a telegram arrived: "Interim agreement on the way." This was apparently meant to be a reply to the negotiations he had been conducting under the heading of "Blood for goods, goods for blood" - in other words, some confirmation that something had been agreed on in this matter.

Q. In other words, in actual fact there was no agreement - it was only as regards Eichmann, as if there was some sort of apparent agreement?

A. I have to correct myself, a telegram arrived saying: "Interim agreement concluded."

Q. What I really want to know is whether there was really an agreement, or whether that was only for show vis-a-vis Eichmann or the Germans. That is what I am asking.

A. I cannot reply to that, because we had no idea what was happening in Constantinople. All I could do was to take literally what it said in the telegram; whether it was meant to be taken seriously or not, we had no idea and no way of getting any clearer idea.

Q. Did you take the telegram to Eichmann?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you show him the telegram, or did you just tell him what it said?

A. Of course I showed him the telegram - we had to show it.

Q. What was his reaction?

A. After all these years I cannot quote him verbatim, but his reaction was not particularly positive. He said that a telegram saying "interim agreement concluded" was not yet a reply that he would obtain what he had demanded, and so we would have to wait until we received the interim agreement. In any case, he saw this as a good sign.

Q. Mrs. Brand, let us now return to the last days before your husband left Budapest. Would you please tell us, as far as you can, with reference to this transaction, what you heard from Eichmann himself, and what you heard from your husband. First of all, perhaps you would think back to the conversation which took place on the day before your husband's departure between Eichmann, your husband and yourself. Tell us what Eichmann said in the course of this conversation about this transaction.

A. These two things cannot be separated, because they both have the same content. Today, all these years later, I cannot say exactly who said what. It was not exactly a daily event for one of the Germans to come to the Jews and tell them, "you can have a million Jews for ten thousand trucks." That was something my husband could not comment on either. And when I took over what was known as liaison work between the committee and Eichmann, that was repeated, that he was to go to a neutral foreign country and should be able to procure these ten thousand trucks and also, if possible - something Eichmann saw as a minor detail - a little tea, coffee, etc. There was no need for a middleman with my husband, but between the committee and Eichmann.

Q. I am not querying your statement, I simply want to clarify things. I understand that today you cannot distinguish between what you heard from Eichmann and what you heard from your husband. Is that correct? Is that what you are saying?

A. Yes.

Q. At that time, did you hear anything about one hundred thousand Jews who were to be retained, or who were not to be deported, if your husband returned with a positive answer?

A. Yes, that was one of Eichmann's offers, that he would give one hundred thousand as an advance.

Q. Do you remember whether you heard this from Eichmann or from your husband?

A. From both.

Q. That is to say, Eichmann mentioned this also in the conversation before your husband's departure?

A. Yes.

Q. And if your husband returned, he [Eichmann] would blow up the Auschwitz gas chambers. Did you hear that as well?

A. Yes.

Q. From whom?

A. From Eichmann and also from my husband. I first heard it from my husband, and then from Eichmann.

Q. Did you hear this from Eichmann before your husband left or afterwards?

A. Before he left.

Q. Did you hear anything to the effect that Eichmann would keep the people whom he would deport in Austria for a week or two?

A. Yes.

Q. From Eichmann or from your husband?

A. From Eichmann.

Q. Before or after your husband's departure?

A. Both before and after his departure.

Q. Are you sure that Eichmann said that - and not someone else on the part of the Germans? Or someone else, not on the part of the Germans?

A. I remember this clearly, precisely because later we complained that he had promised that and then not kept his promise.

Judge Halevi: Mrs. Brand, with regard to my colleague's question just now, this Austrian matter. Did this not arise later? Yesterday you said something about Debrecen and Jews whom Eichmann considered to be of lower ethnic value. All of this occurred more or less throughout June, did it not?

Witness Hansi Brand: That was somewhat later, after my husband's departure.

Q. Perhaps you are mistaken about an earlier promise on this matter?

A. I don't remember, but during the first days, when we went up to see him, our complaint was that he had made these promises precisely because he wanted people in neutral foreign countries to believe that he meant this offer seriously, that he wanted to show some sort of good will, and what actually came of this good will was that, instead of sending these people to Austria or somewhere else where they could await the outcome of an agreement, he sent them straight to Auschwitz. I only cannot remember from whom we heard the first reports that the trains from Hungary were going in the direction of Auschwitz. But I cannot be wrong in this respect - it is a fact, one hundred per cent.

Q. Did the Accused not say himself that the trains were being sent direct to Auschwitz?

A. After the subsequent negotiations, I cannot give any precise dates and indicate exactly why we went to see him, because we always went to see him in respect of the same matter. When we made some complaint or other, he promised us: "You can cable your husband that I am letting the mill run," which meant that he was sending people to Auschwitz. We did not have to reflect very much on what that meant - for us it was completely clear.

Q. When did you first hear the name Bandi Grosz?

A. I heard the name Bandi Grosz in 1942.

Q. I am now referring to the period when the Nazis were already in Hungary, as from 19 March 1944. At that time, when was the first time that you heard of some special assignment for Bandi Grosz?

A. After the occupation by the Nazis, the first thing I heard of Bandi Grosz was that he was one of the first Hungarians to be arrested.

Q. And after he was released?

A. I do not remember when I saw him or when I spoke to him; what I do remember is when it appeared that he would accompany my husband to Istanbul. I do not remember what he did in the meanwhile.

Q. Then you already spoke to him?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you speak about?

A. I do not remember. In general terms, perhaps I can say that he made a very big thing out of it. We ourselves also considered it to be a very big thing that the Germans wanted a Jew...

Q. I am asking about Bandi Grosz. What did he say?

A. I cannot repeat his words; simply, he was very excited that the Germans were sending a Jew abroad, but I do not remember what else he said or how he said it. I should like to add something: When he spoke about it, no one believed that it would come off. It was so incredible that the Germans would send out a Jew, everyone just laughed in his face.

Q. In other words, that was before Eichmann himself talked with your husband about the mission?

A. In terms of time I cannot work it out, if that was already during the discussions - but it must have been, because we had not talked about it previously, about there being any such possibility at all.

Q. I gather that when Eichmann first proposed this transaction to your husband you did not laugh at the possibility of sending a Jew abroad - at that point Eichmann's approval had already been given.

A. Even though it was an offer from Eichmann, it was still incredible. At first we just could not grasp it, we were just totally unable to imagine it, since we were aware that he had already exterminated five million Jews, we knew who he was, that person before whom my husband was standing. And then, suddenly he comes to him with an offer like this, and we had also heard that there had been various offers made in various countries, and the Jews had been robbed and they had all been killed, despite promises that they would be sent abroad. They had negotiated, and at the end of the negotiations they finished up in the gas chambers. So when he made this offer, we were not at all sure - we had no positive feeling that it was something serious and that he seriously intended to deliver up Hungarian Jewry.

Q. Did you ever hear that Bandi Grosz said that he had found a new line, the right line - by going not to the servants, but to those who were in charge of matters affecting the Jews? Did you hear Bandi Grosz boasting about this being the right line?

A. Yes, I remember him boasting that he had found the right line.

Q. Did Bandi Grosz have connections with Klages and Schroeder?

A. Yes, definitely.

Q. Who was Schroeder?

A. Schroeder was one of the agents of the Security Service - he was either Jewish or a converted Jew, or possibly a half- Jew.

Q. What was Schroeder's real name?

A. I think it was Laufer.

Q. Did he wear a uniform?

A. No, I only saw him in civilian dress.

Q. Did Klages wear uniform?

A. Certainly.

Q. Klages was a high-ranking officer in the Security Service, was he not?

A. As far as we were aware at the time, he was the Head of the Security Service.

Q. And Klages behaved well towards you?

A. I must say something about this which is perhaps not relevant here.

Q. Would you please first answer my question: Did Klages behave well towards you?

A. Yes. Now I am no longer sure. When he saw me for the first time and made my acquaintance, I was in a terrible state.

Q. So you said yesterday.

A. And I deduced from this that perhaps that was the reason why he was particularly polite to me and tried to behave decently.

Q. So that it would not be quite right to say that he pretended to be shocked - it was not just play-acting. He was really shocked, then, to see you beaten up, after having been tortured.

A. When he saw me in that state, I myself was not in a state which allowed me to judge whether he was serious or whether he wanted to show that he was a gentleman and, so to say, had "rachmones"* {*Yiddish for "pity"} on me.

Q. And after that, whenever you had difficulties with Eichmann, or generally in these negotiations, you turned to him?

A. After that I decided that I would try and consider him as a decent human being, and I would try to maintain that approach - perhaps that would be more helpful to us than if I accepted that he was also a Nazi.

Q. Did Klages disappoint you in that expectation, that hope?

A. I must again say something about this. This was at a time when every day we hoped that the War was coming to an end. And you could feel a certain amount of uncertainty amongst the Nazis - some of them were already wearing rather tattered uniforms. I would like to relate something here which was characteristic of the situation, giving us a base for hope, because we thought there would be Nazis who would want to try and come up with alibis.

Q. Do you perhaps know what happened to Klages afterwards?

A. During the coup on 15 October, when they tried to arrest Horthy's son, Klages was shot in the stomach and died a few days later.

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