The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 59
(Part 2 of 6)

Q. Do you know whether this idea of your husband's trip abroad arose in Klage's circles?

A. I do not understand.

Q. Did the first idea of your husband going abroad come from Klages' or Schroeder's people - Laufer or Bandi Grosz, who was connected with them?

A. Possibly.

Q. You said something in Court to the effect that the Accused once told you that he did not have the power to free anybody. You will remember that yesterday you said that you contacted him with regard to releasing parachutists. I do not wish to go into the parachutists affair, but into the Accused's reply that he had no power to order releases.

A. Yes.

Q. Did he also tell you who did have that power?

A. He did not. But we contacted everyone with whom we had been in touch. So we contacted Klages, and we contacted Becher, and we contacted Krumey and Eichmann as well.

Q. And who had the power?

A. I cannot say, I do not know.

Q. Are you aware of the fact that Klages was the Head of the SD? That this was the Security Service, that he was responsible for these matters - security matters - arrests and releases?

A. But the parachutists were not held by the Germans, they had been arrested by the Hungarian authorities.

Q. But I am referring to the Germans, as far as it depended on the Germans.

A. Of course it depended on the Security Service.

Q. You also said that you took your children to the Columbus Camp, if I am not mistaken.

A. Yes, I did.

Q. You also said that when Eichmann refused to allow them to leave, you were very disappointed, but you also saw this as a sign that the matter was meant seriously.

A. Yes.

Q. Are you perhaps aware that the late Dr. Kasztner received reliable information from Wisliceny with reference to the seriousness of the train, and that the latter based himself on information from Eichmann's secretary?

A. I do not remember. Later on, Wisliceny was not considered by us to be at all reliable or credible.

Q. During all the negotiations, did you ever hear anything about Eichmann's secretary passing on information to your people?

A. No.

Q. I assume that if Dr. Kasztner had known about this, he would have told you?

A. I assume so.

Q. You mentioned yesterday the flight of the Manfred Weiss family from Hungary?

A. Yes.

Q. And you said in that connection that it was not generally known to the Jews at that time. You said that the Jews did not know that the Nazis had already saved Jews such as the Weiss family?

A. Yes.

Q. This was not known to many people - was it a secret?

A. It was a secret. The Weiss family was one of the leading families, they did not have much to do with the ordinary people, except that Baroness Weiss was involved with child welfare and other matters, and no one was struck by the fact that she did not come to a meeting - it was not the sort of thing that could be checked on quickly. If I am not mistaken, we ourselves also heard from the Germans that the Weiss family had gone abroad.

Q. And did you hear that they had paid out a fortune for that, certainly vast sums?

A. All we knew was that all the Weiss family's factories were in German hands, they had been transferred.

Q. And the committee did not deal with these matters?

A. We had nothing at all to do with it.

Q. Did you hear that Becher had dealt with the matter before you met him?

A. Yes.

Q. Much later, you did remain in Budapest all the time?

A. Yes.

Q. Was there a time when Becher not only dealt with economic affairs, but was in command at Budapest?

A. I am not aware of that. I only knew him as the Head of the Economic Department.

Q. Do you know what was the role of the Accused in this respect during the period of the large-scale deportations to Auschwitz?

A. I can say that, as far as we knew, he was the person on whom everything that affected Jews depended. Everything lay in his hands. Eichmann was the person who made all the decisions which affected Jews - he proposed and also implemented them.

Q. And was there a time when it was known that he was sending people to the gas chambers in Auschwitz?

A. It was known - of course it was known that Eichmann was sending people to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Q. Did the committee ever discuss the possibility of eliminating him, Eichmann, of killing him?

A. We had various reports from various countries about what happened to partisans and people who undertook anything against Germans. I do not wish to blow my own trumpet, nor do I wish to blow the committee's trumpet - we bore this in mind, what we could achieve. Let us assume that we go in to see him, we are not checked, and one of us shoots him. What would we achieve by that? I must say that frankly and sincerely: We were a Committee for Aid and Rescue of our people, and none of us was a "gibor," a hero. We were not heroes. So what we bore in mind was how we could try and keep people alive, because it did not seem at all definite to us that if he were to vanish, we would manage to save everything. That was not at all certain.

May I add something?

Q. Perhaps the next question will make clear what I am driving at. I do not believe that you or your fellow committee members were lacking in bravery or personal courage. You proved that in your behaviour when you were tortured, as you related yesterday. I believe that if you had considered it necessary, you would have found the way. It was a matter to be weighed.

A. That is what I wanted to say: We were not conversant with the German Nazi hierarchy. We were convinced - we knew, but we could not be sure - that perhaps someone else would replace Eichmann, and the machine would continue working, perhaps even faster. Although we had this contact with the Germans, we had no idea what was going on deep down, behind the scenes. And then later we saw what happened in Slovakia after the partisans' uprising. After the uprising, not only those who had taken up arms were liquidated - immediately after the uprising the entire camp was sent to Auschwitz.

Judge Halevi: Thank you.

Presiding Judge: Mrs. Brand, I wish to ask you, with regard to the three suitcases which you handed over in Klages' office, you said that you handed them over for safekeeping?

Witness Hansi Brand: Yes.

Q. For safekeeping, under what conditions?

A. It was just safekeeping. Since we were afraid to keep them with us, we had no safes at the time in which to keep our valuables, and we had already once been robbed by another office, so we did not wish to expose ourselves to the same danger again. So it was necessary to find somewhere where we would be sure that it would be accounted for. And that is how it came about that Klages accepted them and put them in his safe.

Q. Are you saying "Verrechnung" (accounting)? That is not "Depot" (safekeeping).

A. It was supposed to remain our property, which was to be accounted for. In other words, it was not to be stolen, requisitioned or confiscated - and we were to view it as a quid pro quo.

Q. Was this spoken about with Klages or someone else, or was it indirectly understood without it being spoken about?

A. First of all I made enquiries. I did not simply pick up the suitcases. I went up to ask him. I must add that during this period we had undergone so many defeats at the hands of so many sides - but the Germans still received us and wanted to maintain the contact. We had to do it, but we were not aware of the Germans' ulterior motives. So then we had this problem where we ourselves would collect an amount of money at home, but we could not keep the money with us - who would be responsible for it? That is why he undertook to keep the money in safekeeping in his safe, until it had to be accounted for.

Q. That is what you talked over with Klages?

A. Yes.

Q. Was an account ever drawn up afterwards?

A. Yes.

Q. When?

A. Somewhat later. First of all there was an evaluation, and later it was accounted for in connection with the Bergen- Belsen transport. It was part of the money which was paid for it.

Q. That means that, at that point, these suitcases were transferred to Klages? Klages or Becher?

A. With the calculations, which gave the value, which went to Becher.

Q. What was the estimated value of the contents of these suitcases?

A. I do not remember what the amount was, but we tried to get a high figure.

Q. You do not remember approximately?

A. No.

Q. Now the next point. You said that Eichmann did not keep his promise?

A. Yes.

Q. Could you tell us specifically: This he kept and this he did not keep? You or your husband - I do not remember who - spoke of six or eight hundred people. Did he not keep that promise?

A. He did not.

Q. Why not?

A. He did not keep his promise.

Q. The six or eight hundred: Was that the train which was later called the Bergen-Belsen train?

A. Yes.

Q. And what did he not keep? Those people did eventually reach a neutral country, did they not?

A. When I said that he did not keep his word, that was when my husband had left, and he had promised that he would send the first carriages to an accessible place in Austria or in Germany, and that Auschwitz would not operate, in order to provide a basis for negotiating - he did not keep that promise, that was one of the main points. He immediately started with the deportations, and he started immediately with the gassings in Auschwitz.

Q. But that did not affect the six or eight hundred. That is why I did not understand this point. I understood well that this was a serious breach of his promise: He said that there would be no deportations to Auschwitz, but there were - but why, in your statement about the six or eight hundred, did you say that he did not keep his promise?

A. The reason why I said this was because he promised that he would bring several hundred people from the provincial towns to Budapest to be included in this group of six or eight hundred, and he insisted on our giving him lists; and when he got them, he always had some excuse or other, and finally he argued that he did not have anywhere to accommodate these people.

Q. Was there anything else that he did not fulfil despite promising, apart from the two matters you have referred to?

A. The fact that he did not fulfil that promise meant that six or seven weeks later most of Hungarian Jewry had been gassed.

Presiding Judge: Thank you. Do you have any further questions arising from the judges' questions?

State Attorney Bach: I have one question, Your Honour.

Mrs. Brand, I should like to clarify something. You have told the Court about two conversations with Eichmann in which there was talk of sending people to Austria - first of all the first conversations before your husband left, when there was talk of temporary deportation to Austria and not to Auschwitz, and then about the fifteen thousand people who were sent from Debrecen to Strasshof for labour. Now, in those first conversations in your husband's presence, and perhaps after his departure, was it then also said that a certain number of Jews was to be sent to Austria?

Witness Hansi Brand: I do not remember; I can definitely say, however, that, as far as those from Debrecen and others were concerned, that was a success of the subsequent negotiations conducted with Becher.

Q. As far as the first discussions are concerned, do you not remember a certain number of Jews who were to be sent to Austria?

A. I do not remember.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions which arise from the judges' questions?

Dr. Servatius: Yes. Was it a major condition of the agreement that your husband should return personally and bring a decision within two weeks?

Witness Hansi Brand: I do not believe so, it was no more important a condition than that he would keep the people alive as long as possible and would not let Auschwitz operate.

Q. Mrs. Brand, may I ask you to reply to my question? Was it part of the agreement that your husband should return and report personally on what had happened within two weeks?

A. Yes, but he said that if he had not finished within two weeks, he might remain several days more, but he should simply report to that effect. I believe, if I am not mistaken, that that was in the agreement as well.

Q. Thank you very much. I now come to my last question. You said that Eichmann told you that he would start operating the mills again. Is it certain that he himself used this expression to you?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it not possible that you are confusing this with things which you heard from Kasztner, or later from your husband, or that you read somewhere, so that now you are presenting this in good faith as your belief?

A. No.

Q. Then I should like to read something out to you from your husband's book. On page 258, in connection with the interim agreement, it says that he - Eichmann - said to Kasztner: "If Brand is not back within three days, I shall let the mills in Auschwitz run again." According to this version, he said it to Kasztner and not to you.

A. In my presence.

Dr. Servatius: I have no further questions to the witness.

Presiding Judge: Thank you Mrs. Brand. That completes your testimony. We shall now call Mr. Joel Brand. Mr. Brand, you are still testifying under oath.

Witness Joel Brand: Of course.

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