From the files of MI5 in the Public Record Office, London: KV.2/132.
[British interrogation of Joel Brand]
Website note: This extract is from a report on the first British interrogations of Joel Brand in Cairo, conducted over the last two weeks of June 1944, a month after he set out from Budapest for Istanbul; the first 33 pages are an exhaustive point by point interrogation of Brand, as MI5 experts try to match his statements with what they know from intercepts and other interrogations, notably those of Samuel Springmann and Brand's travel companion Bandi (Andor) Gross. They conclude that Brand is naïve but probably speaking the truth. The report ends with MI5's appreciation of the case as of the end of June 1944, and this is reproduced below. Standard British Army practice was to put all proper names in capital letters; we have not followed that here. Interpolations in square brackets [ ] are by us. Names have been emboldened, at first mention, following our website style.
SIME/P.7769, Report No. 1, Joel Jeno Brand, Hungarian Jew, Jun 16-30, 1944
[Pages 34 to 37 only; pages 1 to 33 (paras. 1 to 191) are not copied here]
192. Brand is talking freely. About his connection with the Germans, he was willing to give the fullest details, but refused at first to discuss his own organisation in Hungary or what he had done in connection with the Jewish Agency in Istanbul.
193. He states that he was perfectly aware of the characters of the Germans with whom he was in contact and of the services to which they belonged, but that in his frantic efforts to save the lives of his fellow-Jews, he had no right to refuse the assistance of anyone on grounds of character or their services. Most of them repelled him; [Adolf] Eichmann's name was a by-word amongst the Jews. Yet they were the only channels through which he could hope to effect anything. He knew that when they carried money for him, some of it went into their own pockets; he knew that the Gross--Wininger group acted as couriers only for what they could make -- and they were all making small fortunes; he knew that Eichmann had been responsible for the horrible deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews and that his word was scarcely to be trusted. Yet he had no choice but to deal with these men; they were the only authorities from whom he could hope to obtain any concessions.
194. Brand has been in contact with:-
(a) The Abwehr - Schmidt, Wininger, Sedlacek and Scholz.
Klages gave his title as Leiter IV/3 which shows him to be a member of the Gestapo. When Krumey took Brand and Gross to Vienna, he told them they would have to be his guests and took them to the Gestapo Headquarters. The problems which follow logically out of the contacts are:-
(a) Whether Brand has been sent to the ME [Middle East] on a secret mission for the Abwehr or the SD [Sicherheitsdienst] or whether his ostensible mission of bargaining for goods in exchange for blood is in fact the real one -- to use other words, is Brand telling the truth or has he a second mission? (para. 195).
195. Brand gives the impression of being a very naïve idealist. He has at the moment one aim in life -- to save as many of his fellow-Jews as he possibly can, and to do this, he is willing to go to any extremes to fight the people who are oppressing them. He was willing to use the Abwehr or the SD, because they were the only channels through which he could effect anything for his Jews. It is possible then that under extreme pressure and against a promise of a certain number of Jewish lives, he would have accepted a mission, but it is very doubtful if any second mission was put to him. It is the IO's [Interrogating Officer's] opinion that Brand is telling the truth concerning his contacts with the Germans and his mission.
196. There seem to have been certain indications that the Germans were not so sincere in their offer as Brand thought. Only on one occasion were numbers of articles or quantities of foodstuffs specified, and then merely thrown into the conversation as a casual suggestion. Throughout, the Germans were very vague concerning their actual demands, suggesting that Jewry abroad would know exactly what to send. When he was finally given the German requirements they were in the form of a typed list of about 15 or 20 items, with no numbers or quantities specified and the paper was not even in an envelope. This was to be Brand's basis for bargaining. It seems obvious then that the Germans were not sincere, otherwise they would have been more thorough in discussing the goods they required. It is possible that the Germans felt sure that the mission was hopeless, and that the Allies would not consider bartering valuable goods for a problematical number of Jews who were still being deported and executed in the mass. It is possible that they wished to use this mission for propaganda purposes, since they could turn to the world and say that though they had killed six million Jews, they were still willing to let two million emigrate, but that the Allies had refused the offer, forcing the Germans to kill many more whom they could not support. Although Brand was convinced that the Germans were sincere, he also felt that there was a possibility that this was the German aim. This theory is also supported by the fact that deportations and executions were continuing up to the time when Brand left Budapest.
197. Another possible aspect of the propaganda use of this mission is the reference to the fact that the material supplied by the Allies would be used on the Eastern front and not in the West. This was first suggested by Eichmann, who later said that his statement had been corroborated by Berlin. Other officials repeatedly reminded Brand that the lorries must be equipped for cold temperatures. This might have been a bait for the Allies, to reassure them that they would not suffer by supplying the material and foodstuffs, in case they were inclined to enter into negotiations, or it might have been an attempt to cause dissension between the British and the Americans on the one hand and the Russians on the other.
198. Brand used the Abwehr group as couriers to Turkey, Poland, Slovakia. They knew he was in contact with Rumania and Switzerland. The post he received passed officially through the Hadik [Hungarian Intelligence], where it was censored. Brand said that their really urgent post was handed over privately as the courier was about to depart or had just arrived, but this by no means precludes the possibility of it having been read by the courier. When Brand asked for information concerning individual refugees in Poland or Slovakia, the Germans replied, "Your news service is quicker than ours", showing thereby that they knew how speedily his information was received. When the Swedish Military Attaché brought letters from Switzerland, it was Gross who first got hold of the letters and handed them to Eichmann. Brand's courier service was therefore thoroughly penetrated by the Germans, who would have a very good knowledge of the work he was doing and the scale on which it was being carried on. Brand admits that in the last few days before he left Hungary, Gross saw some false identity papers on his table, though he says Gross did not know to what extent they were being used nor that Brand printed them himself. Brand also claimed that the Germans knew so much about his organisation and work, it is very doubtful if any part of his activities remained a secret from them.
199. Brand's correspondence to the Jewish Agency in Turkey was handled by Abwehr agents who were paid for their services by the Jewish Agency in Istanbul, though to what extent it had penetrated the Agency or whether it tried to use the Agency for its own purposes, has not come out during the interrogation.
200. Two points of interest have appeared during the course of the interrogation:-
(a) A desire by members of both the Abwehr and the SD for good testimonials from Jews (para. 201).
201. Before the German occupation of Hungary, Schmidt told Brand to write a report to the British and American Ambassadors in Turkey to the effect that his work had only been made possible through the good services of a certain group of men. Though no names were to be mentioned, the Ambassadors were to be left in no doubt as to the identity of Brand's kindly assistants. Just before Brand climbed into the plane in Vienna [May 19, 1944], Krumey told him that in the answer he was to bring back from the Allies, there must be an appreciation of his, Krumey's, kind and helpful services.
202. When Eichmann first suggested that Brand should go abroad to negotiate 'goods for blood', the Abwehr group resisted this because they did not wish to let the negotiations out of their own hands. They insisted that one of their own men should accompany Brand and delayed his departure by continually saying that their man was not yet ready to go. Instead of Eichmann communicating directly with Schmidt, he told Brand, a Jew, to ask Schmidt to let him go to Turkey even without an Abwehr companion. When Laufer sent for Brand, he spent a great deal of time discoursing on the Abwehr agents and their methods. Laufer had obviously fund out from Gross most of what was to be known about Schmidt and his group and pressed Brand for corroboration. Finally all four members of the Abwehr, whom Brand had known in Budapest, were arrested.
203. The list of people present at the first meeting to discuss the formation of the Hungarian Hagana (para. 41 of this report) differs from that supplied by Springmann ( ref. CC.100,801, Report No. 3, para. 5). When Brand was asked if those mentioned by Springmann had not also been present, he replied that most of the were on the second rung of the movement and it was through them that they had distributed the arms which they had managed to collect, but that they had not attended the first meeting. Since Brand was the originator and prime mover in the movement, his information is more likely to be correct than that of Springmann.
204. Brand was very reticent about the Hungarian Hagana and the personalities connected with it; his confusion of the Palestine Hagana and the Irgun Zvai Leumi is extraordinary in a Jew of such high standing. another point of surprising ignorance is Brand's assumption that each of the Palestine immigration certificates granted by the British Authorities to the Jewish Agency covers a family of five persons (see para. 84 of this report). This is in fact, not correct. Each certificate cover sonly one person.
205. That Brand has not been sent to the ME with any mission other than the business-deal of "goods for blood" which he had come openly to negotiate, but that the sincerity of the German offer is very disputable.
W B Savigny, Lt.
2nd July 1944
Intelligence, Middle East]
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