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US Government Rescue Efforts

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Ira Hirschmann Interview with Joel Brand

Hirschmann Brand Interview
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library

On June 22, 1944, Ira Hirschmann, the War Refugee Board's representative in Turkey, interviewed Joel Brand, a Hungarian Jew who had recently arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, with a ransom offer from Nazi officials. During this interview, Brand described the Nazis' proposition in broad terms, his meetings with SS-officer Adolf Eichmann, and the ongoing deportations of Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Their discussion shows that Nazi perpetrators expressed willingness to negotiate with the Allies to stop the killing and that the United States was open to this possibility.1

In the featured interview, Brand describes the major Nazi officials in Budapest, particularly Adolf Eichmann, who "suggested that I should go and he would give an offer." Brand provides few details, but notes that Eichmann wanted trucks, possibly ten thousand of them, in exchange for the lives of the surviving Jews of Europe. Brand tells Hirschmann that the Nazi Party is splitting into factions, and that some of these groups could be bribed. The ransom negotiations would benefit the Nazi officials no matter how they turned out—either the Allies would pay a ransom, or Nazi Germany could claim a propaganda victory and argue that the Allies did not take action to save European Jews when they had been offered the chance. 

Hirschmann sent this transcript to his War Refugee Board colleagues in the United States and wrote a report describing Brand as "honest, clear, incisive, blunt, and completely frank." He advised setting up a meeting between Nazi representatives and American and British officials in a neutral country with Brand in attendance to continue secret negotiations. Those meetings never occurred—British and American newspapers reported on the ransom offer in July 1944, calling it “the most monstrous blackmail attempt in history."2

Whether Nazi officials were sincere in these negotations remains questionable. For more, see Randolph Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000); and Yehuda Bauer, Jews for Sale? Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).

"Nazis Reported in Bid to 'Spare' 400,000 Jews," The New York Herald Tribune, late city edition, July 19, 1944. The US secretly supported new ransom negotiations with Nazi officials between August 1944 and February 1945. Although the US never paid ransom, Nazi Germany released more than 1,600 Hungarian Jews from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a supposed sign of good faith.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library
Accession Number Hirschmann Papers, Box 3, Folder "Joel Brand 2"
Date Created
June 22, 1944
Author / Creator
Ira Hirschmann
Joel Brand
Istanbul, Turkey
Document Type Report
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