Menu JTA Search

Book on Nazi Offer to Trade Jews for U.S. Trucks Published in Germany

A detailed account of the Nazi offer in 1944 to “trade” 1,000,000 Hungarian Jews for 10,000 American heavy trucks, as well as developments which followed this offer, is presented in a book published here today entitled “The Case of Joel Brand.”

The book, which is equipped with a documentary annex, was written by Austrian physicist Alex Weissberg in close cooperation with Joel Brand, on whose memoirs it is based. Brand, Jewish intermediary in the monstrous wartime “Jews for trucks” deal, which constituted one of the most fantastic interludes in the Nazi extermination program, was born in Transylvania, grew up in the German city of Erfurt and after Hitler’s advent moved to Budapest, where he started a knitting mill. His father had founded the Budapest Telephone Company, his grandfather was postmaster of Munkacs in Carpatho-Ruthenia and at the end of his like built the “Hungarian Houses” in Jerusalem.

Together with Dr. Israel Kastner, for whose killing in Israel earlier this year three persons are currently being tried in a Tel Aviv court, Joel Brand was under the Nazi occupation of Hungary among the top leaders of the Zionist Emergency Council for Relief and Rescue in Budapest. The Council, which was instrumental in helping many Jews escape, evolved into a headquarters of Zionist underground activity in the course of the war.

Certain Gestapo leaders, who had already engaged in profitable “business transactions” by saving Slovakian Jews from the gas chambers in return for considerable cash payments, approached the Council in Budapest with similar proposals in 1944. Brand negotiated with such notorious SS chieftains as Dieter von Wisliceny, Kurt Becher and Adolf Eichmann, the top specialist for “liquidating” the Jews of Europe. He contacted the Jewish Agency representatives in Istanbul and, with their encouragement, flew to Turkey on a Nazi courier plane for a two-week mission.

While en route to Jerusalem to confer with Moshe Shertok, then a member of the Jewish Agency executive and later Premier of Israel, Brand was arrested by the British and held in custody at Cairo for several months.

NEXT STORY