Minutes of Meeting Between Jewish Council Delegation and Eichmann
(March 31, 1944)
Pro memoria relating to the meeting held at the Majestic Hotel of Svabhegy on March 31, 1944, from 8:30 to 9:45 A.M.
Present on the part of the German authorities: Obersturmbannfuehrers Eichmann and Krumey, Hauptsturmbannfuehrer Wisliceny and another officer. On our part: Samu Stern, president, Dr. Erno Boda and Dr. Erno Peto, deputy chairmen, and Dr. Janos Gabor, attorney.
First President Samu Stern presented the current requests included in a special memo. Thereafter Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann responded, talking first of all about the Yellow Star. He declared that the Yellow Star must be issued by the Central Council. When we observed that this could not be done by the fifth (of April) he replied that it would have to be replaced by a temporary one, but that from the fifth everybody would have to wear a star and that the temporary star would have to be replaced later by the one to be officially issued by the Central Council. He then declared that everybody who was required to wear the Yellow Star fell under the jurisdiction of the Central Council irrespective of his religion. He advised us to make urgent arrangements with some factory, because we would have to provide about 3 million stars. He wanted the stars to be uniform throughout the country and to be factory-made. He said we should contact the Ministry of Supplies to have them issue the necessary materials, and to get in touch with Secretary of State Laszlo Endre who handled all such matters. In his view, we would need about 70,000 meters of fabric. He further advised that the Central Council should charge about 3 Pengos per star. To the counterargument that a poor family with many members could not pay that much, he answered that the rich should pay for them and that the Central Council would be able to raise some money through the sale of the stars.
Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann then took up the requests submitted by Samu Stern, point by point:
With respect to travel, he declared that he would make no decision on long-distance travel for the time being (in the meantime, however, he acknowledged and favorably approved a number of such requests). As to provincial inhabitants who were in the capital to work and who had to commute between their working place and their home, he inquired how many would be involved and when he was told that there were several thousand he said that he would consider the question and respond in writing.
On the question of housing, he said that if somebody was evicted from his apartment without enough time to find another, he could go to his family or friends' and that the Central Council would subsequently have to report the change of address for approval. If, however, somebody wanted to change residence on his own, he would first have to obtain approval from the Central Council.
He agreed that we should fill only requisitions submitted in writing and approved by him. In other words, a German-language order would have to be prepared and submitted for signature and seal, and would then serve as a certificate for us.
He would consider the matters relating to Kistarcsa, but would not give a date; he said that if those there behaved, things would be expedited. At any rate, if a note were submitted he would free our employees, but we should see to it that nobody tried to deceive him.
With respect to the deliveries already made, we could prepare a bill and submit it to Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann. We mentioned to him that we wanted to appear before the government. He acknowledged the request.
He declared in principle that his major concern was that industrial and war-industrial production be expanded, for which purpose he would set up workers units. If Jews showed a proper attitude, no harm would befall them, and they would be treated like other workers. Perhaps they could go home at night. We raised the question whether those in the labor camps would remain in Hungary. He could not give a definitive answer at this time. We referred to the fact that Jewish men up to the age of 42 were in the labor camps. The Germans felt that men in the 45 to 56 age group were also suitable for the camps. For the time being, the Germans were requesting about 300 or 400 men. Eichmann would like to have them appear voluntarily; otherwise force would be used. These men would enjoy good treatment and good pay, just like other workers. We said that we would need authorization for this, and he answered that we should get rid of our liberal habits and that we should not request but order.
He wanted to place all the finances of Hungarian Jewry - including converts - under the jurisdiction of the Central Council. The converts were the richest, and we should collect greater amounts from them. This measure would be authorized by a forthcoming decree, and the structure of the Council should be such that it would include everything contained in it. The Council should have a section that would be familiar with the educational affairs of all the Jews of Hungary, know where the schools are, how many students there are, and in what buildings. For example, it should have a statistical and a technical section capable of action if there was a need for it. Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann noted that he personally was very interested in Jewish historical artifacts and literature. He had been dealing with Jewish affairs since 1934 and knew Hebrew better than we did. We told him that we had a museum in which we kept our antiques, and that we had libraries; he would probably visit these on Wednesday and asked that we assign to him a person knowledgeable about these things.
He then mentioned that the Orthodox people had asked him to permit the publication of an Orthodox Jewish paper. He would not, wishing that only the A Magyar Zsidok Lapja appear; perhaps we could allot one or two pages of it for the Orthodox news. He would order that A Magyar Zsidok Lapja be sent to every Jewish family, and this would be one of the sources of income for the community.
We also told him that if the Germans needed something it would be very difficult for us to select a particular source of supply, and that this would be extremely painful to us. He answered that the Germans would list everything they took to the smallest detail and either return the goods or compensate us, but that we were to handle the acquisition of the things the Germans needed.
In connection with organization, they requested the preparation of a map showing the cities in which there were Jewish institutions and the location of the institutions within the cities, with an appendix giving the name and nature of every one. Organizationally, every congregation was to remain intact, but all institutions belonging to the congregation would fall under the jurisdiction of the Central Council. However if, for example, somebody had set up a trust to have prayers said in the Talmud Torah for the salvation of his soul, was there any sense in letting such a trust continue? This money should be used for other purposes. The foundations would also come under the jurisdiction of the Central Council.
He emphasized that all these things would last as long as the war lasted. After the war, the Jews would be free to do whatever they wanted. Everything taking place on the Jewish question was in fact only for the wartime period, and with the end of the war the Germans would again become good-natured and permit everything, as in the past.
He declared in general that he was no friend of force, and he hoped that things would go well without it. Personnel was written with a capital P to the Germans: they needed every man and could not possibly spare many guards. According to his experience so far, violence and execution had occurred only where the Jews took up opposition. Should it happen that Jews joined the Ruthenian partisans or Titos bands, as in Greece, then he would mow them down and mercilessly, because there was a war on and one could not proceed otherwise in a war. But if the Jews understood that he expected order and discipline from them, and work in whatever area they were assigned to, not only would they not come to any harm but they would be protected from it and would enjoy the same treatment and pay as other workers. He emphatically wanted this idea of his to be propagated among the widest strata of Jewry, and for this reason the forthcoming decree would also provide that every Jewish household subscribe to the A Magyar Zsidok Lapja. He recommended that we establish a price that would enable the Jewish Council to derive some income from it.
Eichmann recognized that it was very natural that some among this large Jewish community would commit actions for which the Council could not be reponsible. This fact would be taken into account. He reemphasized that he wanted to protect Jewry from all individual atrocities and, should such a thing happen anywhere - even by German soldiers - it should be reported to him immediately and he would deal harshly with the perpetrators. He would punish most severely anyone trying to enrich himself from Jewish wealth.
The organization of Jewry was to be unitary, and if we found it necessary we should raise the community (or congregation) tax; everyone was to obey the instructions of the Jewish Council, and he would see to it that this took place.
Moreover, he declared that he was a friend of plain speaking, and that we should tell him everything openly and honestly, and he would give an honest answer. He already had such great experience in handling Jewish matters that we should not believe that anybody could mislead him, and if someone were to attempt it he would have to face him.
Then a moving scene followed. Dr. Janos Gabor stood up and said that he was distressed by the introduction of the Yellow Star. His late father had taken part in the Great War as a Major Judge Advocate, and his grandfather had been a soldier in 1848. The wearing of the Yellow Star would encourage the riffraff to attack and mock Jews on the streets. In reponse, Eichmann declared that he would not tolerate the harming of Jews for wearing the Yellow Star, and that if any incident of this nature occurred it should be reported to him and he would deal with the attackers.
Source: R. Braham, "The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary," Vol. I, New York, 1981, pp. 465-468.
Source: Yad Vashem