Jewish Agency Receives Offer to Trade Jews for Trucks
(May 26, 1944)
Handed to the High Commissioner for Transmission to London
The Executive of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem has received the following authentic report from its representatives in Istanbul, which was brought by a special messenger.
A well-known Zionist representative in Hungary, Joel Brandt, arrived on 19th May by a German plane in Istanbul and reported to the representatives of the Jewish Agency as follows:
He had been sent to Turkey by high German Gestapo chiefs in Budapest to place the following offer before the Jewish leaders in Palestine, England and America, as well as the high Allied authorities. As an alternative to a complete annihilation, the Nazis are ready to evacuate one million Jews from Hungary, Roumania Slovakia and Poland to Spain or Portugal. In return they ask for the delivery of ten thousand motor lorries and of quantities of coffee, tea, cocoa and soap. As an earnest of their good faith they are prepared, once the offer has been accepted, to release a transport of five to ten thousand Jews without immediately receiving the corresponding consideration. They are also prepared to exchange Jews against German prisoners of war. If the offer is rejected they will proceed with their programme of wholesale liquidation. The emissary must return to Budapest with a reply within a fortnight.
According to Brandt's impression the term of negotiations can be prolonged if evidence is forthcoming that the scheme is being earnestly considered in high Allied quarters. It is also believed that the substitution of cash payments in Switzerland for deliveries in kind, wholly or in part, is not to be excluded and that both sides of the transaction, viz. evacuation and compensation, can be realised by successive stages.
Mr. Brandt reports that 300,000 Hungarian Jews are already herded in concentration camps prior to deportation. The rounding up of other Jews is in progress. Eight thousand Jews have already been deported to Poland. Plans had been made for the daily deportation to Poland of 12,000 Jews as from 22nd May but presumably this has been deferred pending negotiations. This report of the position in Hungary is fully corroborated by eyewitness accounts of several Hungarian Jews who managed to escape over the Romanian border, embarked at Constanza and reached Palestine on the 24th May.
The Jewish Agency fear that in the light of past experience and of this fresh authentic information there cannot be the slightest doubt that the fate of the Hungarian Jewry is sealed and that Slovakian and Roumanian Jews will follow suit into the Polish slaughterhouses unless saved in time. They firmly hope that the magnitude and the seemingly fantastic character of the proposition will not deter the high Allied authorities from undertaking a concrete and determined effort to save the greatest possible number. They fully realise the overwhelming difficulties but believe they might not prove insurmountable of the task is faced with the boldness demanded by the unprecedented catastrophe.
[Illegible] have decided that Mr. Shertok should proceed to Istanbul for a more careful elucidation of the facts than is possible from Jerusalem. Mr. Shertok will report to His Majesty's Ambassador in Ankara.
The Jewish Agency are keeping all this information strictly secret.
Source: From: David S. Wyman (ed.), "America and the Holocaust. War Refugee Board: Hungary," Vol. 8, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990, pp. 64-65.
Source: Yad Vashem