Brand, Joel (1906-1964)

Born in Nasaud, Transylvania, his family immigrated to Erfurt in Germany when he was a toddler and where his father owned and operated a telephone company. Raised and educated in Germany, he joined during his university years the Communist party and became an international operative for the Comintern. In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s he traveled to the US, China, Philippines, Japan, and South America, sometimes as a merchant sailor. He was imprisoned in China and Weimar Germany for his political activities. He returned to Hungary in 1933 and was converted to an activist Zionist.

He was known for his penchant for clandestine field work, in which he excelled and he became an action craving member of the Budapest Rescue Committee where he exploited the low-level street contacts he had in expediting rescue operations. Upon the entry of the Germans into Budapest in March 1944, Brand as a representative of the Rescue Committee was called before Eichmann who presented him with the ‘Blood for Goods’ proposal. Brand and his wife Hansi negotiated with Eichmann until his departure to Istanbul on Eichmann’s behest, at which point Kastner assumed the negotiations with Eichmann and the other SS officials.

After the war, Joel Brand and his family settled in Israel, first in a Kibbutz then they moved to Tel Aviv. At times he was destitute, all the while bemoaning the failure of his mission. Action craving, he had a hard time finding his place. Tragedy struck by the loss of his young son to illness. He grew embittered. The loss of Kastner affected him. He testified at the Eichmann trial, yet the government carefully monitored him, concerned as to what unwanted information he might reveal sort about the performance of its leaders during his wartime mission. In 1964, a relatively young Brand, only fifty-eight, succumbed to liver disease and died in Israel.

 

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