Rescue Committee in Budapest

Va’ada l’Ezra Ve’Hatsala be’Budapest

Unlike the Judenrat, the Jewish Council which acted as an administrative clearing house for the Germans, the Rescue committee actively opposed German measures and tried to help as many as possible survive or escape. It was originally organized in 1941 as a Zionist mutual assistance organization, to aid and support refuges coming into Hungary from recently German occupied lands in Poland and Slovakia. After the Germans entered Hungary in 1944 its agenda evolved. The Committee collected funds from neutral channels through Switzerland and Turkey, assisted and expedited refugees and escapees from Hungary and elsewhere, supplied documents, hiding place, food, medical care. Special emphasis was on children.  Over fifty children’s homes were run by the Committee, in addition to children homes it supervised, coordinated and monitored run by the IRK and some Protestant churches.  Its young Chalutz section purchased and carried arms for defense against the Arrow-Cross.

The composition and make-up of the Committee reflected the Zionist party affiliations and their strength in percentages. Distribution of documents, passports, immigration certificates as well as the recent space allocation on the Musterzug- strictly followed the jealously guarded party’s percentage quotas.

The members of the Rescue Committee were exempt from wearing the Yellow Star, were allowed to live in private dwellings, could drive and use public transport. They were free to move about the city, and had access to the SS administration. The office of the Committee was originally in the Sip Utca Number 12 Jewish Community building, which also housed the Judenrat. Sometimes, as a result of adverse developing situations it was forced  into ad hoc meetings  in private apartments, such as at the Brand factory, the Biss office/apartment and the IRK house.

Otto Komoly, a civil engineer, with contacts among the Hungarian political, business and cultural elite as well as the ruling echelon, reaching all the way to the Regent Horthy whom he knew personally was nominated president. He was a centrist. Kastner, a socialist was nominated Vice President., with Brand also a socialist running the field operations. Hansi Brand took care of children services and assisted her husband in early negotiations with Eichmann. Samu Springmann, a jeweler, a socialist was in charge of the courier service, Shulem Offenbach from Poland handled the finances, Zvi Szilágy, a Zionist-Marxist headed the illegal immigration efforts until arrested and sent to Mauthausen concentration camp, Eugen Frankel of the Orthodox Centrist party with Moshe Krausz of the Orthodox Mizrachi party were in charge of immigration certificates. Andreas Biss was a later member with extensive contacts with the Gestapo; Peretz Révész of the leftist socialists was the head of the armed Chalutz groups and field operatives. 

Also affiliated with the Committee were Dov Weiss, Moshe Rosenberg, Siegfried Roth, Uziel Lichtenberg, Joska Baumer and Fűlop von Freudiger, the Neolog Rabbi of Budapest who fled overnight with his family, without notice, to Romania. Moshe Schweiger, a lawyer from Yugoslavia, was the designated Haganah representative on the Committee, arrested, sent to Mauthausen and eventually freed by Becher as a favor to Kastner according to Becher.


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