On April 25, 1944, in his office at the Hotel Majestic in Budapest, Eichmann met with Joel Brand, a leading member of the Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee. Brand had already attended previous meetings with Eichmann and other SS officers in an attempt to bribe them to allow a number of Jews out of Hungary. Now Eichmann said to Brand, “I am prepared to sell one million Jews to you.
The Nazis chose Joel Brand, a member of the Relief and Rescue Committee of Budapest (also known as the Va’ada) to assist them in negotiations with world Jewish leaders and the Allied governments. Also chosen to manage negotiations with the Allies was Andor Grosz, a minor intelligence agent and employee of both the Va’ada and the SS at different times. Grosz was supposed to lead a different set of discussions: A separate German truce with the Western allies. Brand was a decoy to distract the allies from Grosz’s more important mission.
Brand was approached in April 1944 by Adolf Eichmann, the German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer in charge of the deportations.
Eichmann proposed that Brand broker a deal between the SS and the United States or Britain, in which the Nazis would exchange one million Jews for 10,000 trucks for the Eastern front and large quantities of tea and other goods. It was the most ambitious of a series of such deals between Nazi and Jewish leaders. Eichmann called it “Blut gegen Waren” (“blood for goods”)
The offer was not seriously considered because the Allies believed it to be a trick and did not want to negotiate with the Nazis. The British press stirred up opposition to the proposal, calling the “monstrous offer” to exchange goods for Jews blackmail.
Several considerations factored into the decision of the Allies to dismiss the deal: Soviet opposition of the idea; British hesitancy to absorb that number of Jewish immigrants should the Nazis really permit them to emigrate; and the continuation of the Final Solution in Hungary.
After the Allies learned of the plan, Grosz was arrested and unable to complete his assignment. Brand left for Palestine but was arrested on June 5, 1944. Still under arrest, the British allowed him to speak with Moshe Shertok (Sharett) five days later, then head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department about the deal, and Shertok tried to promote support for it.
After his meeting with Shertok in June, Brand was imprisoned in Cairo until October and then allowed into Palestine. For a long time he believed that the Allies were at fault for not allowing the exchange to take place, but toward the end of his life he decided that Himmler’s true intentions were to distract the Allies, and in the meantime, create a Nazi-western coalition against Moscow.