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On 10 March 1943, "Eichmann sent Brunner a message that the compulsory evacuation (Aussiedlung) of Jews was to start at once."107 The first deportation order went out on 14 March 1943, and the next day the convoy pulled out from the tracks behind the ghetto with 2,800 people. Brunner was there to see it off.108 Thereafter Brunner sent off four transports in March, nine in April, two in May, and at least one in early June, before he left Salonica.109 The size of each transport ranged from 2,500 to 2,800 people, in sealed boxcars.110 Even Eichmann later commented, "A pretty big load, it seems to me. But I don't know what reasons they may have had down there for putting in such loads."111 Brunner's team required the Jewish community to provide food, but it hardly lasted the entire journey to Poland.112 Red Cross representatives who tried to supply milk to the convoys were sometimes told to go away.113
Brunner mainly provisioned the convoys with lies. The most effective scam involved currency exchange.
They told us that "your money has to be exchanged. You will get the equivalent of what you deposit in zlotys."114
They even distributed receipts to us bearing the name of the Bank of Cracow.115
In fact, as the deportation experts knew,
the cash which the Jews possessed was taken away and put into a communal account at the Bank of Greece. After the Jews had been evacuated from Salonica this account was taken over by the German military administration. 116
The deportees also received maps of the areas they would supposedly colonize as Jewish territory.117 This deception-modelled on the defunct Lublin reservation plan-convinced the deportees: survivors recalled believing "The men would work, the women would stay in the camps. Once the war was over, we'd come back.... And above all, it was asserted that we would be received by the Jewish community of Cracow."118 In fact, the Jewish community of Cracow had been liquidated on 13 March 1943, two days before Brunner began sending convoys from Salonica.
As the transports rolled, Brunner's Jewish Affairs Sonderkommando nourished other deceptions: only workers would be deported, while the middle class, intellectuals, community leaders, and Jewish police were to remain in Salonica. And so they did for a time, till informed of their own deportations to the so-called privileged ghetto of Theresienstadt; in reality, the trains took them to Auschwitz.119
Who was really responsible for the Salonica deportations? Most official communications bore Wisliceny's or Military Commander Merten's signatures. But from Wisliceny's perspective, Brunner ran the operation: "Brunner directed the entire action in Salonica in person. . . . Brunner was not subordinate to me, he worked independently"; and during Wisliceny's absence from Salonica in April and May 1943, the operation was "carried out by Brunner alone."120 Wisliceny designed his postwar testimony to exculpate himself, but it has stood up compared to other evidence.121 Eichmann later commented: "Brunner operated independently? Obviously, Wisliceny, who outranked him [in fact, they had the same rank though Wisliceny had seniority] was in command in Salonica."122 Eichmann on trial wanted to distance himself from Brunner. But in 1943 it was Brunner to whom he cabled the orders to begin the deportations. When Wisliceny informed Eichmann of a typhus epidemic in the Hirsch ghetto, Eichmann cabled Brunner-not Wisliceny-to disregard the typhus and keep the transports rolling.123 (Those trains in fact brought typhus to Auschwitz.)124 Moreover, Brunner was accountable for the quotas: "Upon the departure of each transport a message was sent to Eichmann in Berlin stating the number of heads sent. I have seen copies of these cables in a folder kept by Brunner and upon completion of the movement of Jews from Northern Greece, Brunner made a summary report to Eichmann."125 Eichmann-in his behavior at the time if not in his later testimony-considered Brunner the master of the situation.
Ultimately, the deportation relied more on Brunner's capacities than Eichmann's or Wisliceny's. The "technical conduct of deportations"- Brunner's mandate-comprised the preparation and deception of the community as well as the frequency and condition of the convoys. The convoys from March through June 1943 eliminated almost 80 percent of Salonica's Jewish population.126 After two weeks' travel in sealed trains, Greek deportees had nothing to sustain them through the first selections at Auschwitz.127
The Reich Security Main Office wanted speed, an operation lasting "six to eight weeks."128 Brunner managed it. Halfway through, after having sent almost 20,000 people to Auschwitz, Brunner turned 31. In May 1943, according to Wisliceny, "Brunner was preparing the last shipment ... and upon completion of the last shipment, Brunner was transferred to Paris for his next assignment."129
44,000 deported from Salonica under Brunner's command.
France: June 1943-August 1944
Brunner first made his presence known in France on 17 June 1943 at Drancy, France's main transit camp, located just outside Paris. When he took command of Drancy a week later, a three-month period without deportations ended. According to Georges Wellers, doctor at Drancy, "all inmates of the camp were ordered to report one by one to this man Brunner. He interrogated every single prisoner, and after three days of interrogations, on the 21st June, the transport went out, all of which was composed by Brunner himself."132
In matters of deportation, force majeure cut through the usual structure of authority. The German Embassy deferred to the Gestapo, travelling to its offices at 72 Avenue Foch for instruction on Jewish questions. And even within the Gestapo, Brunner evidently superseded Heinz Rothke, the official expert on Jewish affairs. 133 Even the Chief of Security Police in France, Helmut Knochen, produced his major policy directive (14 April 1944) only with Brunner's co-signature.134 In deportation affairs, Brunner waited for no one but Eichmann, cabling only Eichmann and the commandants of Auschwitz and other camps, to clear transports. Indeed, a list of deportation directors in the field-compiled by Wisliceny for the Nuremberg trials-included only Brunner's name for France.135
In the transit camp of Drancy, Brunner exerted sole authority. Witnesses reported that Brunner's arrival at Drancy signaled a radical change in the camp. Brunner "organized everything in his own way according to a system I later was to encounter in Auschwitz and Buchenwald."136 First, Brunner fired all the French guards and officials, forbidding them access to the camp's interior.137 Then Jewish prisoners were chosen to run the camp as administrators and police, with a handful of SS guards supervising them. Brunner's prison in the cellars of the camp began to punish anyone, even the old and sick, for slight infractions.138 One day he ordered the central court covered with cement, buildings painted, lawns planted-all with inmate labor and supplies from the Union Generale des Israelites de France, the UGIF, a Nazi-initiated Jewish council. Inmates realized the improvements spelled propaganda-"to prove Drancy a comfortable, beautiful place" and "a true paradise where the inmates five in joy."139 Under French control, Drancy inmates had received mail and packages; Brunner prohibited both, a source of apprehension to charitable organizations like the UGIF and the JDC (Joint Distribution Committee), which reported "real famine since the sending of food packages was discontinued."140 No one could have ignored the changes that Brunner's presence brought.
His successes in Vienna and Salonica had taught Brunner how to manipulate Jewish leadership. In a meeting with UGIF leaders on 30 June 1943, Brunner labelled Drancy deportations "unsatisfactory" and announced that the camp would be "totally modified during the next few days." He ordered the UGIF to set up workshops and a more efficient infirmary, to surpervise the searching of prisoners, and most important, to take over provisioning the camp and the transports.141 The first requisitions suggest Brunner's intention to force UGIF collaboration in a massive roundup: 40,000 index cards and 500 armbands printed "Jewish Order Service." After 5 July 1943 provisions for Drancy ceased to come from French authorities and came (in expanded amounts and variety) only from the UGIF.142 Tightening the entire process of deportation, Brunner made it serve German material needs. For example, each transport carried supplies, provided at exorbitant cost by the UGIF. But deportees who survived testified, "We did not get any food and only once during the whole journey did we obtain drink."143 The supply inventories usually had a note appended by Brunner, "that these precious food supplies not be used for camp inmates."144
In some cases, Brunner received less than he demanded from the UGIF. The UGIF did not round up relatives of Drancy inmates and did not stop Jewish escapes to Italy and Spain.145 But in general, Brunner kept UGIF leaders in harness by threatening their personal safety and UGIF welfare programs. When two young men escaped from Drancy, Brunner forced the UGIF to appeal for their recapture by arresting the UGIF vice-president.146 The UGIF also complied when Brunner demanded a map of France locating all UGIF institutions (orphanages, old age homes, etc.), since Brunner announced that he would consider all unlisted institutions illegal.147
With a very small number of German assistants, Brunner effectively controlled thousands of Jewish inmates at Drancy.148 He managed this by introducing a system that placed each prisoner in one of six categories; the worst was Category B, those liable for immediate deportation. Brunner interrogated arriving prisoners many times about their race, citizenship, and also about their relatives on the outside. On the basis of this information, he invented a special category of prisoners labeled "waiting for family"; they were safe from deportation until the moment their families arrived.149
Classification in safer categories, such as "half-Jewish," "spouse of Aryan," or "wife of prisoner of war" depended on having proof and making the right impression on Brunner; a poor impression and he simply tore up the documents and passports in front of the prisoner, making her or him deportable.150 Brunner kept all categories potentially transferable to B, so that safer prisoners had an incentive to stay in line.
Other Brunner innovations turned prisoners into one another's antagonists. One was the Order Service, which handled the prisoners and brought them out for the convoys. Any order disregarded, any prisoner absent, and the Order Service itself got placed on the next transport. Another novelty was "Brunner's police," that is, Jews who, under his orders, "compel persons at liberty to surrender themselves for internment under threat of torture to members of families already in Drancy."151 "The names of persons to be arrested and brought to Drancy were given by Brunner. Sometimes it did not even involve the arrests of relatives, but of persons somehow interesting to Brunner."152 Most prisoners refused to serve as socalled missionaries, but some acquiesced, to keep their own children from being deported.153 Brunner disbanded these "missions" after a few months since those at liberty learned to resist such threats.
Inmates called the camp "Drancy la Creve," Drancy the Killer. Reports described the terror introduced by Brunner.
Every Jew arrested or brought to the camp submitted to a brutal interrogation by Captain Brunner or his acolytes.154
The walls of Captain Brunner's office were covered with bloodstains and bullet holes.155
There were whippings; there was a special kind of torture ... called the 'spinning top' torture. They forced people to go around in circles, at least ten times and after a few times, the people would faint.... Brunner in person was at times present during this so-called amuse- ment.156
Sometimes Brunner pulled out his pistol and shot into crowds of prisoners. Regularly visiting the prison, "for an hour he puts his hand to beating the prisoners with a riding-whip."157
Brunner also dominated inmates by playing on their fear of reprisal. Jewish camp administrators knew, for example, that if one prisoner escaped, at least 20 functionaries would be deported.158 Brunner considered all doctors at the Rothschild hospital that served the camp to be hostages for any missing patient.159 When the UGIF failed to locate two escapees, its Paris leaders were held hostage and then deported.160 When Brunner's men discovered an escape tunnel in September 1943, not only those involved, but the chief of Jewish camp administration and 65 assistants selected at random, were tortured and deported.161
Torture and reprisal kept inmates in line, but Brunner, as always, specialized in deception. According to a camp physician, Brunner himself created the "methods directed at hoodwinking and deceiving us."162 In Drancy he introduced two ruses he had used in Vienna and Salonica, as well as some new ones. Each prisoner had to deposit French money against a nicely printed receipt guaranteeing that "the equivalent amount will be reimbursed in zlotys by the Council of Elders of the Jewish community in [Poland]."163 (The "Council of Elders" rang truer than the "Bank of Cracow," the rubric he had used in Salonica.) "Since we heard about money which we would be receiving, we thought it would be a place where one could buy goods."164 Prisoners believed what they were told: that "the convoys go to the ghetto of Auschwitz ... where the older people do nothing, the children go to Jewish schools, the men and women able to work labor in factories and mines."165 The authorities carefully fabricated the basis for such fantasies. The RSHA asked French officials not to mention "Auschwitz" as a destination, and circulated glowing reports about Polish camp life in French papers.166 Brunner assured the UGIF that he planned regular mail service between France and the deportees in Poland.167 Officials in Drancy showed inmates postcards, apparently from healthy, hard-working inmates at Birkenau.168
Even Brunner's handling of supplies led prisoners to believe in a labor- camp destination. For the first time, under Brunner, "the deportees were also encouraged to take belongings with them [on the transports] and thus we thought that we were being taken to labor camps"; meanwhile, special teams stole Jewish goods and collected them at a Paris railway terminal, where Brunner "would appear a few times a week to survey the situation."169 Under Brunner's regime the UGIF received orders to supply Drancy deportees with enormous stocks for what he called labor camp. Then he would accuse the UGIF of "sabotage for not giving them enough supplies to meet their needs while laboring."170 All the goods assembled at Drancy by these means and sent off reassuringly with the deportees were recycled to the Reich from Auschwitz.
Two circumstances obstructed the smooth deportation of all the Jews in France: the German agreement with Vichy authorities not to deport Jews of French nationality, and the refusal of Italy to implement the Final Solution in its territories. Germany's Fascist ally occupied eight French d6partements bordering Italy after Germans overran the southern French zone in fall 1942. Word went out that Italian authorities were not assisting the deportations. As a result, Jews began funneling into the Italian zone from German-occupied France, and were concentrated around Nice, where the new French prefect offered Jews legal residence."171 Heinz Röthke of the Gestapo reported: "The Italian zone of influence, particularly the C6te d'Azur, has become the Promised Land for the Jews in France. In the last few months there has been a mass exodus of Jews from our occupation zone into the Italian zone ... [where] they have been placed in the best hotels."172
Immediately after the Allies signed an armistice with Italy (3 September 1943), Brunner broke into the Italian zone. On 4 September Röthke sent out a confidential order:
Hauptsturmfiihrer Brunner accompanied by HauptscharfUhrer Bruckler will arrive in Lyon and Marseille on the 5th or 6th to prepare everything on the spot and to obtain an idea of the local conditions. When the capture of the Jews is completed, they will be transferred ... to the Jewish camp in Drancy, whence after thorough examination of their citizenship they will be immediately evacuated to the east.173
The Italians tried to protect Jews from Brunner's operation, as they had done in Salonica; moreover, the refugee grapevine informed Jews of the safest spots, and clandestine presses printed false identification papers at the rate of 20,000 a month.176 Brunner-who had compelled Jewish leaders to keep files in Vienna, Salonica, and Paris, and who had tortured Drancy inmates for addresses-could not get his hands on a list of Jews. The Italians had no lists and the French prefect also claimed to have none.177 Then Brunner resorted to the street-by-street dragnets. As described by numerous eyewitnesses,
the operations were led by Brunner, the executioner of Drancy, in person.... The Nazis barricaded a street, burst into the hotels, and gathered up all those who by identity card or physiognomy appeared to be Jews. In these operations the Gestapo relied very little on the French police.178
Without lists and confronted with widespread use of falsified papers, Brunner fell back on primitive measures: "Prisoners have to take down their pants. They are classified Jews or Aryans by whether or not they are circumcised."179
In these roundups, when a subordinate tortured or killed someone, Brunner received the report.180 so According to a Jewish aide Brunner brought from Drancy,
a team of 12 to 14 torturers under Brunner's command proceeded to arrest Jewish men, women, and children, mostly at night.... Among the arrested there were the ill and feeble, the elderly, nursing babies, pregnant women; all underwent the violence and torture of these brutes.
When one man arrived in a coma, with a fractured skull, Brunner refused to have him treated for a week "he's faking, he'd better talk" until the man died."181 Such scenes caused the historian Leon Poliakov, then an eyewitness, to conclude:
The 'human hunt' on the C6te d'Azur in the autumn of 1943 surpassed in horror and brutality everything of this kind previously known, at least in Western Europe.182
After destroying the Jewish sanctuary in the former Italian zone, Brunner returned to Drancy in early November 1943 to close other gaps in the French operation. First, he dismantled the structure of exemptions all over France. Disregarding the exemptions UGIF personnel and their families had received when Röthke ran the deportations, Brunner closed the UGIF's Paris social service center on 30 July 1943 and arrested the staff, whether Jewish or not.183 "To acquaint them directly with the needs of the camp," Brunner brought UGIF administrators to Drancy and deported most of them.184 By December 1943, with most UGIF leaders gone, "every new person assuming a prominent part in Jewish social work" risked deportation.185 In fact, any exemption provoked Brunner to reverse earlier practices (e.g., in 1942 the Germans had released 817 people-the old and the young-from transit camps).186 When doctors at Drancy submitted the usual lists of those too ill for deportation, Brunner's men subverted the intention, deciding on impulse to deport an the contagious, or the pregnant, or new mothers.187 While German officials before Brunner had allowed Jewish women to remain at the Rothschild Hospital after childbirth, Brunner transferred them to Drancy for deportation; he also deported patients with tuberculosis and cancer.188 The spouses of Aryans lost their exemptions and if they were without children, Brunner reclassified them as deportable.189 Mixed marriages contracted after 1940 were dissolved on Brunner's and Knochen's orders, and the Jewish spouse arrested. Other mixed marriages were grudgingly exempted by Brunner, to comply with RSHA regulations, and to prevent "intervention on the part of the French."190 The wives of prisoners of war, formerly exempt, found themselves on Brunner's transports to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.191
Before Brunner's arrival, the Gestapo had negotiated with Vichy authorities, agreeing to the exemption of French Jews in exchange for French assistance in the deportation of foreign Jews. Brunner's presence in France marked the definitive end of any distinction between French and foreigners: in Brunner's dominion a Jew was a Jew. In this regard, Brunner did more than implement orders from Berlin. He set local goals and procedures for eliminating French Jews, such as planning to arrest 20,000 Paris Jews during June 1943, and to deport those naturalized after 1927.192 At a higher level, Brunner signed (with Helmut Knochen, Chief of Security Police in France) one of the most important policy directives of the Occupation, on 14 April 1944:
All persons who are Jews within the meaning of the law are to be arrested immediately without regard of nationality or other circumstances.... All Jews must be taken from French labor camps for foreigners, from all penal institutions [where Jews had discovered safety] and prisons.
All Jews of French nationality, as well as others, would be evacuated to the East.193
Brunner was also responsible for reactivating Eichmann's orders of summer 1942 to deport children from France.194 When Brunner took over deportation operations a year later, he specifically marked children as targets. The 14 April 1944 order from Brunner and Knochen specified that "small children who are living in children's homes must also be included in this [arrest] action."195 Brunner demanded up-to-date information from the UGIF on children in all Jewish orphanages and children's centers.196 Alarmed cables reached the American joint Distribution Committee:
MASS DEPORTATIONS MEN WOMEN CHILDREN ALL AGES AND FORCED LABOR. AUTHORITIES THREATENING CLOSE ALL CHILDREN'S HOMES AND DEMANDING FULL LISTS JEWISH CHILDREN ALL OVER FRANCE.197
Agencies began transferring Jewish children to the presumed safety of southern France, but the former unoccupied zone no longer provided sanctuary from Brunner's roundups. For example, 30 orphans of deportees were dispatched from Marseille to Drancy, while "the Germans took 60 hostages beforehand" to prevent protest or escape;198 100 small children from a clandestine center in Nice lost their refuge, as did many others throughout France.199 When Jewish organizations continued to find sanctuaries, Brunner challenged leaders of the UGIF: "So you continue to hide from us your children, do you?"200
On 6 April 1944 a cable arrived at the Paris Gestapo office: "The home for Jewish children, 'Child Colony/ at Izieu (Ain) was raided this morning and a total of 41 children aged from 3 to 13 were apprehended."201 This cable was signed by Klaus Barbie, and the case prepared against him in France since 1983 centers on it. Less noted is the addendum pencilled on the cable when it reached police headquarters in Paris:
Matter discussed in the presence of Dr. v. B. [unidentified] and Hauptsturrnffihrer Brunner. Dr. v. B. stated that in cases of this kind, special measures were provided for the billeting of the children by Obersturmffihrer Röthke. Hauptsturmfuhrer Brunner stated that he knew of no such instructions or plans and that on principle he did not approve of such special measures."202
In April Brunner transported most of the children of Izieu to Auschwitz.
In May Brunner increased the numbers, dispatching three convoys with 3,078 deportees. "He had to beat his personal deportation record each month. The game gave him pleasure."203 But this became harder in June and July 1944, when the Allied advance blocked his supply of Jews from the provinces. "He had a reserve in Paris," according to a witness,
something to dig into when the provinces yielded nothing more ... the children's centers kept by the UGIF. Knowing the location of these centers, he sent out his buses three nights in a row, July 20 to 24 [19441. . . . Brunner brought to Drancy 500 children ages one to fifteen.204
By all reports, the inmates of Drancy sprang into action, doing everything possible to shield the children from hunger and cold and trauma, until the buses took them to the trains that took them to Poland.205
On principle, Brunner allowed no special provisions for children on deportation trains. Three hundred children, including an unaccompanied newborn, left with the last regular deportation on 31 July 1944. One inmate watched them go:
The last deportation of Captain Brunner! There were 60 children per wagon- cattle-cars, you understand, and locked shut! Only one pot of drinking water and two or three adults to take care of the little ones, one, two, three and four years old.... I am afraid in fact that these children will never see their parents again because at Drancy so many little 'boarders' ceased to remember their family names.206
The evidence shows that Brunner filled the quotas with children less from fear of his superiors 207 than from personal conviction. For example, when Kurt Schendel of the UGIF spoke with Brunner on 20 July 1944, Brunner demanded retribution for an alleged Jewish assassination of Germans:
Brunner explained to me that for him nothing stood above the blood of a German soldier, and that he had decided to arrest the young people in our centers and simultaneously those in the children's homes.... I tried in every possible way to change Brunner's opinion ... finally insisting that it was not an act of courage to lay the blame on little children. I told him that I was 100 percent Jewish and that I was wining to be deported if he would leave the children alone. He countered in his every response that these children were 'future terrorists.' There was nothing to do; it was impossible to move this man; no argument, no sentiment had any hold on him.208
The "future terrorist" idea exposes one source of Brunner's vindictiveness toward children-his nightmare of retribution to come.
Likewise, he feared the judgment of anti-Nazi victors.
Captain Brunner has a sickly terror of indiscretions with regard to the world abroad.... Above all, he -fears that outsiders will discover the treatment of Jews and the general criminal activity of the racial police. Every time a new fact comes out on British radio, or the name of another SS officer, he flies into a fury and the repercussions are felt immediately.209
He got up, pointed at me and accused me of sending a report on treatment of Drancy inmates by himself and Bruckler to England, where it had been broadcast twice lately on the BBC.... I had the clear feeling that given one false move he would have slaughtered me.210
But reports did begin to circulate as German positions weakened and as the French police and populace retreated from collaboration. Then Brunner had to hunt the prey himself. One witness observed that "wholesale arrests occurred, Brunner in person arresting whole families."211 He offered substantial rewards for denunciations of Jews, and issued an order that imposed the payment on the victim.212 Now that every Jew was an irreplaceable catch, Brunner grew more paranoid about escapes. Anyone suspected of resistance he deported in chains, and he recommended roping together all prisoners bound for Drancy.213
Even as the Allies approached Paris, Brunner, determined to send one last transport, collected 1,300 Jews from wherever he could still find them, including children's homes.214 As the Germans aban doned Paris on 17 August 1944, Brunner still tried to exert his control over Drancy, dispatching 51 more Jews to Buchenwald in a car attached to the last German military train.215 One day later, the Red Cross assumed jurisdiction over Drancy and Brunner departed, saying "The hell with the camp."216
Brunner had rationalized the war against the Jews in France beyond the practices of his predecessors Theodor Dannecker, Heinz Röthke, or the French administrators of Drancy. Before Brunner, Jewish aides in Drancy helped make transport selections, largely by their own criteria-foreign before French Jews, civilians before veterans. But Brunner interrogated every inmate, classifying only by race, race of spouse, potential for attracting relatives, and whim. Brunner disregarded the exemptions always held by UGIF personnel, spouses of Aryans and of POWs. His predecessors established the UGIF to manipulate the Jews, but it was Brunner who permitted its continued welfare activities only on condition of its delivering supplies, information, and access to children. While deportees had always gone hungry, it was Brunner who demanded and appropriated UGIF provisions, and Brunner who ended the practice of supplementing children's provisions. Nazi policy had always dictated secrecy about deportations, but only Brunner sealed the camp: French authorities relinquished jurisdiction, Röthke rarely visited, Eichmann never did.217 For the first time, no French police could enter the camp and no mail could move in or out. Survivors' accounts testify unanimously to Brunner's astounding success: in his transit camp, inmates never knew the destination of the transports.218 Drancy illuminates Brunner's true personality, what he would do without constraint. To cover his tracks, Brunner ordered the destruction of the Drancy deportation lists- more than 67,000 names.219 A copy of the list, but few named there, escaped destruction.
In the last year of a long war, Brunner sent off a third of all those deported from France, 22 transports, of which 20 ended on the ramp at Auschwitz. Fewer than one percent of his deportees-1,645 people-lived to see the war end.220
23,500 deported from Drancy under Brunner's command.
Slovakia: September 1944-March 1945
Eichmann sent Brunner, who apparently did have his confidence, with orders "to expel the Jews who were still there."225 At the end of August 1944, as Russian troops were advancing, an insurrection had broken out and in response the Germans finally occupied Slovakia. Administratively, Brunner was attached to the office of the Commander of the Security Police, who reported to the RSHA.226 But Brunner, as usual, seems to have established his own authority, with direct links to Eichmann; security considerations took second place to the deportation of Jews. In the eyes of Jewish leaders working in Slovakia, the Commander of the Security Police had been superseded by Brunner.227
The Slovakian insurrection mobilized at least 15,000 anti-Nazis from Slovakia, Hungary, and elsewhere, including a few thousand Jews.228 By asserting that Jews alone had inspired and directed the revolt, the Nazis justified an entire persecution program.229 But the chronology does not quite fit: Brunner kept arresting Slovakian Jews long after the insurrection collapsed in October 1944.
"Brunner in a large action had arrested all Jews in the territory reoccupied by German troops in Slovakia and had them sent to Camp Sered," one of the work camps already used by the Slovakian government.230 "A new commander had come to Sered and all the people in the command, all the officers, as well as the Slovak gendarmerie, were fired. Five or six days later, the first transport was sent off."231 Brunner was applying the tactics tested at Drancy.
What he had learned in Vienna, Salonica, Paris, and Nice served him in Bratislava; his roundups moved so rapidly that in one night, 28 September 1944, 1,800 Jews were arrested.232 Wisliceny had the impression that the whole Slovakian operation was completed in October 1944.233 Arrest orders continued, however, and followed Brunner's habit of rejecting all exemptions, for example, baptism papers or presidential guarantees previously acceptable in Slovakia. The orders included
all Jews, irrespective of citizenship, profession, age or sex, including Jews to whom exemptions had been granted by Slovak or German authorities or enterprises, also Jews of mixed marriages who have no children, or whose children are above 18.234
For almost two years Slovakian Jews had been warding off such deportations by proposing a fantastic ransom plan, not for individual lives, but for the entire Jewish population. Led by Gisi Fleischmann, the Slovakian "Working Group" had contacted Wisliceny with a large-scale scheme called the Europa Plan: Jewish funds from abroad (up to $2 million to come mainly from the JDC) in exchange for the cessation of deportations and mass murder.235 Wisliceny had agreed in 1942 to a moratorium on deportations, which lasted two years, but neither party would make permanent commitments.236 Between 1942 and 1944 ransom discussions had attracted not only Wisliceny, but Himmler and Eichmann; though Himmler had cooled, Slovakian and Hungarian Jewish leaders were still pursuing ransom when Brunner arrived.237 In other words, Brunner faced a situation where negotiations were still possible. His behavior proved his commitment to deportation.
At first he appeared accessible to negotiators, as Ernst Abeles recounted:
Brunner, well I first met him in Bratislava in the transit camp. I made him a proposition of paying a few million Swiss francs in exchange for permission on his part to let the small remnant of Slovakian Jews leave. I told him that there were only a few Jews left, and, as I put it, they were tired of Europe; they would leave Europe after the war. . . . He answered me, "Yes, I like this proposal. I Re this expression of being tired of Europe."
But in actual negotiations, Brunner always laid traps, and Jewish leaders soon learned "what Brunner's promise was worth."238 Brunner punished Jewish ransom negotiators, whereas Himmler, Eichmann, and Kurt Becher (Himmler's representative in Budapest) had all accepted them. When Rabbi Weissmandel of Slovakia set before Brunner a ransom proposal, Brunner put him on the next transport with his wife and children.239 Brunner also ordered Gisi Fleischmann's Jewish welfare office closed and turned the premises into offices for Gestapo interrogations.240
Even more revealing was his contemptuous attitude toward those Nazis who negotiated for ransom. Wisliceny claimed that he and Becher, with no success, tried to stop people from being "sent to Auschwitz in several transports by Brunner."241 Brunner told Wisliceny bluntly "not to interfere with his duties. He was always afraid that I should still return to Slovakia in time and therefore hurried the transports very much."242 One Jewish leader reported how Brunner punished Becher's adjutant Hauptsturmfiihrer Gruson who went to see Brunner and ... pointed out that secret negotiations were taking place at Budapest, negotiations regarding the delivery of strategic material, and that the Jews of Slovakia could also play an important part in the exchange of men for goods .... SS Brunner gave a flat refusal to Griison's various requests .... Brunner after his interview with Gruson at Bratislava had immediately telephoned a report to the main office of the Reich Central Security. Hence Gruson's arrest.243
Nonetheless, those trying to stop the deportations kept approaching Brunner, attempting to gain time and perhaps more. Georges Dunand, representative of the Red Cross in Bratislava, left one account of an interview that reveals a good deal about Brunner's personality.
"What do you want?" [asks Brunner].
Among the many attempts to protect Jews in Slovakia, the Working Group, under Gisi Fleischmann, managed to save people from deportation through clandestine activities and ransom arrangements.245 A few survivors who worked with Gisi Fleischmarm recalled her confrontations with Brunner. "Gisi Fleischmarm decided to contact Brunner directly" about stopping the deportations.246 His response: to arrest, chain, and imprison her in Sered (17 October 1944), ostensibly for writing to a colleague, "I am in the jaws of the lion," a phrase that provoked Brunner.247 In Sered Brunner interro- gated her for hours, offering to protect her if she informed on her connections with Jewish organizations abroad and on Jews hiding in Bratislava.248 When she refused, Brunner swore to deport her.249 Although SS negotiators Wisliceny and Becher tried to save her for their own reasons,250 Brunner, backed by Eichmann, sent Gisi Fleischmarm to Auschwitz and made sure she was killed on arrival.251
According to Fleischmann's colleague Oskar Neumann, the prisoners in Sered called Brunner "The Tiger." He was everywhere at once, roaring orders, beating prisoners, "covering the camp like a dark nightmare"; even his SS guards trembled before him.252 As in Drancy, Brunner himself would conduct the selections. "Brunner had a baton with which he carried on the selection, and he knocked [Rabbi Weissmandell over the head."253 In Sered as in Drancy, "nothing could bring him into mad anger so much as the escape of a Jew."254 Brunner used every means at his disposal-terror, deception, bribery-to fill his transports to Auschwitz.255
In mid-March 1945, with the Russians approaching, Jewish leaders negotiated what Rudolf Kastner called "Brunner's last blackmail"-a bribe to route a transport to Theresienstadt as ordered. When Himmler agreed to release a number of Slovakian Jews to Switzerland, the negotiators required guarantees that Brunner would not "interfere." Yet Brunner did all he could to sabotage this small rescue effort.256 Even after the Russians cut the route from Sered to Auschwitz in spring 1945, Brunner deported Jews elsewhere. Finally, at the end of March 1945, when the front was only 20 kilometers away, Brunner, "like a slavedriver," even "working himself as one possessed," forced the dismantling of Sered.257 With Russian troops bombarding the camp, he dispatched its remaining Jews to Theresienstadt.258
How many Jews had Brunner deported? From the time he renewed deportations (after a two-year hiatus) on 30 September 1944, until liberation by the Russians in April 1945, Brunner dispatched at least 11 transports with 12,306 people: 1,638 to Theresienstadt, 2,732 to Sachsenhausen, and 7,936 to Auschwitz.259 Rudolph Kastner estimated that during Brunner's regime 13,500 Jews were transported from Sered.260 Interrogated at Nuremberg, Wisliceny gave a figure which he claimed to have checked with Eichmann: 38,000 deportees during Brunner's period. Later he testified: "Brunner assembled these Jews in several camps and transported them to Auschwitz. According to Brunner's statement, about 14,000 persons were involved."261
By the highest estimate, one out of three Jews deported after fall 1944 survived the war.262 But by Wisliceny's reckoning, "SS Hauptsturmfiihrer Brunner . . . had all Jews that could be found arrested and sent to Sered. They were thereafter transported to Auschwitz and executed. I know of no survivors from this evacua- tion."263
14,000 deported from Slovakia under Brunner's command.
Since the War
According to a 1985 interview with Brunner, he was imprisoned in 1945 under a false name by the Czechs, the Americans, and the British; he was released each time. After serving as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army until 1947, he worked several years more in Germany.267 In 1954, using identification papers from a man named Georg Fischer, whom he closely resembled, Brunner travelled to Egypt and then to Damascus. According to Brunner, the Syrians arrested him in 1960 and released him when he revealed his identity.268 Monitors of Nazi activities have asserted Brunner's presence in Damascus for decades, as well as his services for the Syrian secret service.269 Brunner even claims that with Syrian help he planned to abduct Eichmann in 1961 from Israeli custody.270
Warrants for Brunner's arrest have been on the books for many years in several countries. In 1954, France sentenced him to death in absentia.271 Austrian proceedings against Brunner are still pending.272 In 1961, the Frankfurt District Court in the Federal Republic of Germany issued a warrant for Brunner's arrest that is still in force. On 10 October 1984, a warrant was also issued by the prosecutor's office in Cologne, followed on 18 December 1984 by a West German extradition request to Syria.273 Up to this time, Syrian authorities have given no sign of compliance with requests for Brunner's extradition.
Alois Brunner and the Final Solution
QUESTION: You use the expression "Schweinehund" in connection with Brunner's name. Why did you do that?
ANSWER: He was an extremely unscrupulous individual, one of the best tools of Eichmann. He never had an opinion of his own, and as Eichmann himself described him, he was "one of my best men."274
True, Alois Brunner followed orders from Eichmann. But his alacrity and initiative in carrying out these orders was tantamount to a policy in itself. When higher authorities failed to reach consensuse.g., on whether to deport or exempt persons in mixed marriagesBrunner imposed the harshest interpretation. When his superiors allowed for deporting some Jews and ransoming others, Brunner only deported. When policy allowed compromise- e.g., deporting foreign but not native Jews from France-Brunner drafted general orders and specific tactics for taking all Jews. Where others left loopholes-e.g., exempting Jewish orphanages and welfare workers-Brunner closed them for the sake of filling transports. When procedure called for local inifiative-e.g., deceiving deportees-Brunner was most inventive. Brunner targeted the formerly exempt, denied transports the food provided for them, tracked down children and refused them special provisions, foiled Jewish and German ransom negotiators, and exploited the credulity born of despair.
Working at every echelon, Brunner issued the orders, maintained control over the procedures, and coerced the victims. It was no coincidence that Brunner dispatched the first convoys from Austria and the last ones from Salonica, France, and Slovakia. The arrival of Brunner on site always marked a new and final period, teaching everyone how the New Order should be imposed. Brunner's mastery of deception, cooptation, and terror not only precluded resistance from victims; it also showed his superiors how far they could actually go.
The effectiveness of the destruction program depended on just such powerful intermediaries, men who could unite in their own person the pan- European project and the streetcorner arrest. Brunner's policy, his practice, and his personality constituted one unit, with no preoccupation but genocide.
Estimated numbers deported under Brunner's command:
126. Wisliceny estimated 55,000 deportees (NCA 8: 620); Joseph Nehama estimated 43,850 deportees from Salonica and 48,921 from the Macedonian region, mostly deported via Salonica (Molho, In Memoriam 2: 164). 1 have used the figure 44,000 as a conservative estimate.
134. Nuremberg Doc. NO-1411 [published in French transl. in Adam Rutkowski, "Directives allemandes concernant les arrestations et les deportations de Juifs en avril-aout 1944," Le Monde Juif 82 (1976): 60-65].
135. NCA 8: 609: Wisliceny affidavit, 29 Nov. 1945. Wisliceny list also used in Eichmann Trial, sess. 14, p. DI. See also Michael Marrus and Robert Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews (New York, 1983), p. 330.
140. New York, American [Jewish] Joint Distribution Committee Archives [hereafter cited as JDC Archives], box 516: AJDC Lisbon to AJDC New York, 4 Aug. 1943; Report Sept. 1943; box 621: AJDC Lisbon to AJDC New York, 4 Nov. 1943.
141. New York, YIVO Institute Archives, UGIF Collection, file 4.4, pp. 0111-0113: Minutes of UGIF meeting with Brunner, 20 June 1943. A copy of these minutes was sent via Switzerland to the U.S. State Department (Washington, D.C., National Archives, 851.4016/166).
178. CDJC, pamphlet file 10.143: Union des Juifs pour la Resistance et l'Entraide, "Cinq Mois de Persecutions Anti-juives A Nice," Nice, ca. Feb. 1944. See also Leon Poliakov, "Le lieu du crime," Le Monde Juif 52 (Oct.-Dec. 1968): 25, and Philippe Erlanger, La France sans etoile: Souvenirs de I'avant-guerre et du temps de l'occupation (Paris, 1974), p. 289.
208. CDJC, file CCXXI-27: Kurt Schendel, "Rapport concernant les entretiens ayant eu lieu A l'occasion de I'arrestation des enfants," 31 Aug. 1944. See also Beate Klarsfeld, Wherever They May Be! (New York, 1972), pp. 231-34.
215. CDJC, file CCXXI-27: Schendel, "Rapport," 31 Aug. 1944; Vormeier, Deportierungen, p. 65; Jacques Adler, Face 4 la persecution: les organisations juives d Paris de 1940 d 1944 (Paris, 1985), p. 211.
223. Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, 2 vols. [continuously paginated] (New York, 1981), p. 694; Josef Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (New York, 1955), p. 184; Victor Mamatey and Radomir Luza, A History of the Czechoslovak Republic, 1918-1948 (Princeton, 1973), p. 291.
228. Braham, Politics of Genocide, p. 917. Calculations of Jewish participants in the Slovakian national uprising range from 1,566 Jews (Ladislav Lipscher, "The Jews of Slovakia: 1939-45," in The Jews of Czechoslovakia: Historical Studies and Surveys, ed. Avigdor Dagan and others, 3 vols. [Philadelphia, 1968-1984]; 3: 233) to 4,653 Jews (Erich Kulka, "The Annihilation of Czechoslovak Jewry," ibid., p. 314); the Gestapo claimed to have caught 9,653 Jewish insurgents (Lettrich, History, p. 190).
229. Nuremberg Doc. NO-4824: Rudolph Kastner affidavit, 4 Aug. 1947; Nuremberg Doc. NO-5921: Hans Gmelin affidavit, 13 Aug. 1948; German Foreign Ministry correspondence, quoted in Eichmann Trial, sess. 84, p. XI.
235. On the Europa Plan, see Leon Poliakov, Harvest of Hate: The Nazi Program for the Destruction of the Jews of Europe, rev. ed. (New York, 1959), p. 160; Lipscher, "Jews of Slovakia," pp. 222-23; NCA 8: 614-615: Wisliceny affidavit, 29 Nov. 1945.
245. On Gisi Fleischmann's activities, see Livia Rothkirchen, "Slovakia II, 1918- 1938," in fews of Czechoslovakia 1: 97, 112; Yirmeyahu Oscar Neumann, Gisi Fleischmann: The Story of a Heroic Woman (Tel Aviv, 1970), pp. 24-26.
250. Kurt Becher affidavit, 7 Feb. 1946, in Braham, Destruction, p. 905; Holocaust: Selected Documents 8: 94: Wisliceny interrogation, 15 Nov. 1945; Eichmann Trial, sess. 103, p. Hhl; and Kastner, Kastner-Bericht, pp. 188,276.
259. Eichmann Trial, sess. 50, p. XI: testimony of Bedrich Steiner. Steiner's figures also quoted in Lipscher, Die Juden im Slowakischen Staat, p. 179; these figures do not include the transport to Bergen-Belsen described by Neumann, Im Schatten des Todes, p. 266. In addition, 3,500 Jews were executed within Slovakia at the time of the insurrection (Lipscher, "Jews of Slovakia," p. 234). Ludovit Holotik claims 58,000 were deported after 1944 ("The 'Jewish Problem' in Slovakia," East European Quarterly 1 [19671: 37) but took this figure from a source on deportations in 1942: Lubomir Liptak, "Slovensky Stat a Protifasisticke Hnutie v Rokoch 1939-1943," Historicky Casopis 14 (1966): 195. 1 have chosen the figure of 14,000 as a conservative estimate.
265. Wisliceny deposition, in Friedman, The Hunter, p. 163. Most historians do not include Brunner in the Eichmann Special Commando for Hungary (see e.g. Braham, Politics of Genocide, p. 396; Robinson, And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight, p. 267).
269. Tuviah Friedman in Haifa and Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna have gathered information on Brunner over the years. See Dokumentationszentrum des Bundes judischer Verfolgter des Naziregimes, Bulletin of Information 6 (June 1967). In 1982 Serge Klarsfeld of Paris went to Syria to protest Brunner's presence and raised new interest in the case. Recently reporters have verified Brunner's protected position in Damascus: see Robert Fisk, "Syria protects Eichmann aide," London Times, 17 Mar. 1983; Bunte 45-46 (30 Oct. and 7 Nov. 1985).
272. Arrest warrant in Vienna Search Book: Alois Brunner (Schmaldienst), 1938-45, for crimes in Greece, Hungary, Austria (CDJC, file DLVI-61). This arrest warrant is still in effect, and criminal proceedings are pending before the Landesgericht in Strafsachen in Vienna. An extradition request from Austria to Syria has long been on the books.
273. At present, the Frankfurt prosecutor is handling the charges against Brunner concerning Berfin-RSHA, Greece, and Czechoslovakia; the charges concerning France are being handled by the Cologne prosecutor (Alfred Streim to Mary Felstiner, 23 July 1985).
Simon Wiesenthal Center-Museum of Tolerance Library & Archives