The Intelligence Aspects of the Joel Brand Mission
Eichmann’s proposal to exchange Jewish lives for war materiel (“blood for wares”) continues to stir controversy. However, a shared common denominator to its failure is Brand’s arrival in Istanbul in the company of Bandi Grosz, a notorious Jewish double agent, with whom the Allies refused to negotiate. Though Grosz was a shady character, he had previously acted as a courier for the Budapest Rescue Committee, the Jewish Agency, and Allied intelligence services (as well as the Gestapo, Abwehr (Nazi counterintelligence agency) and the Hungarian military intelligence). When the Germans occupied Hungary, Grosz was arrested and testified against Abwehr officers. Kasztner and Brand continued to meet Gestapo, Abwehr, and Hungarian counterintelligence agents. Kasztner did not believe that Brand was a good choice to travel to Istanbul to carry out this mission. In Istanbul Grosz startled the Allies by revealing that Brand’s mission was only a cover for secret meetings with the Americans, which he had been asked to arrange in order to float Hungarian willingness to go over to the Allies if the Russians were prevented from entering Hungary. Furthermore, some German officers wished to meet American officers in a neutral country to negotiate a separate peace. British intelligence, not trusting either Brand or Grosz detained them for some months. Neither was an ideal choice for the mission. The British secret services were not helpful in exploiting the possible advantages of the deal.