The July 15 Minutes

Translated from Hungarian and German

Minutes taken by Kasztner’s secretary Lilly Unger on July 15, 1944, Dov Dinur Archive

BECHER (“B”): Now we’re on neutral territory.

KASZTNER (“A”): For me there’s no neutral territory, only hostile territory.

BECHER: You’re an impudent hound.

KASZTNER: I would like to discuss fundamentals. Let’s re-examine the whole issue and assess the situation, because if we want to go to L[isbon] we must have clear water in the glass. I need to know what we’re talking about and you need to know what we can do. Let’s have a quick review. When we negotiated with Wisliceny, he said that the Germans were not interested in concentration or full deportation. Contrary to these statements, something else happened: afterwards came concentration, deportation, and further negotiations. It was promised that the fit would be selected and the unfit would be kept on ice until a specific time, depending on the result of the negotiations, until it was established whether these had succeeded or failed. Instead the Auschwitz mill was set to work. From our information, 300,000 Hungarian Jews were its victims.

BECHER: How do you know?

KASZTNER: This is what my sources reported.

BECHER: Did you send this information abroad?

KASZTNER: No, but it isn’t necessary, because even without me sending the information abroad, the truth will be known. The truth is something that can be hidden temporarily and with great difficulty. It comes out in the end.

BECHER: What does Eichmann say to this? Did he confirm what you said?

KASZTNER: What happened is that Brand went abroad and after two weeks of talks back and forth he was able to achieve an interim agreement. Although it didn’t entirely cover your requests, at any rate it was proof that our friends abroad mean to do anything possible to satisfy your wishes in full. Of course one couldn’t expect that two weeks after Brand’s departure, the British and American governments would already be loading goods onto ships, including trucks that will eventually reinforce the German war machine directly or indirectly.

BECHER: True, but six weeks have elapsed since then – and still no sign of the trucks. If there had been the feeling of good will that you were talking about, then there might already have been a positive result.

KASZTNER: As against this, what happened while our friends abroad were busy working in this direction? The rumours of ongoing deportations and the reactivation of Auschwitz reached them and they probably don’t know if the Germans take the offer seriously and if there’s any point in making an effort in this matter. Meanwhile the planned journey to L[isbon] will only make sense if (1) deportations stop at once; (2) the Auschwitz mill stops running at once; and (3) there are Jewish survivors from Hungary to exchange for the trucks. So we need to know how many deportees survived and can still be reached.

BECHER: Please tell all of this to Eichmann. Regarding these points, ask for clarification of this matter and please tell him to phone me.

KASZTNER: Here’s anothing thing. The group supposed to be sent abroad has to start moving at last. A longer stay in Bergen-Belsen for the 1,600 people in the group certainly doesn’t help the L[isbon] talks.

BECHER: I’m going now to the Reichsführer on Monday or Tuesday and I’ll definitely speak to Himmler about it. I would like to take with me an exact accounting of what you did so far or what is now being undertaken and what can be expected. I’ll tell him that you gave this so far and I’ll also say what we gave in return.

KASZTNER: Basically, from your side, nothing was given.

BECHER: Your contribution was also minimal.

KASZTNER: If I consider which negotiating side had a more unpleasant experience, then our contribution was certainly maximal.

BECHER: I must discuss the question of the Bergen-Belsen group with the Reichsführer. It’s in your interest for our achievements to look as bad as possible. But I wouldn’t want to have to face a situation where, after your family arrives abroad, the others don’t interest you.

KASZTNER: It was Eichmann’s suggestion and wish that my family go. I never thought of sending them. It would be as if two less people had to wear a [yellow] star. Eichmann himself made it easier for me when he suggested that my wife and mother go abroad. Anyway I want you to know that what was done wasn’t done on a family basis. I’ve wondered many times whether, instead of the negotiations, it wouldn’t have been better to call on the Zionist youth and rally the people to active resistance to entering the brickyards and the wagons.

BECHER: You wouldn’t have achieved anything this way.

KASZTNER: Maybe, but at least we would have kept our honour. Our people went into the wagons like cattle because we trusted in the success of the negotiations and failed to tell them the terrible fate awaiting them.

BECHER: You make my heart heavy with such explanations.

KASZTNER: I’m sorry. It wouldn’t have come onto the agenda if you hadn’t mentioned my family.