Picture Palace Banner
Devil's Poker

Hansi Brand HANSI BRAND (1912-2000)

Hansi Brand was born into a German speaking family in Budapest. A busty woman of short stature, good looking, with long black hair, she was neither an intellectual nor an idealist by nature. She applied her extraordinary intelligence to solving practical matters rather than trying to change the world. .

Because her family lacked the funds, she could not finish High School. At 16, she apprentices with her aunt, who manufactures knit wear out of her home. At 17 she joins the Zionist youth movement, not because she wants to follow the Zionist dream. It is the only group where she feels accepted as a Jew. She is not religious at all, nor are her parents. By the time she reaches her early twenties, Hansi is building a business. She buys a couple of sewing machines from her aunt, expands and hires seamstresses. Twelve employees manufacture socks, gloves and sweaters. More and more of the work is contracted out to home-based seamstresses outside of Budapest, as Hansi’s business grows rapidly. She is perfectly bilingual in German and Hungarian. That is why she gets called in as an interpreter to the Kibbutz-like organization "Hachscharah", where she meets Joel Brand. They marry in 1935. In the 1944, the most turbulent year of her life, she is 32 years old.


Joel Brand JOEL BRAND (1906-1964)

Born in Hungary, he grew up in Erfurt, Germany, where his family had moved in 1910. German is his mother tongue. After graduating from High School, he decides against college, to pursue his dreams of adventure in foreign lands. He moves to New York and travels across the United States, working odd jobs. He get employment in road construction, auto plants and coal mines. But he is expelled from the U.S. for his communist activities. He decides to join the merchant marine, spending time in the Philippines, Japan, China and South America. He returns to Germany, 24 years old, in 1930. During this time, he and his friends are hoping for a socialist revolution as the answer to mass unemployment and social unrest. But fascism begins to rear its ugly head. Hitler seizes power in 1933. After the Reichstag fire, he and many other Jews and socialist sympathizers are arrested and spend a few months in jail. Two years later he emigrates to Budapest to avoid further persecution.

In Hungary, he is considered a foreigner in his own country. He has a difficult time learning Hungarian. But German is spoken by a large portion of the population in this former part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. The events in Germany and the Soviet Union force him to revise his political views, and he becomes a Zionist, harking back to the tradition of his family and his own early youth. He gets a job at the Budapest Telephone Company, which his father had founded. In his heart, he is finished with Europe and he wants to emigrate to Palestine. He joins a group of young Zionists who prepare themselves for life in Palestine. There he meets Hansi Hartmann. Joel is 38 years old in 1944.

Kastner RUDOLF (RESZÖ) KASTNER (1906-1957)

Born in Cluj ("Klausenburg", Transylvania when it was part of Romania. Later annexed to Hungary).Kastner was a lawyer with a doctorate degree and a journalist. A Jewish intellectual, his thinking is analytical and strategically oriented. He has the demeanor of a politician. He always dresses well and his words are carefully chosen. But most of all, Kastner is a committed Zionist, who puts his whole heart and soul into the rescue of Jews. He moves to Budapest in 1941, where he meets Joel and Hansi Brand and joins the rescue committee VAADA. Although timid by nature, he is able to muster enormous courage at critical moments. From the summer of 1944 until the collapse of the Third Reich, Kastner plays a dangerous game of poker with the Nazis, in order to save as many Jews as possible. In the eyes of many, he becomes a collaborator, while getting too close to the enemy. Yet, as history has proven, he is one of the most unsung heroes of the Holocaust.
Eichmann ADOLF EICHMANN (1906-1962)

Born in Solingen, Germany, Eichmann grew up in Linz, Austria. He joined the SS in 1932, voluntering for service at SD Head Office in Berlin, then transfered to Department II – The Jewish Dept. In 1937 he is ordered to visit Palestine, to explore possibilities of deporting Europe’s Jews to that area. After the annexation of Austria, Eichmann is sent to Vienna in 1938. He organizes the mass emigration of Jews, against payment of large sums of money. Back in Berlin in 1939, he is put in charge of Department IV of the RSHA, to handle evacuation of Jews from Eastern territories. Mass exterminations begin at Auschwitz in 1941. In January of 1942 he attends the infamous "Wannsee Conference", convened to implement the "Final Solution". Eichmann is to become the chief executioner of this solution. When Germany occupies its former ally Hungary on March 19, 1944, Eichmann and his staff move their base of operations to Budapest.
  PBS WEB SITE (Eichmann Trial)

Kastner Train
Hansi & Schindler
Joel & Kids
Hansi Brand & Oskar Schindler (Israel - mid-60s) Joel and his children  
Kastner & Wife Group Photo  
  Rare photo of Kastner, Boijo Kastner & Joel