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Members of the Zionist youth group Gordonia pose for a photograph in postwar Kosice.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 05336

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    Members of the Zionist youth group Gordonia pose for a photograph in postwar Kosice.
    Members of the Zionist youth group Gordonia pose for a photograph in postwar Kosice.

Pictured are brothers Zvi Braf (front row, center) and Itzhak Braf (second row, center).


    Members of the Zionist youth group Gordonia pose for a photograph in postwar Kosice.

    Pictured are brothers Zvi Braf (front row, center) and Itzhak Braf (second row, center).
    Circa 1948
    Kosice, [Slovakia] Czechoslovakia
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Itzhak (Ernst) Braf
    Event History
    The Kasztner "rescue" train was a transport of 1,685 Jews that was allowed to leave Budapest on June 30, 1944. Its purported destination was Spain, but in fact the transport was sent to a satellite camp of the Bergen-Belsen transit and exchange camp, that came to known as the Ungarnlager (Hungarian camp). The idea of sending a train of Jews out of Hungary was first broached in the initial meeting between Joel Brand and Reszo Kasztner of the Hungarian Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee, and SS representative Dieter Wisliceny on April 5, 1944. Serious negotiations, however, commenced only in mid-May in the context of the mission of Joel Brand and Bundy Grosz to Turkey to negotiate the exchange of one million Jewish lives for 10,000 trucks from the Western powers. At this time Kasztner took over the negotiations with the SS. Adolf Eichmann was willing to subscribe to the rescue transport to demonstrate that the SS was sincere in its intentions to halt the deportations if the Brand mission was successful. In fact, however, the SS viewed the Brand mission as only a cover for its real purpose: to have Bundy Grosz (an agent of the German military intelligence and the Hungarian secret service) negotiate a separate peace with the West. Kasztner's purpose in pushing for the rescue transport seems to have been a desire to make a first breach in the German policy of total destruction of European Jewry that might set a precedent and ultimately lead to the halting of the murder machine. But Kasztner was under no illusion that the transport was anything but a high-risk venture. Passengers on the rescue transport were selected by a small committee headed by Otto Komoly, chairman of the Relief and Rescue Committee. The selection committee, which included Kasztner, sought people from all sectors of the Jewish population then residing in Hungary. Included among those selected were members of Kasztner's family and a contingent from his hometown of Cluj. Kasztner put members of his own family on the train to convince others that the gamble with the Nazis was worth the try. The SS required a ransom payment of $1,000 per passenger. As a result, a few families had to subsidize the majority of the passengers. The amount was paid in currency, gold, jewels and shares of stock that was collected by the Jewish committee and handed over to the SS in three suitcases. After departing Budapest on June 30, the train stopped near the Hungarian-Austrian border. At this point Eichmann made the decision to send the transport to Bergen-Belsen. The train next stopped in Linz, where the passengers were offloaded briefly to take showers. On July 8 the transport arrived in Bergen-Belsen. In the Ungarnlager the passengers of the Kasztner train lived a relatively protected existence compared to prisoners in regular concentration camps. They were allowed to wear their own clothes and were not subjected to the same harsh living conditions and grueling forced labor. Eventually all the members of the transport made it to safety in Switzerland: 318 were released on August 21, 1944, and the rest in December of that year.

    [Source: Bauer, Yehuda. "Jews for Sale? Nazi-jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945." Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 196-200; Laqueur, Walter (ed.) "The Holocaust Encyclopedia." Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 380-381.]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Itzhak (Ernst) Braf

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Itzhak (Ernst) Braf is the son of Dr. Yeshayahu Alexander and Helena nee Deitelbaum (b. 1908 in Topolcany). Itzhak was born March 16, 1932 in Kosice, where his father worked as a pediatrician. Itzhak had one older brother, Friedrich (Zvi), who was born June 16, 1929, also in Kosice. The family maintained a kosher home and kept the Sabbath. Itzhak attended a Jewish elementary school from the first to the sixth grade. In 1938, Kosice was annexed by Hungary, and antisemitic economic restrictions were immediately imposed. Beginning in 1940, all Jewish men between the ages of 21 to 40 were conscripted for the Hungarian army labor battaltions serving in Russia, and men 40-45 years old for forced labor. Then on March 19, 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. Additional restrictive orders were issued which barred Jews from employment, required them to wear the Star of David and to comply with curfews. Shortly thereafter, on April 24, a concentration camp was established in the city's brick factory, and Jews were forced to move into this four-acre area. While witnessing these events, the Braf family made plans to escape. They took a night train to Budapest, where they stayed with relatives for two to three weeks , until they were able to rent an apartment. There, they waited to be placed on the list for the Kasztner transport.

    The transport left Budapest on June 30, and on July 8 arrived in Bergen Belsen, where the Braf family stayed for two months. From Bergen Belsen, the passengers were sent to Switzerland in groups ordered alphabetically by the family's last name, so the Braf family was able to leave in the first group of three hundred. There, they initially lived together in a refugee home, until Itzak was moved to the Bnai Akiva Institution for youth, and his parents to a refugee hotel. After the war, the family returned to Kosice where Yeshayahu resumed his medical practice, and Itzhak and Zvi attended high school. In 1949, the family immigrated to Israel on the Atzmaut ship. In Israel, the boys finished high school and entered the army. Itzhak later became a building engineer, married and went on to have two children and five grandchildren .
    Record last modified:
    2009-07-31 00:00:00
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