After leaving Hungary, the Jews could then travel through neutral foreign countries or stay hidden, usually in Romania, until the necessary steamships arrived to take them on board. When they reached Israel, the ships waited off shore until a few courageous Jews helped the passengers land against the orders of the British mandate authorities. Since the refugees had no valid papers, the Jewish organization must have spent enormous sums of money to bribe Romanian officials, who did not do these favors for nothing. All this went on with Himmler's permission. I would never have dared to dance to my own waltz. If I demanded rigid obedience from my own subordinates, I had to be just as rigid in carrying out my own superior's orders. Otherwise I would have been a bad SS commander, and I think I was a good SS commander.
By the same token, my relationship with Dr. Kastner was strictly correct. He never saw me or my subordinates ever drink a single glass of wine or Schnaps, and there were certainly never any drunken orgies with Jews. If anything like that had happened, I would have heard of it and I would have punished the offenders the way I punished my chauffeur, who once unscrewed a toilet lid from my office because he needed a new toilet seat for his rented room. He was expelled from the SS. Once, when the same man fell asleep while driving my car, I made him march on foot all the way from Dresden to Berlin. That is how I would have treated any of my men who got drunk or even had a drink with a Jew.
All my own agreements with the Jewish officials were more or less side-transactions to the exchange of the million Jews for 10,000 winterized trucks with trailers. Becher and I were twice ordered to Himmler in Berlin to discuss it. Whether Himmler settled the actual terms of the exchange or whether he left it to me, I do not remember. When I think back though, it seems to me that Himmler may have authorized the offer for an "appropriate number," and I set the figure at 10,000 to one million because I was an idealist and wanted to accomplish as much as possible for the Reich.
It was clear to me that for lack of numbers I could never have squeezed a million Jews out of Hungary. But it was obvious that Jews were piled on Jews in Auschwitz and the various concentration camps. So I assumed that we could easily produce a million Jews. Jews from Hungary supplemented with Jews from Germany, from Austria, from wherever they wanted to take them. It would be a tragedy if the international Jewish community was not able or willing to accept them.
June 21, 1998