Rudolf Höss (also Höß, Hoeß or Hoess; 25 November 1901 – 16 April 1947) was a German SS functionary during the Nazi era. He was the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. He tested and implemented various methods to accelerate Hitler's plan to systematically exterminate the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe, known as the "Final Solution". On the initiative of one of his subordinates, Karl Fritzsch, Höss introduced pesticide Zyklon B containing hydrogen cyanide into the killing process.
Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and the SS in 1934. From 4 May 1940 to November 1943, and again from 8 May 1944 to 18 January 1945, he was in charge of Auschwitz, where more than a million people were killed before the defeat of Germany. He was hanged in 1947 following a trial before the Polish Supreme National Tribunal. During his imprisonment, at the request of the Polish authorities, he wrote his memoirs, released in English under the title Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess.
Höss at trial before the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland, 1947
|Born||25 November 1901|
|Died||16 April 1947 (aged 45)|
|Known for||Commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp|
4 May 1940 – 1 December 1943
8 May 1944 – 18 January 1945
Hedwig Hensel (m. 1929)
|Criminal charge||Nazi crimes against the Polish nation|
|Trial||Supreme National Tribunal|
|Service/||Death's Head Units|
|Years of service||1934–1945|
Höss was born in Baden-Baden into a strict Catholic family. He lived with his mother Lina (née Speck) and father Franz Xaver Höss. Höss was the eldest of three children and the only son. He was baptized Rudolf Franz Ferdinand on 11 December 1901. He was a lonely child with no playmates his own age until he entered elementary school; all of his companionship came from adults. He claimed in his autobiography that he was briefly abducted by gypsies in his youth. His father, a former army officer who served in German East Africa, ran a tea and coffee business; he brought his son up on strict religious principles and with military discipline, having decided that he would enter the priesthood. Höss grew up with an almost fanatical belief in the central role of duty in a moral life. During his early years, there was a constant emphasis on sin, guilt, and the need to do penance.
married on 17 August 1929 to Hedwig Hensel
When World War One broke out, Höss served briefly in a military hospital and then, at age 14, was admitted to his father's and grandfather's old regiment, the German Army's 21st Regiment of Dragoons. At age 15, he fought with the Ottoman Sixth Army at Baghdad, at Kut-el-Amara, and in Palestine. While stationed in Turkey, he rose to the rank of Feldwebel (sergeant-in-chief) and at 17 was the youngest non-commissioned officer in the army. Wounded three times and a victim of malaria, he was awarded the Gallipoli Star, the Iron Cross first and second class and other decorations. Höss also briefly commanded a cavalry unit. When the news of the armistice reached Damascus, where he was at that time, he and a few others decided not to wait for the British to arrest them as prisoners of war, but instead to try to ride all the way back home. This involved traversing the enemy territory of Romania, but they eventually made it back home to Bavaria.
After the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Höss completed his secondary education and soon joined some of the emerging nationalist paramilitary groups, first the East Prussian Volunteer Corps, and then the Freikorps "Rossbach" in the Baltic area, Silesia and the Ruhr. Höss participated in the armed terror attacks on Polish people during the Silesian uprisings against the Germans, and on French nationals during the Occupation of the Ruhr. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922 (Member No. 3240) after hearing a speech by Adolf Hitler in Munich.
On 31 May 1923, in Mecklenburg, Höss and members of the Freikorps attacked and beat to death local schoolteacher Walther Kadow on the wishes of farm supervisor Martin Bormann, who later became Hitler's private secretary. Kadow was believed to have tipped off the French occupational authorities that Höss' fellow Nazi, paramilitary soldier Albert Leo Schlageter, was carrying out sabotage operations against French supply lines. Schlageter was arrested and executed on 26 May 1923; soon afterwards Höss and several accomplices, including Bormann, took their revenge on Kadow. In 1923, after one of the killers confessed to a local newspaper, Höss was arrested and tried as the ringleader. Although he later claimed that another man was actually in charge, Höss accepted the blame as the group's leader. He was convicted and sentenced (on 15 or 17 May 1924) to ten years in Brandenburg penitentiary, while Bormann received a one-year sentence.
Höss was released in July 1928 as part of a general amnesty and joined the Artaman League, an anti-urbanization movement, or back-to-the-land movement, that promoted a farm-based lifestyle. On 17 August 1929, he married Hedwig Hensel (3 March 1908 – 1989), whom he met in the Artaman League. Between 1930 and 1943 they had five children: two sons (Klaus and Hans-Rudolf) and three daughters (Ingebrigitt, Heidetraut and Annegret). Ingebrigitt was born on a farm in northern Germany in 1934 after Heidetraut, Höss's eldest daughter, was born in 1932; and Annegret, the youngest, was born in Auschwitz in November 1943. It was during this time frame that he became acquainted with Heinrich Himmler.
Höss joined the SS on 1 April 1934, on Himmler's effective call-to-action, and joined the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death's Head Units) in the same year. He came to admire Himmler so much that he considered whatever he said to be the "gospel" and preferred to display his picture in his office rather than that of Hitler. Höss was assigned to the Dachau concentration camp in December 1934, where he held the post of Blockführer. His mentor at Dachau was Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke. In 1938, Höss was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He joined the Waffen-SS in 1939 after the invasion of Poland. Höss excelled in that capacity, and was recommended by his superiors for further responsibility and promotion. By the end of his tour of duty there, he was serving as administrator of prisoners' property.
On 1 May 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, a territory Germany had incorporated into the province of Upper Silesia. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian (and later Polish) army barracks near the town of Oświęcim; its German name was Auschwitz. Höss commanded the camp for three and a half years, during which he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Höss had been ordered "to create a transition camp for ten thousand prisoners from the existing complex of well-preserved buildings," and he went to Auschwitz determined "to do things differently" and develop a more efficient camp than those at Dachau and Sachsenhausen where he had previously served. Höss lived at Auschwitz in a villa with his wife and five children.
The earliest inmates at Auschwitz were Soviet prisoners-of-war and Polish prisoners, including peasants and intellectuals. Some 700 arrived in June 1940, and were told they would not survive more than three months. At its peak, Auschwitz comprised three separate facilities: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. These included many satellite sub-camps, and the entire camp was built on about 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) that had been cleared of all inhabitants. Auschwitz I was the administrative center for the complex; Auschwitz II Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place; and Auschwitz III Monowitz was the slave-labor camp for I.G. Farbenindustrie AG, and later other German industries. The main purpose of Monowitz was the production of buna, a form of synthetic rubber.
In June 1941, according to Höss's trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Himmler "to receive personal orders". Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the final solution of the Jewish question. According to Höss, Himmler had selected Auschwitz for the extermination of Europe's Jews "on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation". Himmler described the project as a "secret Reich matter" and told Höss not to speak about it with SS-Gruppenführer Richard Glücks, head of the Nazi camp system run by the Death's Head Unit. Höss said that "no one was allowed to speak about these matters with any person and that everyone promised upon his life to keep the utmost secrecy". He told his wife about the camp's purpose only at the end of 1942, since she already knew about it from Fritz Bracht. Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann, who arrived at the camp four weeks later.
Höss began testing and perfecting mass killing techniques on 3 September 1941. His experiments made Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution and the Holocaust's most potent symbol. According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two or three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for four to six weeks. The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or one of the Auschwitz camps, while those unsuitable for work were driven into the gas chambers. At first, small gassing bunkers were located deep in the woods to avoid detection. Later, four large gas chambers and crematoria were constructed in Birkenau to make the killing more efficient, and to handle the increasing rate of exterminations.
Technically [it] wasn't so hard—it would not have been hard to exterminate even greater numbers.... The killing itself took the least time. You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time. The killing was easy; you didn't even need guards to drive them into the chambers; they just went in expecting to take showers and, instead of water, we turned on poison gas. The whole thing went very quickly.
Höss experimented with various gassing methods. According to Eichmann's 1961 trial testimony, Höss told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. Höss later introduced hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid), produced from the pesticide Zyklon B, to the killing process, after his deputy Karl Fritzsch tested it on a group of Russian prisoners in 1941. With Zyklon B, he said that it took 3–15 minutes for the victims to die and that "we knew when the people were dead because they stopped screaming".
In 1942 Höss had an affair with an Auschwitz inmate, a political prisoner named Eleonore Hodys (or Nora Mattaliano-Hodys). The woman became pregnant, and was imprisoned in a standing-only arrest cell. Released from the arrest, she had an abortion in a camp hospital in 1943 and, according to her later testimony, just barely evaded being selected for gassing. The affair may have led to Höss's recall from the Auschwitz command in 1943. SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen and his assistant Wiebeck investigated the case in 1944, interviewed Hodys and Höss and intended to proceed against Höss, but the case was dismissed. Morgen, Wiebeck and Hodys gave testimony after the war.
After being replaced as the Auschwitz commander by Arthur Liebehenschel, on 10 November 1943, Höss assumed Liebehenschel's former position as the head of Amt D I in Amtsgruppe D of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (WVHA); he also was appointed deputy of the inspector of the concentration camps under Richard Glücks.
On 8 May 1944, Höss returned to Auschwitz to supervise a grisly operation Operation Höss in which 430,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to the camp and killed in 56 days between May and July. Even Höss's expanded facility could not handle the huge number of victims' corpses, and the camp staff had to dispose of thousands of bodies by burning them in open pits.
In the last days of the war, Himmler advised Höss to disguise himself among German Navy personnel. He evaded arrest for nearly a year. When arrested on 11 March 1946 in Gottrupel (Germany), he was disguised as a gardener and called himself Franz Lang. His wife had revealed his whereabouts to protect her son, Klaus, who was being “badly beaten” by British soldiers, many of them Jewish. The British force that captured Höss included Hanns Alexander, a British captain originally from Berlin who was forced to flee to England with his entire family during the rise of Nazi Germany. According to Alexander, Höss attempted to bite into a cyanide pill once he was discovered. Höss initially denied his identity "insisting he was a lowly gardener, but Alexander saw his wedding ring and ordered Höss to take it off, promising to cut off his finger if he didn't. Höss' name was inscribed inside. The Jewish soldiers accompanying Alexander began to beat Höss with axe handles. After a few moments and a minor internal debate, Alexander pulled them off."
Rudolf Höss appeared at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg on 15 April 1946, where he gave a detailed testimony of his crimes. He was called as a defense witness by Ernst Kaltenbrunner's lawyer, Dr. Kauffman. The transcript of Höss' testimony was later entered as evidence during the 4th Nuremberg Military Tribunal known as the Pohl Trial, named for principal defendant SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl. Affidavits that Rudolf Höss made while imprisoned in Nuremberg were also used at the Pohl and IG Farben trials.
In his affidavit made at Nuremberg on 5 April 1946, Höss stated:
I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000 dead. This figure represents about 70% or 80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries. Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of Prisoner of War cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens (mostly Jewish) from The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.
When accused of murdering three and a half million people, Höss replied, "No. Only two and one half million—the rest died from disease and starvation."
On 25 May 1946, he was handed over to Polish authorities and the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland tried him for murder. In his essay on the Final Solution in Auschwitz, which he wrote in Krakow, he revised the previously given death toll:
I myself never knew the total number, and I have nothing to help me arrive at an estimate.
I can only remember the figures involved in the larger actions, which were repeated to me by Eichmann or his deputies.
From Upper Silesia and the General Gouvernement 250,000
Germany and Theresienstadt 100,000
Slovakia 90,000 [Total 1,130,000]
I can no longer remember the figures for the smaller actions, but they were insignificant by comparison with the numbers given above. I regard a total of 2.5 million as far too high. Even Auschwitz had limits to its destructive capabilities.
In his memoir, he also revealed his mistreatment at the hands of his British captors:
During the first interrogation they beat me to obtain evidence. I do not know what was in the transcript, or what I said, even though I signed it, because they gave me liquor and beat me with a whip. It was too much even for me to bear. The whip was my own. By chance it had found its way into my wife's luggage. My horse had hardly ever been touched by it, much less the prisoners. Somehow one of the interrogators probably thought that I had used it to constantly whip the prisoners.
After a few days I was taken to Minden on the Weser River, which was the main interrogation center in the British zone. There they treated me even more roughly, especially the first British prosecutor, who was a major. The conditions in the jail reflected the attitude of the first prosecutor. [...] Compared to where I had been before, Imprisonment with the IMT [International Military Tribunal] was like staying in a health spa.
His trial lasted from 11 to 29 March 1947. Höss was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 April 1947. The sentence was carried out on 16 April next to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. He was hanged on a short-drop gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the location of the camp's Gestapo. The message on the board that marks the site reads:
This is where the camp Gestapo was located. Prisoners suspected of involvement in the camp's underground resistance movement or of preparing to escape were interrogated here. Many prisoners died as a result of being beaten or tortured. The first commandant of Auschwitz, SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss, who was tried and sentenced to death after the war by the Polish Supreme National Tribunal, was hanged here on 16 April 1947.
Höss wrote his autobiography while awaiting execution; it was published in 1956 as Kommandant in Auschwitz; autobiographische Aufzeichnungen and later as Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (among other editions). It consisted of two parts, one about his own life and the second about other SS men with whom he had become acquainted, mainly Heinrich Himmler and Theodor Eicke, but several others as well.
After discussions with Höss during the Nuremberg trials at which he testified, the American military psychologist Gustave Gilbert wrote the following:
In all of the discussions, Höss is quite matter-of-fact and apathetic, shows some belated interest in the enormity of his crime, but gives the impression that it never would have occurred to him if somebody hadn't asked him. There is too much apathy to leave any suggestion of remorse and even the prospect of hanging does not unduly stress him. One gets the general impression of a man who is intellectually normal, but with the schizoid apathy, insensitivity and lack of empathy that could hardly be more extreme in a frank psychotic.
Four days before he was executed, Höss acknowledged the enormity of his crimes in a message to the state prosecutor:
My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell, I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz, I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the 'Third Reich' for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done. I ask the Polish people for forgiveness. In Polish prisons I experienced for the first time what human kindness is. Despite all that has happened I have experienced humane treatment which I could never have expected, and which has deeply shamed me. May the facts which are now coming out about the horrible crimes against humanity make the repetition of such cruel acts impossible for all time.
Shortly before his execution, Höss returned to the Catholic Church. On 10 April 1947, he received the sacrament of penance from Fr. Władysław Lohn, S.J., provincial of the Polish Province of the Society of Jesus. On the next day, the same priest administered to him Holy Communion as Viaticum.
In a farewell letter to his wife, Höss wrote on 11 April:
Based on my present knowledge I can see today clearly, severely and bitterly for me, that the entire ideology about the world in which I believed so firmly and unswervingly was based on completely wrong premises and had to absolutely collapse one day. And so my actions in the service of this ideology were completely wrong, even though I faithfully believed the idea was correct. Now it was very logical that strong doubts grew within me, and whether my turning away from my belief in God was based on completely wrong premises. It was a hard struggle. But I have again found my faith in my God.
The same day in a farewell letter to his children, Höss told his eldest son:
Keep your good heart. Become a person who lets himself be guided primarily by warmth and humanity. Learn to think and judge for yourself, responsibly. Don't accept everything without criticism and as absolutely true... The biggest mistake of my life was that I believed everything faithfully which came from the top, and I didn't dare to have the least bit of doubt about the truth of that which was presented to me. ... In all your undertakings, don't just let your mind speak, but listen above all to the voice in your heart.
The original affidavit, signed by Rudolf Höss, is displayed in a glass case in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The photo displayed with the affidavit shows Hungarian Jewish women and children walking to one of the four gas chambers in the Birkenau death camp on 26 May 1944, carrying their baggage by hand in sacks.
Author's Note to Chapter One.
| Commandant of Auschwitz
4 May 1940 – November 1943
SS-Obersturmbannführer Arthur Liebehenschel
SS-Obersturmbannführer Arthur Liebehenschel
| Commandant of Auschwitz
8 May 1944 – 18 January 1945
Arbeit macht frei ([ˈaɐ̯baɪt ˈmaxt ˈfʁaɪ] (listen)) is a German phrase meaning "work sets you free". The slogan is known for appearing on the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.Arthur Liebehenschel
Arthur Liebehenschel (listen ; 25 November 1901 – 24 January 1948) was a commandant at the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps during World War II. He was convicted of war crimes by the Polish government following the war and executed in 1948.Auschwitz trial
The Auschwitz trial began on November 24, 1947, in Kraków, when Polish authorities (the Supreme National Tribunal) tried forty former staff of the Auschwitz concentration camps. The trials ended on December 22, 1947.The best-known defendants were Arthur Liebehenschel, former commandant; Maria Mandel, head of the Auschwitz women's camps; and SS-doctor Johann Kremer. Thirty-eight other SS officers — thirty-four men and four women — who had served as guards or doctors in the camps were also tried.Death Is My Trade
Death Is My Trade (French: La mort est mon métier) is a 1952 French fictionalized biographical novel by Robert Merle. The protagonist, Rudolf Lang, was closely based on the real Rudolf Höß, commandant of the concentration camp Auschwitz.Death is My Trade (film)
Death is My Trade (German: Aus einem deutschen Leben) is a 1977 German film, which is based on the script of director Theodor Kotulla starring Götz George in the leading role. The realisation of the script is based on the French novel La mort est mon métier by Robert Merle, which was published in 1952 (English edition: Death Is My Trade).
Like the novel, the film is partly based on interrogation records of the trial against Rudolf Höß, SS-officer and commander of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, as well as on his autobiographical notes. He made these notes first during his time as British POW, then, after he was extradited, as Polish prisoner in 1946/47, before he was executed as a convicted war criminal. Instead of using the name Rudolf Höß, whose life was the model for the film, the pseudonym Franz Lang is used, in order that he remain anonymous. The real Rudolf Höß had gone into hiding allegedly working as a boatman after World War II using this (fake) name until he was unmasked and arrested in 1946.
The film is divided into 14 different episodes, which describe fragmentary and important scenes of Franz Lang´s (alias Rudolf Höss) life.Gerstein Report
The Gerstein Report was written in 1945 by Kurt Gerstein, Obersturmführer of the Waffen-SS, who served as Head of Technical Disinfection Services of the SS in World War II, and in that capacity supplied the hydrogen cyanide-based pesticide Zyklon B from Degesch (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung) to Rudolf Höss in Auschwitz, and conducted the negotiations with the owners. On 18 August 1942, along with Rolf Günther and Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, Gerstein witnessed the gassing of some 3,000 Jews in the extermination camp of Belzec in occupied Poland. The report features his eyewitness testimony. It was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials.
When Gerstein surrendered to the French Commandant in the occupied town of Reutlingen on 22 April 1945 he was sent to the town of Rottweil where he was placed under "honorable captivity" and given accommodation in the Hotel Mohren. There he composed his report, first in French and then in German.Hanns Alexander
Hanns Alexander (6 May 1917 – 23 December 2006) was a German Jewish refugee who tracked down and arrested the Kommandant of Auschwitz Rudolf Höss.Born in Berlin to father Alfred Alexander and mother Henny Alexander, he grew up with his twin brother Paul in an assimilated, wealthy household. Alfred was a prominent physician who counted many well-known actors, artists, and scientists, including Albert Einstein, among his friends and patients. In 1936, after being tipped off that he was on a Gestapo arrest list, Alfred remained in London, where he was visiting a daughter, and managed to help the rest of his family emigrate to England via Switzerland.In September 1939, after the outbreak of the Second World War, Alexander volunteered for the British Army, but was refused as an enemy alien. He managed to join the Royal Pioneer Corps as a private in 1940, attended officer training in 1943, and in 1945 was an interpreter at interrogations of guards and staff at the newly liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp."Gripped by a righteous anger," and having learned that Rudolf Höss, the former Auschwitz Kommandant, had gone into hiding, Alexander asked his superiors for permission to track down fugitive war crimes suspects, but was denied. He embarked on a search for Höss in his spare time, and when the No. 1 War Crimes Investigation Team was formed by the British government in mid-1945 he was asked to join, and became a full-time Nazi hunter. His first major success was tracking down and arresting in December 1945 Gustav Simon, who was, as the Nazi Gauleiter in the Moselland Gau from 1940 until 1944, the Chief of the Civil Administration in Luxembourg, which was occupied at that time by Nazi Germany. In Luxembourg, Simon was responsible for the early and speedy deportation of the Jewish population, and the executions of resistance fighters.
Alexander arrested Rudolf Höss on 11 March 1946 in Gottrupel (Germany), where he lived disguised as a gardener and called himself Franz Lang. Höss's wife had given up his address after Alexander threatened to have her teenage son shipped off to Siberia — something he would not have been able to do. Höss initially denied his identity "insisting he was a lowly gardener, but Alexander saw his wedding ring and ordered Höss to take it off, promising to cut off his finger if he didn't. Höss' name was inscribed inside. The Jewish soldiers accompanying Alexander began to beat Höss with axe handles. After a few moments and a minor internal debate, Alexander pulled them off."After the War he had a long professional career as a merchant banker at S.G. Warburg. Hanns Alexander died in London at age 89.His story is featured in the book Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding.Hanns and Rudolf
Hanns and Rudolf is a dual biography of Hanns Alexander and Rudolf Höss by the British-American journalist Thomas Harding.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. One of the lead investigators is Lieutenant Hanns Alexander, a German Jew who is now serving in the British Army. Rudolf Höss is his most elusive target. As Kommandant of Auschwitz, Höss not only oversaw the murder of more than one million men, women, and children; he was the man who perfected Hitler's program of mass extermination. Höss is on the run across a continent in ruins, the one man whose testimony can ensure justice at Nuremberg.
The book received favourable reviews from a variety of authors in the thriller genre. John Le Carré called it "'A gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history, a scrupulously dispassionate narrator.' Equally, Frederick Forsyth described it as "'An extraordinary tale deriving from meticulous research – the story of how a Jew after 1945 almost single-handedly hunted down the Kommandant of Auschwitz."
It also received praised from historians. Ben Macintyre wrote: "Meticulously researched and deeply felt, Hanns and Rudolf is written with a suppressed fury at the vicious moral emptiness of men like Höss, who were only following orders." Max Hastings said "Fascinating and moving... This is a remarkable book, which deserves a wide readership."
Hanns and Rudolf was a The Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and paperback in the UK, and a bestseller in Israel and Italy. It has been translated into more than eighteen languages.
In May 2014 it was announced that Hanns and Rudolf had been optioned by The Ink Factory Films and that the company is in talks with Sir Ronald Harwood to adapt the book.Hindenburg Amnesties
The Hindenburg Amnesties were a succession of four amnesties for certain groups of political prisoners in Germany. The largest Hindenburg Amnesty, in terms of the numbers released, took place in 1925, but there were further amnesties also termed Hindenburg Amnesties in 1928, 1932 and 1934. The background to the amnesties was the conviction of political extremists in the wake of the Revolutionary period of 1918-1919 that had followed military defeat in the First World War. During the 1920s the political emergency subsided and democratic government began to take root in Germany.
The 1925 Hindenburg Amnesty took place shortly after the election of Paul von Hindenburg as the country's president. It involved the release of approximately 29,000 people and came at the request of virtually all the political parties represented in the Reichstag, including the Communist and Nazi parties.Grounds for the amnesties included a very widespread belief that the extent of the trials and convictions that had followed in the wake of economic and political collapse at the end of the war had simply overwhelmed the judicial system, which continued to lack the capacity, in terms of qualified judges and court staff, to redress the accumulation of judicial wrongs on a case by case basis. Inevitably the process also came to be seen increasingly as a political exercise whereby extremist parties that were now gaining some measure of acceptance with the political establishment could extract their own leaders from jails. High-profile beneficiaries of the Hindenburg Amnesties who later became key figures in the political establishment included Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann and Rudolf Höß. Beneficiaries from the other political extreme included Otto Franke.Jan Sehn
Jan Sehn (April 22, 1909 – December 12, 1965), was a Polish lawyer, 1945-47 investigating magistrate, and professor at Jagiellonian University since 1961. He was member of the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, and Chairman of the Kraków District Commission until 1953. In 1945 and 1946, he led the investigations on the site of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. As an investigation judge he prepared the accusation act of the former camp commandant Rudolf Höß. From 1949 director of the Institute of Forensic Research in Kraków. Sehn died suddenly 1965 in Frankfurt.
In 1966 Institute of Forensic Research in Kraków was named after Jan Sehn.
He was the cousin of Wanda Szczerba (1910–1998), who was married to engineer and technical director of Fablok Klemens Stefan Sielecki (1903–1980).Karl Fritzsch
Karl Fritzsch (10 July 1903 – reported missing 2 May 1945), a German SS functionary during the Nazi era of 1933-1945, served as an Auschwitz concentration camp deputy- and acting-commandant. According to Rudolf Höss, Fritzsch first suggested using poisonous gas Zyklon B for the purpose of mass murder and experimented with the first gassings himself.Karl Möckel
Karl Ernst Möckel (9 January 1901 – 28 January 1948) was an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) and administrator at Auschwitz concentration camp. He was executed as a war criminal.Operation Höss
Operation Höss (German: Aktion Höss) was the codename for the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews and their murder in the gas chambers of Birkenau extermination camp as part of the Holocaust. Between 14 May and 9 July 1944, 420,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz from Hungary, or about 12,000 per day. About twenty-five percent of each transport was selected for forced labor; the rest were immediately gassed.
The name came from Rudolf Höss, who returned as the commandant of Auschwitz to increase the killing capacity and ensure the transports could be accommodated. After the war, SS official Adolf Eichmann, who had organized the deportations, said that Operation Höss was "an achievement never matched before or since."Following the murder of Soviet Jews by Einsatzgruppen death squads and the killing of most Polish Jews in Operation Reinhard, Hungary had the largest Jewish population in occupied Europe with almost a million Jews. However, the Hungarian fascist regent, Miklós Horthy, had been reluctant to deport Jews because he suspected that Germany would lose the war and was trying to make a separate peace with the Allies. In order to preempt this possibility, Germany invaded Hungary on 12 March 1944. SS official Adolf Eichmann was sent in with a staff of 100 in order to supervise the deportation of Hungary's Jewish population.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the deportation and murder of Hungarian Jews as "the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world."Diplomatic pressure on Horthy caused him to order a halt to deportations on 7 July.
Of the 437,000 Hungarian Jews deported as part of Operation Höss, only about 50,000 survived the war.Rainer Höss
Rainer Höss (born 25 May 1965 in Stuttgart) is the grandson of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss. He has described himself as a tolerance preacher.Robert Mulka
Robert Karl Ludwig Mulka (12 April 1895, Hamburg – 26 April 1969, Hamburg) was an SS-Obersturmführer. At Auschwitz concentration camp, he was adjutant to the camp commandant, SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss, making him second in command of the camp.Rolf Mulka
Rolf Theodor Heinz Mulka (23 November 1927 – 14 July 2012) was a German sailor. He won the Olympic Bronze Medal Flying Dutchman in 1960 Rome along with Ingo von Bredow.Mulka was the son of Robert Mulka who at the Auschwitz concentration camp, was adjutant to the camp commandant, SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss.SS command of Auschwitz concentration camp
The SS command of Auschwitz concentration camp refers to those units, commands, and agencies of the German SS which operated and administered the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Due to its large size and key role in the Nazi genocide program, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp encompassed personnel from several different branches of the SS, some of which held overlapping and shared areas of responsibility.
There were over 7,000 SS personnel who served at Auschwitz from the time of the camp's construction in 1940 to the camp's liberation by the Red Army in January 1945. Fewer than 800 were ever tried for war crimes, the most notable of which were the trials of camp commanders Rudolf Höss and Robert Mulka, as well as several others tried between 1946 and 1948Solahütte
Solahütte (a.k.a. Solehütte, Soletal, SS-Hütte Soletal, or SS Hütte Porabka) was a little-known resort for the Nazi German guards, administrators, and auxiliary personnel of the Auschwitz/Birkenau/Buna facilities during the Holocaust in occupied Poland. Solahütte can be considered a tiny subcamp of Auschwitz because Auschwitz prisoners, overseen by Franz Hössler, constructed the rustic getaway facility, and a crew of detainees did ongoing grounds-keeping and cleanup work there also. Postcards of the era sent by German staff sometimes bore the resort hamlet's mysterious pre-printed return address "SS Hütte Soletal" but otherwise the place remained largely unknown until 2007, when the Höcker Album of vintage Auschwitz photographs was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which then released images online for study.Wartime snapshots made at Solahütte are somewhat jarring because of the lightheartedness of the people pictured: some of history's most infamous war criminals are shown cheerily singing along to accordion music, loafing on deckchairs, or giggling over desserts with female Nazi staff of the Helferinnen or Aufseherinnen. Among the SS Officers photographed at Solahütte were Oswald Pohl (executed through the Nuremberg Tribunal), Rudolf Höss (executed through the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland), and Josef Mengele (nicknamed the "Angel of Death"). The latter was almost never seen photographed in his SS uniform with Auschwitz colleagues until the Solahütte snapshots and a select few other images became known.Solahütte is around 29 km (18 miles) by car from Auschwitz. The main lodge building was demolished in 2011, but various side buildings remain, including the cabin used by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss. The site is located near the bends in the Soła river where engineers in 1935 finished a heavy dam which created the scenic Międzybrodzkie reservoir lake. Sola and Sole were Germanic approximations of the Polish Soła. Hütte is German for hut. Hence the German name "Sola hut"—even though the "hut" was actually a motel-sized building with a full-length sun-deck porch along with numerous smaller campus buildings. Activities included hunting, hiking, sunbathing, and excursions to the nearby lake and peaks. Villages of Porąbka and Międzybrodzie Żywieckie are close by—along with the Żar glide-airstrip and the Żar peak with its funicular incline-tram. The region was already popular with tourists. Far from Germany and deep in the potentially-hostile occupied Polish territory, the SS guards and the female typists and clerks of the extermination camp had few nearby safe vacation options other than going (usually by the charter-busload) "off to the Sola Hut".
In the late 1960s, the Polish Communist Party rebuilt and greatly expanded existing facilities into an elite resort called HPR-Kozubnik Porąbka (pl) with dance halls and bars plus a restaurant, indoor pool, small cinema, sauna, and a multilevel hotel for key officials. Top mining and metals-industry planners and high-ranking official visitors including the son of Leonid Brezhnev stayed there. However, after the fall of Communism in Poland, the resort became a rusty ghost town visited mostly by looters, paintballers, and urban explorers poking around the ruins.Guests of Solahütte resort featured in the recently documented Höcker Album of memorabilia owned by Karl-Friedrich Höcker include: Josef Mengele, Richard Baer (Nazi), Aufseherin Alice Orlowski, Elisabeth Volkenrath, Herta Ehlert, Hildegard Lächert, Therese Brandl and Luise Danz.Walther Kadow
Walther Kadow (1860 – 31 May 1923) was a German school teacher who was murdered by Rudolf Höss and a group of Nazi Party accomplices in May 1923 in the forest near Parchim. Kadow was member of the rightwing German Völkisch Freedom Party, and was suspected of having betrayed German nationalist Albert Leo Schlageter to the French occupation authorities in the Ruhr. Schlageter was executed by the French and was later regarded as a martyr by the Nazis. Höss received a ten-year sentence for the revenge killing, although he was released after a year due to a general amnesty. His accomplice, Martin Bormann who was a former student of Kadow, was sentenced to one year in prison for his part in the murder.Bormann would later become Head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler. Höss later became commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp.