Rudolf Hoess was history's greatest mass murderer, the architect and SS Kommandant of the largest killing center ever created, the death camp Auschwitz, whose name has come to symbolize humanity's ultimate descent into evil. Responsible for exterminating 2,5 million people in World War II, he was a mild-mannered, happily married Catholic who enjoyed normal family life with his five children despite his view of the crematoria chimney stacks from his bedroom window. 

At peak efficiency Auschwitz had the capacity to 'get rid of ten thousand people in 24 hours,' as Rudolf Hoess would testify during the War Crimes Trials after WW2. Witness after witness, document after document produced irrefutable evidence of the crimes committed, and no witness was more shocking than Rudolf Hoess, who calmly explained how he had come to exterminate 2,5  million people. 


The Holocaust Victims

Counting corpses with the cool dedication of a trained bookkeeper, he went home each night to the loving embrace of his own family. An affectionate husband who kissed his wife morning and night, and tucked his children into bed.

Watching millions of innocent human beings dissolve in the gas chambers, burning in the crematoriums, and their teeth melting into gold bars, Hoess wrote poetry about the beauty of Auschwitz.

And when he had an affair with an Auschwitz prisoner, he extricated himself by sending her to the gas chamber ..




Rudolf Franz Hoess was born in 1900 and joined the SS in 1933. In 1934 he was attached to the SS at Dachau, on August 1, 1938, he was adjutant of Sachsenhausen concentration camp until his appointment as Kommandant of to the newly-built camp at Auschwitz early 1940, located nearby the provincial Polish town of Oshwiecim in Galacia.

May 1941 the SS commander Heinrich Himmler said to Hoess, that Adolf Hitler had given orders 'for the final solution of the Jewish question. I have chosen the Auschwitz camp for this purpose'. Hoess converted Auschwitz into an extermination camp and installed gas chambers and crematoria.

In his Prison Memoirs, written by Adolf Eichmann shortly before his execution for crimes against humanity, Eichmann recounts how he was assigned in early 1942 to visit the Auschwitz death camp and report back to superiors on the killing of Jews. Methods were still crude, but represented a gruesome foretaste of the factory-style gas chambers and crematoria that were to follow.

"Hoess, the Kommandant, told me that he used sulfuric acid to kill. Round cotton wool filters were soaked with this poison and thrown into the rooms where the Jews were assembled. The poison was instantly fatal. He burned the corpses on an iron grill, in the open air. He led me to a shallow ditch where a large number of corpses had just been burned." 

Rudolf Hoess found that gassing by carbon monoxide, the recommended method, was inefficient and introduced the cyanide gas Zyklon B. He later recalled:

"The gassing was carried out in the detention cells of Block 11. Proctected by a gas mask, I watched the killing myself. In the crowded cells, death came instantaneously the moment the Zyklon B was thrown in. A short, almost smothered cry, and it was all over... I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon, and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain as to how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas and how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, and we had established a procedure." 


Auschwitz became the killing centre where the largest numbers of European Jews were killed. After an experimental gassing there in September 1941 of 850 malnourished and ill  prisoners, mass murder became a daily routine.

 

By mid 1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at Auschwitz, where extermination was conducted on an industrial scale with 2,5 million persons eventually killed through gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, and burning ...

 

At Auschwitz so called camp doctors - German physicians and scientists - performed vile and potentially lethal medical experiments on concentration camps inmates, and tortured Jewish children, Gypsy children and many others. "Patients" were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated, frozen to death, and exposed to various other traumas.

In late 1943 Rudolf Hoess was appointed chief inspector of the concentration camps and worked hard to improve the 'efficiency' of the other extermination centres. He performed his job so well that he was commended in a 1944 SS report that called him 'a true pioneer in this area because of his new ideas and educational methods.'

Rudolf Hoess fled at the approach of the Red Army and went into hiding in Germany under the name Franz Lang. He was arrested by Allied military police in 1946, handed over to the Polish authorities, who tried him in 1947. He was sentenced to death, and returned to Auschwitz to be hanged on the one-person gallows outside the entrance to the gas chamber.

Rudolf Hoess related before his execution how he often felt weak-kneed at having to push hundreds of screaming, pleading children into the gas chambers:"I did, however, always feel ashamed of this weakness of mine after I talked to Adolf Eichmann. He explained to me that it was especially the children who have to be killed first, because where was the logic in killing a generation of older people and leaving alive a generation of young people who can be possible avengers of their parents and can constitute a new biological cell for the reemerging of this people." 

 

 

This is excerpts from Hoess' signed testimony given at the Post-War Nuremberg War Crime trials:

RUDOLF FRANZ FERDINAND HOESS, being first duly sworn, depose and say as follows:

"I am forty­six years old, and have been a member of the NSDAPI since 1922; a member of the SS since 1934; a member of the Waffen­SS since 1939. I was a member from 1 December 1934 of the SS Guard Unit, the so­called Deathshead Formation (Totenkopf Verband).

I have been constantly associated with the administration of concentration camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938; then as Adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 - 5/1/1940, when I was appointed Kommandant of Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz until 12/1/1943 and estimate that at least 2.5 million victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease making a total dead of about 3 million. This figure represents about 70-80% 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 burned 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 Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.


Mass executions by gassing commenced during the summer of 1941 and continued until fall 1944. I personally supervised executions at Auschwitz until 12/1/1943 and know by reason of my continued duties in the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, WVHA, that these mass executions continued as stated above. All mass executions by gassing took place under the direct order, supervision, and responsibility of RSHA. I received all orders for carrying out these mass executions directly from RSHA.

The 'Final Solution' of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in 6/1941. At that time, there were already in the General Government three other extermination camps: Belzek, Treblinka and Wolzek. These camps were under the Einsatzkommando of the Security Police and SD. I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their exterminations. The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one-half year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas, and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyklon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from 3-15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about one-half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special Kommandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses.

Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chamber to accommodate 2000 people at one time whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: We had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.

We received from time to time special prisoners from the local Gestapo office. The SS doctors killed such prisoners by injections of benzine. Doctors had orders to write ordinary death certificates and could put down any reason at all for the cause of death.

From time to time we conducted medical experiments on women inmates, including sterilization and experiments relating to cancer. Most of the people who died under these experiments had been already condemned to death by the Gestapo.

I understand English as it is written above. The above statements are true; this declaration is made by me voluntarily and without compulsion; after reading over the statement I have signed and executed the same at Nuremberg, Germany, on the 4/5/1946. - Rudolf Hoess."

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

sources:

The Nizkor Project

The Internet Modern History Sourcebook

The Hutchinson Dictionary of World History
Encyclopedia of the Third Reich by Louis L. Snyder

Death Dealer, The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz, edited by Steven Paskuly
KL Auschwitz seen by the SS Hoess, Broad, Kremer, second edition, Museum w Oswiecimu, 1978, pp. 92-95.



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