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Germany in WW2
History of Europe
Adolf Hitler

Who was Rudolf Hoess and what was his role in the Final Solution?


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May 03, 2008 3:56PM

The SS Commandant of Auschwitz from 1940-1943, Hoess was responsible for the death of more than one million prisoners. He was a veteran of WWI, and an early and committed Nazi. Rudolf Hoess (NOT to be confused with Rudolf Hess, the deputy Fuehrer till 1941) was captured by the British near Flensburg in March 1946. It seems that to some extent at least he was co-operative and he gave evidence at the main Nuremberg Trial. He was then transferred to Poland to be tried for his crimes as Kommandant of Auschwitz. While awaiting trial he wrote his memoirs. What emerges is the archetypal authoritarian personality, the type who wants to get ahead in life, works zealously, obeys enthusiastically and asks no moral questions - the type who grovels to his superiors. He makes no attempt to hide what happened at Auschwitz. The memoirs which came out in translation in Polish and were published in the original in Germany in 1958. The following year an English translation was published. It is a terrifying book: one expects a monster of depravity and finds a rather ordinary man, a zealous official, his head full of the stereotypes and prejudices of his time. Hoess was tried and convicted in April 1947 and later that month he was taken back to Auschwitz and hanged facing the main gate with the notorious slogan Arbeit macht frei (English - Work sets [you] free).