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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Data Points: Visualization That Means Something
Nathan Yau
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz

Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz - Thomas   Harding

This is the story of two men: Hanns Alexander and Rudolf Höss (alternately spelled Hoess or Höß), one a German-born Jew and British soldier; the other the Kommandant of Auschwitz. Rudolf Höss (I’ll use this book’s spelling) is not to be confused with Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer to Hitler who claimed to be suffering from amnesia while awaiting trial at Nuremburg.

As a bit of an aficionado of WWII biographies and memoirs, I didn’t find this book particularly gripping unto itself. I watched the documentary Hitler’s Children (which I highly recommend), and (after realizing my Höss/Hess Rudolf confusion) wanted to learn more about the grandfather of Rainer Hoess (pictured with a Höss family portrait below), who, with the books author, visits Auschwitz to see where his father grew up and to confront his past in the film.

Rainer Hoess with Hoess family photo

The story of the lives of Rudolf Höss and Hanns Alexander are interesting. Hanns ultimately was the one who captured Höss. Hanns, one of a pair of identical twins, is likable, a bit of a prankster, with plenty of innocence to be lost as the impact of the war and the betrayal of his country encroach in on his world. However, what I felt was a bit lacking in the book (or perhaps was left to the reader’s imagination) was the mind-boggling juxtaposition of the insulated environment (both mentally and physically) Höss created for his family literally adjacent to the site where mass murder was engineered and carried out. 

Höss, more so than others with similarly appalling credentials, brought this sort of callused mentality of efficiency and logistics to what he did. It was Höss who suggested they find an alternative to the Einsatzgruppen methodology of lining up and shooting prisoners because it was detrimental to Nazi soldier morale. Likewise, he was the one who instructed the soldiers to tell the jews entering the gas chambers to keep track of their clothes as it helped to keep them calm, which (again) was easier for the soldiers to handle psychologically. 

I certainly recommend this as a companion piece to Hitler’s Children.