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Not to be confused with Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's Deputy.
Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss at the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland
Born Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höß
25 November 1900(1900-11-25)
Baden-Baden, Germany
Died 16 April 1947 (aged 46)
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland
Cause of death Hanged
Nationality German
Occupation SS-Obersturmbannführer
Height 5'8"
Known for First commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)
Spouse(s) Hedwig Hensel
Children 5 (2 sons, 3 daughters)

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss (also spelled Höß, sometimes spelled in English as Hoess; 25 November 1900[1] – 16 April 1947) was an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) and from 4 May 1940 to November 1943 was the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, where it is estimated that more than a million people were murdered.[2][3] Joining the Nazi Party in 1922, Höss joined the SS in 1934 and became a camp commander in May 1940. He was hanged in 1947 following his trial at Warsaw.

Contents

Early life

Rudolf Höss was born in Baden-Baden into a strict Catholic family. In his early years, according to his autobiography, he was a lonely child with no playmates his own age, until he entered grammar school, and all of his companionship came from adults. His father, a one-time army officer who served in German East Africa, ran a tea and coffee business; he raised his son on strict religious principles and with military discipline, having decided that young Rudolf would enter the priesthood.[4] Höss grew up with an almost fanatical belief in the central role of "duty" in a moral life.[5]

Höss began turning against religion in his late teens, after an episode in which, he said, his own priest broke the Seal of the Confessional by telling his parents about an event at school which young Rudolf had described during confession. Soon afterwards, Höss' father died, and Höss began moving toward a military life.[5]

When World War I broke out, Höss served briefly in a military hospital and then, at the age of 14, was admitted to his father's and grandfather's old regiment, the German Army's 21st Regiment of Dragoons. He was sent to fight in the Ottoman Empire. While stationed in Turkey he rose to the rank of Feldwebel and at the age of 17 was the youngest non-commissioned officer in the army. He was awarded the Iron Cross first and second class, among other medals. Höss also briefly served as commander of a cavalry unit.

After Germany's surrender, Höss completed his secondary education, and then joined up with nationalist paramilitary groups that were forming in the post-war chaos — first the East Prussian Volunteer Corps and then the Freikorps Rossbach. Höss participated in guerrilla attacks against French occupation forces in the Ruhr as well as against the Poles in the struggle for Silesia.

Early Nazi service

Höss formally renounced his membership in the Catholic Church in 1922 and soon joined the NSDAP (Party Member #3240) after hearing Hitler speak in Munich. A year later on May 31, 1923, in Mecklenburg, Höss and members of the Freikorps beat a suspected Communist Walther Kadow to death on the wishes of the local farm supervisor, Martin Bormann, who later became Adolf Hitler's private secretary. Kadow was believed to have tipped off the French occupational authorities that Höss' fellow Nazi, a paramilitary soldier named Albert Leo Schlageter, was carrying out sabotage operations against French supply lines. Schlageter was arrested and executed May 26, 1923; soon afterwards Höss and several accomplices, including Martin Bormann, took their revenge on Kadow.

In 1923, after one of the killers gave the tale of the murder to a local newspaper, Höss was arrested and tried as the ring leader. Although he later claimed that another man was actually in charge, Höss said he accepted the blame as the group's leader; he was found guilty and sentenced (on 15[4] or 17 May 1924[5]) to 10 years in Brandenburg Penitentiary for the crime. Bormann received a one-year sentence.

Höss was released in July 1928 as part of a general amnesty and joined the völkisch Artamanen-Gesellschaft ("Artaman League") a nationalist back-to-the-land movement which promoted clean living and a farm-based lifestyle. On 17 August 1929 he married Hedwig Hensel (4 March 1908–?), whom he met in the Artaman League. They would have five children together—two sons, and three daughters; born between 1930 and 1943.[6].

Career

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Joining the SS

He applied for SS membership on 20 September 1933, and his application was accepted on 1 April 1934. "In June 1934 came Himmler's call to join the ranks of the active SS-Mann"[7] (Höss met Himmler in 1929). That same year, Höss moved up to the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death's Head Units) and in December he was assigned to the Dachau concentration camp, where he held the post of Blockführer. Possibly because of his experience of being in prison himself, Höss excelled in his duties and was recommended by his superiors for further responsibility and promotion. By the end of his four years at Dachau, he was serving as administrator of the property of prisoners.[8]

By his own admission in his autobiography Höss said that he disliked the corporal punishment carried out by the guards of the camps on the prisoners (he avoided them as much as he could), but when he saw his first execution it did not affect him as the corporal punishment had. In his autobiography, he could not explain why that was.

At the time when he was Blockführer Höss said that, because of the people he had met and the things he had experienced, he regretted leaving the chosen path that his parents had mapped out for him in the church.

In 1938 he received a promotion to SS-Hauptsturmführer (a paramilitary rank equivalent to captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski in the Sachsenhausen camp. He joined the Waffen-SS in 1939.

Auschwitz command

On May 1, 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, a territory that had been annexed outright by Germany and incorporated into the province of Upper Silesia. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian, later Polish army barracks near the town of Oświęcim, its German name Auschwitz. Höss would command the camp for three and a half years, during which time he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex, the place now known as the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

At its peak size, Auschwitz was actually three separate facilities (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II/Birkenau, and Auschwitz III/Monowitz), and was constructed on 8,100 ha (20,000 acres) which had been cleared of all inhabitants.[8] Its earliest inmates were Polish prisoners, including peasants, intellectuals and Soviet prisoners-of-war. Auschwitz I was the administrative center for the complex; Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place.

In June 1941, according to Höss' later trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler "to receive personal orders." Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the physical extermination of Europe's Jews. Himmler had selected Auschwitz for this purpose, he said, "on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation." Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann. Himmler described the project as a "secret Reich matter", meaning 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." Höss said he kept that secret until the end of 1942, when he told one person about the camp's purpose: his wife.[8]

After visiting Treblinka extermination camp to study its methods of human extermination,[9] Höss tested and perfected the techniques of mass killing which would make Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution and the most potent symbol of the Holocaust.[10] According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two to three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for periods of four to six weeks. The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or to one of the Auschwitz camps; 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.[8]

Höss improved on the methods at Treblinka by building his gas chambers ten times larger, so that they could kill 2,000 people at once rather than 200. He commented,

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."[9]

Höss experimented with various methods of gassing. According to Eichmann's trial testimony in 1961, Höss told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. Höss later introduced the poison gas Zyklon B, a crystallized form of prussic acid, into the killing process, after his deputy Karl Fritzsch tested it on a group of Russian prisoners in 1941.[11] 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."[9]

Höss explained how 10,000 people were exterminated in one 24-hour period:

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.[12]

Höss later testified that Himmler himself visited the camp in 1942, and "watched in detail one processing from beginning to end." Eichmann, Höss said, visited the camp and observed its operations frequently.[8]

In his affidavit prepared for the Nuremberg trials in 1946, Höss asserted that local residents were well aware of the camp's purpose:

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.[13]

After Auschwitz

After being replaced as the Auschwitz commander by Arthur Liebehenschel on 1 December 1943, Höss assumed Liebehenschel's former position as the chairman of Amt D I  in Amtsgruppe D of the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA); he also was appointed deputy of WVHA leader Richard Glücks.

On 8 May 1944, however, Höss returned to Auschwitz to supervise the operation, known as Aktion Höss, by which 430,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to the camp and killed during 56 days [14] between May and July of that year. Even Höss' industrial killing factory couldn't handle the huge number of victims' corpses, and the camp staff had to dispose of thousands of bodies by burning them in open pits.[15]

Capture, trial and execution

Höss immediately before being hanged.
The gallows on which Rudolf Höss was hanged
The location where Rudolf Höss was hanged, with plaque

In the last days of the war, Höss was advised by Himmler to disguise himself among German Navy personnel; he evaded arrest for close to a year. When he was captured by British troops—some of whom were Jews born in Germany—on 11 March 1946, he was disguised as a farmer and called himself Franz Lang. His wife had told the British where he could be found, fearing that her son, Klaus, would be shipped off to Russia. After being questioned by his captors and beaten severely, Höss confessed his real identity.

During the Nuremberg Trials, he appeared as a witness in the trials of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Oswald Pohl, and the IG Farben corporation. On 25 May 1946, he was handed over to Polish authorities and the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland tried him for murder. Höss was sentenced to death on 2 April 1947. The sentence was carried out on 16 April immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. He was hanged on gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the former location of the camp Gestapo, as seen in the pictures to the right. The message on the board 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 1958 as Kommandant in Auschwitz; autobiographische Aufzeichnungen[16] and later as Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (among other editions).

After discussions with Höss while he was held at Nuremberg as a witness, Gustave Gilbert observed that,

In all of the discussions Hoess 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.[17]

Four days before he was hanged, Höss sent a message to the state prosecutor, including these comments:

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.[18]

Timeline of promotion

Appointment order of Rudolf Höss as Commander of Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Dates of rank

Significant awards

  • Iron Cross 1st Class (World War I)
  • Iron Cross 2nd Class (World War I)
  • Baden Military Bravery Medal (World War I)
  • Honour Cross for Combatants 1914–1918
  • Hungarian War Service Medal for Combatants 1914–1918
  • Turkish War Medal (World War I)
  • Silver Wound Badge (World War I)
  • Baltic Cross 1st Class (Freikorps)
  • Baltic Cross 2nd Class (Freikorps)
  • SS 8 year Long Service Decoration
  • War Merit Cross (2nd Class with Swords)
  • SS Honour Ring
  • SS Honour Sword

Cultural references

Höss appears as a character in the BBC television series Auschwitz: The Nazis and the "Final Solution" (2005) portrayed by Horst-Günter Marx, and in the Canadian miniseries Nuremberg (2000) portrayed by Colm Feore. In the movie Operation Eichmann (1961), Höss is portrayed by actor John Banner, who would become famous in the role of Sgt. Schultz on the long-running sitcom Hogan's Heroes. In the mini-series Holocaust (1978), actor David Daker portrayed Höss. He was also briefly portrayed in the film Schindler's List (1993) as the SS officer at Auschwitz bribed by Oskar Schindler with a pouch of diamonds. He is the main character (as Rudolf Lang) in the biographical novel La mort est mon métier (Death is my Trade, 1952) by French writer Robert Merle based on Höss' autobiography and his testimonies at Nuremberg. The novel La mort est mon métier was made into a German film called Aus einem deutschen Leben ("(Excerpts) from a German life") in 1977, starring Götz George as Franz Lang, which was the false name Höss had used while hiding as a farmer.

Kurt Vonnegut makes a brief reference to Höß in Mother Night. One of the prison guards who stands watch over protagonist Howard W. Campbell, Jr., claims to have been present at the Höss' hanging, indeed to have buckled the thick leather straps around his legs.

In the 1982 film adaptation of William Styron's 1979 novel Sophie's Choice, Höss is portrayed during his time as commandant of Auschwitz by the German actor Günther Maria Halmer. Six years later Halmer reprised the role for a totally different production, this time for television, based on the work of another American author, Herman Wouk. The 1988 television mini-series adaptation of Wouk's 1978 novel War and Remembrance, which itself was the sequel to the 1983 television mini-series adaptation of the 1971 Wouk novel The Winds of War, includes Höss as portrayed again by Halmer, though the earlier 1983 mini-series contained neither Höss' character nor Halmer's work, since it primarily dealt with the pre-war period in America.

He was featured as a persistent spiritual presence in Lily Brett's semi-autobiographical 1999 novel Too Many Men. As the novel's heroine, Ruth Rothwax, a child of Holocaust survivors, visits present-day Poland with her father, Höss' ghost converses with her from Hell. Höss hopes that by making his presence known to one who has a determined view on the suffering he has caused, he can gain the "sensitivity" needed to elevate himself out of Hell. A six-episode PBS documentary special entitled Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State details the camp.

Höß is also featured extensively in historical novel The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell.

Notes

  1. ^ Levy, Richard C. (2005). Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution (Two Vol. Set). ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-439-3. 
  2. ^ Commandant of Auschwitz (2000), Appendix 1, p. 193.
  3. ^ Piper, Franciszek & Meyer, Fritjof. "Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz. Neue Erkentnisse durch neue Archivfunde", Osteuropa, 52, Jg., 5/2002, pp. 631–641, (review article).
  4. ^ Rudolf Höss (1958). Kommandant in Auschwitz. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. 
  5. ^ Ludwig Pflücker, Jochanan Shelliem (2006). IAls Gefängnisarzt im Nürnberger Prozess: das Tagebuch des Dr. Ludwig Pflücker. Indianopolis: Jonas. ISBN 3894453745. 
  6. ^ Höss, Rudolf; Broad, Pery; Kremer, Johann Paul; Bezwińska, Jadwiga; Czech, Danuta (1984). KL Auschwitz seen by the SS. New York: H. Fertig. ISBN 0-86527-346-4. 
  7. ^ Rudolf Höss (1960). Commandant of Auschwitz: autobiography. World Pub. Co.. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Testimony of Rudolf Höß at the Nuremberg Trials, available online at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/hoesstest.html
  9. ^ a b c Hoess Affidavit for Nuremberg Trial at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1946Hoess.html
  10. ^ Commandant of Auschwitz (2000), pp. 106–157, and Appendix 1, pp. 183–200.
  11. ^ Commandant of Auschwitz (2000), p. 146.
  12. ^ Gilbert (1995), pp. 249-50.
  13. ^ Modern History Sourcebook: Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz: Testimony at Nuremberg, 1946, August 1997
  14. ^ Jozef Boszko, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust vol. 2, p. 692
  15. ^ Wilkinson, Alec, "Picturing Auschwitz", The New Yorker, 17 March 2008, pp. 50–54.
  16. ^ WorldCat listing
  17. ^ Gilbert (1995), p. 260
  18. ^ Hughes, John Jay. "A Mass Murderer Repents: The Case of Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz". Archbishop Gerety Lecture at Seton Hall University, 25 March 1998. http://www.shu.edu/academics/theology/upload/mass-murderer-repents.pdf

References

  • Autobiography, edited by Steven Paskuly and translated by Andrew Pollinger: Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992. ISBN 9780879757144.
    • Höß, Rudolf. Kommandant in Auschwitz; autobiographische Aufzeichnungen. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Zeitgeschichte. Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte, Bd. 5. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1958. (German)
  • Höss, Rudolf. Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess. (Constantine FitzGibbon, trans.) London: Phoenix Press, 2000. ISBN 1842120247. (A different translation of Kommandant in Auschwitz.)
  • Gilbert, Gustave. [1947] 1995. Nuremberg Diary. USA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80661-2.
  • SS Personnel Service Record of Rudolf Höss, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland, US.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I didn't want any more shootings, so we used gas chambers instead.

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höß (in English commonly Hoess or Höss; November 25, 1900 - April 16, 1947) was an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt. Colonel) and from May 4, 1940 to November 1943 was commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. Höß was captured on March 11, 1946. He was disguised as a farmer. During the Nuremberg trials, he appeared as a witness in the trials of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Oswald Pohl, and the IG Farben corporation. On May 25, 1946, he was handed over to Poland, put on trial for murder, and sentenced to death by hanging on April 2, 1947. The sentence was carried out on April 16 immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp.

Sourced

  • When in the summer of 1941 he (Hitler) gave me the order to prepare installations at Auschwitz where mass exterminations could take place, and personally to carry out these exterminations, I did not have the slightest idea of their scale or consequences. It was certainly an extraordinary and monstrous order. Nevertheless the reasons behind the extermination programme seemed to me right. I did not reflect on it at the time: I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out. Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view.
    • Quoted in "Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess" - Page 144 - by Rudolf Hoess, Constantine Fitzgibbon, Primo Levi, Joachim Neugroschel - History - 2000
There is a difference. If you kill to take money or rob, it is plain murder, but if you kill because of political reasons, that is a political murder.
  • Not justified - but Himmler told me that if the Jews were not exterminated at that time, then the German people would be exterminated for all time by the Jews.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • There is a difference. If you kill to take money or rob, it is plain murder, but if you kill because of political reasons, that is a political murder.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • We cut the hair from women after they had been exterminated in the gas chambers. The hair was then sent to factories, when it was woven into special fittings for gaskets.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • You become hard when you carry out such orders.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • One woman approached me as she walked past and, pointing to her four children who were manfully helping the smallest ones over the rough ground, whispered: 'How can you bring yourself to kill such beautiful, darling children? Have you no heart at all?' One old man, as he passed me, hissed: 'Germany will pay a heavy penance for this mass murder of the Jews.' His eyes glowed with hatred as he said this. Nevertheless he walked calmly into the gas-chamber.
    • Quoted in "Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess" - Page 150 - by Rudolf Hoess, Constantine Fitzgibbon, Primo Levi, Joachim Neugroschel - History - 2000
I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out. Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view.
  • This mass extermination, with all its attendant circumstances, did not, as I know, fail to affect those who took part in it. With very few exceptions, nearly all those detailed to do this monstrous "work," and who, like myself, have given sufficient thought to the matter, have been deeply marked by these events. Many of the men involved approached me as I went my rounds through the extermination buildings, and poured out their anxieties and impressions to me, in the hope that I could allay them. Again and again during these confidential conversations I was asked; is it necessary that we do this? Is it necessary that hundreds of thousands of women and children be destroyed? And I, who in my innermost being had on countless occasions asked myself exactly this question, could only fob them off and attempt to console them by repeating that it was done on Hitler's order. I had to tell them that this extermination of Jews had to be, so that Germany and our posterity might be freed for ever from their relentless adversaries. There was no doubt in the mind of any of us that Hitler's order had to be obeyed regardless, and that it was the duty of the SS to carry it out. Nevertheless we were all tormented by secret doubts.
    • Quoted in "Commandant of Auschwitz" (1951)
  • Those not able to work were marched to the farmhouses. These were a good kilometer from the side track. There they were made to undress. At first they had to undress in the open, where we had erected walls made of straw and branches of trees that kept them from onlookers. After a while we built barracks. We had big signs, all of which read 'To Disinfection' or 'Baths.' That was in order to give the people the impression that they would merely receive a bath or be disinfected, in order not to have any technical difficulty in the extermination processes.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
Himmler told me that if the Jews were not exterminated at that time, then the German people would be exterminated for all time by the Jews.
  • I believed that crematoriums could be erected fast and so wanted to burn the corpses in the mass graves in the crematory, but when I saw that the crematory could not be erected fast enough to keep up with the ever-increasing numbers exterminated, we started to burn the corpses in open ditches like in Treblinka. A layer of wood, then a layer of corpses, another layer of corpses, et cetera. To start the fire, we used a bundle of straw dipped in gasoline. The fire was usually started with about five layers of wood and five layers of corpses. When the fire was going strong, the fresh corpses which came from the gas chambers could merely be thrown on the fire and would burn by themselves.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • Burning two thousand people took about twenty-four hours in the five stoves. Usually we could manage to cremate only about seventeen hundred to eighteen hundred. We were thus always behind in our cremating because as you can see it was much easier to exterminate by gas than to cremate, which took so much more time and labor.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
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.
  • They developed out of the situation. The courts brought in a lot of people who had to be shot. I always objected to having to use the same men for firing squadrons over and over again. During that period one day my camp leader, Karl Fritzsch, came to me and asked me whether I could try to execute people with Zyklon B gas. Until that time, Zyklon B was used only to disinfect barracks which were full of insects, fleas, et cetera. I tried it out on some people sentenced to death in the cell prison and that is how it developed. I didn't want any more shootings, so we used gas chambers instead.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, after being asked about the invention of gas chambers, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004

Unsourced

  • Our system is so terrible that nobody in the world will believe it possible... If someone were to succeed to escape from Auschwitz and to tell their story to the entire world, the entire world would consider it unbelievable...
  • 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.

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