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Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz Paperback – March 22, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This first complete English translation of a senior Nazi officer's account of the Final Solution describes in cold, stomach-churning detail the program of genocide as an administrative procedure. Written during the six months before his 1947 execution in Warsaw for "crimes committed against the Polish people," Hoss's memoirs are filled with specific recollections, from his fervently religious boyhood in Mannheim, through a prison term in Liepzig (for having killed a fellow soldier), to marriage and induction into the SS in 1934. Particulars of his roles in the concentration camp system include his ordering of "the first execution of the war" at Sachsenhausen in 1938 and his 1941 assignment to establish and manage Auschwitz as "the largest human killing center in all of history." Personal squabbles with other SS leaders are interspersed with chilling descriptions of prison conditions and gassing procedures. This compelling historical document, from which Hoss emerges as a classic model of the bureaucratic middle manager, is expertly edited by Paskuly, a history teacher in New York; Pollinger's translation is seamless. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The man who presided over the expansion and lethal functioning of Auschwitz concentration camp, which surely earned him the distinction of being "the greatest destroyer of human beings in history," left behind this memoir before he was executed by the Poles at the end of World War II. A dedicated bureaucrat, Hoss smothered his feelings and devoted his talents to the killing of millions, even though he "personally never hated the Jews." The work was hard, and he "was no longer happy at Auschwitz once the mass annihilation began." An editorial glossary of terms and personalities enhances the usefulness of this valuable addition to Holocaust studies, a chilling self-portrait of an all-too-typical servant of totalitarianism.
- R.H. Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ontario
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306806983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306806988
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

188 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Richard P. Mayhew on May 17, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rudolf Hoess was captured shortly after the war and wrote this amazing collection of thoughts observations and descriptions while on trial and while waiting to be executed. Hoess explains very clearly the history, structure and mission of the camps (not just Auschwitz) to include just about every aspect, from blockleader, Kapo, guard to Kommandant, even discussing the pros and cons of using dogs as guards. His descriptions of the gassing process are spellbinding and shocking all at once, you feel almost obcene while reading them as if you were the one looking through the peep-hole in the door as these poor peole is that vivid. He describes the architectural concerns that were taken into account while designing and building (book contains diagrams and photos as well) the crematoriums. He does not deny his role, but he does fall back on the old "just following orders" excuse, and saying that he was betrayed by the higher up in the Nazi party. He describes some unusual things in this book, for example, he tells of how well his children got along with the inmates, asking for cigarettes to pass out to them, he speaks of the most daring and ingenious escapes that he witnessed while while in the camps, he speaks of the difficulties that could be avoided by fooling inmates into thinking up to the last moment that they were really only going the shower, not an execution/murder, he recalls some of the most haunting words and deeds of prisoners just before the doors to the gas chamber were closed. There is one recollection that really disturbed me, it concerned a young girl who somehow survives the Cyclone-B gassing under a pile of fellow prisoners, is revived, given food and clothes only to be discovered by a guard and executed.Read more ›
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71 of 71 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There have been several reviewers asking the who and why and how questions relating to the question of those that commit Genocide. This book by no means answers all of these questions. There are strong arguments that there are no real answers to the atrocities that were committed, and by what means the thousands that were needed to implement them did bring themselves to do so. This book is interesting as it is a first person account of the man who supervised Auschwitz, a man considered the individual to have supervised well over 2,000,000 murders.
The only reason this lacks a 5th star is that there is some question as to whether or not everything Rudolpf Hoss wrote is 100% accurate. As this man was heading toward his death, it is generally felt that what is written represents his true feelings and thoughts about what he did.
This memoir/diary was written during his incarceration prior to his eventual execution, over a period of time from October of 1946 to April of 1947.
This is not a pleasant book; the pictures that are a part of it were even more horrific for me, as they accompanied the text of the man who created the situations that are depicted. This work is also difficult as you read of a life that starts in no remarkable way, yet leads to this individual becoming one of the key players in the actual implementation of The Holocaust.
The horror in the tale is the manner he carried out his tasks. He did not place any distance between himself and the day-to-day activities. He was fully immersed in them, and in many cases was there designer. He was central to the methods developed for the methodically efficient killing, the gas to be used, and disposal of victims.
When you get to the end you will understand more about one mind that participated in an unthinkable act. Your questions may not be all answered, but you will have gained a valuable insight into the mind of one of the perpetrators of this 20th century slaughter.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Harold Y. Grooms on April 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
On April 16, 1947, Rudolph Hoess, the infamous Kommandant of Auschwitz was hanged in his former concentration camp for, "crimes against the Polish people." While awaiting trial, Hoess, who knew he would pay for his crimes with his life, sought to renew the spiritual connection he had eschewed as a youth. Accordingly, he recounted his time in the SS for his captors. His story is also that of the darkest side of the Third Reich.

The book begins with a discussion of the, "final solution," of the Jewish Question. He tells how he was ordered to establish a camp at Auschwitz for the purpose of eliminating, "enemies of the state." Details of camp construction and experiments to find the appropriate gas he describes without emotion. Yet he relates questions asked by young SS soldiers and inmates as to how small children could be an "enemy." His "party line" response fooled some, but never himself.

Hoess also describes the victims he tried to destroy. Jews had "strong family ties;" gypsies were, "childlike;" the Jehovah's Witnesses were worthy of emulation. The SS was challenged to have the same devotion to the Fuhrer as they had to Jehovah. In chapter 22 he describes the gassing process as only he could do. His primary concern was to dispatch his victims quickly and efficiently without displaying emotion that would affect young guards. Here, he admits, he hid behind an iron mask. Particularly interesting is the story of a young, extremely attractive, Jewish girl who fought back even as she was undressing for the gas chamber. Resistance was rare but in this case, effective; deadly effective!

The book describes his early life and the events that caused him and many others to blindly follow the SS motto: "Fuhrer, you order. We obey!
Read more ›
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