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Commandant of Auschwitz : The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess Paperback – September, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

About the Author

Rudolf Hoess was the Commandant of Auschwitz during the war. He was executed in Poland upon concluding these memoirs.
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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Press
  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (September 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842120247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842120248
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By F. M. Ryan on December 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
I visited Auschwitz on two occasions, and consider it a pilgrimage everyone should make at least once. This book helps to make sense of the lay out and the process of running the camp. The blowing up of the crematoriums at the end of the war could not hide the shame that went on. This book is a story of betrayal, and while most will focus on the extermination of the millions who perished there I would like to focus on just one key act of betrayal. Rudolf Hoess belonged to a very religious Catholic family, and he at one stage longed to be a priest. His family hoped he would give his life to God. A priest betrayed his confessional secret by revealing a sin confessed to his father. Rudolf lost confidence in the Church and in God. He gave his allegiance to Hitler instead. His body may have developed but his mind never matured. This book is about how he drifted into positions that gave him power and acknowledgement in life, and a place of shame in history. This book is not a confession, there is no remorse there.
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Format: Paperback
This book is, as Primo Levi says in the introduction, filled with lies and shirks, but never the less, it is an extremely important document of The Final Solution, the extermination machine, Auschwitz, Birkenau, the bureaucracy, the corruption and the insanity that existed in the top ranks and among the SS in Auschwitz.

While Höss details his life from growing up until the end, he intersperses the story with very important details on how Auschwitz grew, how the sub-camps worked, he also writes about his family, mass exterminations, day-to-day activities, hardships, etc.

Remember: Höss joined the nazi party and the SS voluntarily. And he is considered by many to be the most cruel commandant of Auschwitz.

All in all, as Levi writes, Höss' prejudice and idiocies stick out like "flies in milk", but viewed with a critical eye, this is a must read for anybody who wants more insight into the horrors of The Final Solution.
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Worth reading if you're interested in what goes on inside a person engaged in socially-sanctioned mass murder. Full of details about the actual operation of Auschwitz that only he would have known. Balancing this preoccupation with the details of running the camp is ... nothing. No inner life, no emotional depth, no soul. A man who seems to have died long before his victims.
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This guy is a complete lunatic but his admission shows that the human mind is capable of wholesale denial. It could indefinitely postpone self critique if it can hide under the cover of being somewhere down in the line in the chain of military/police command.

Adolph Hitler was the leader of the Third Reich, but there is hardly any evidence to show that he regularly visited the concentration camps in which his desire for extermination of certain ethnic groups was carried out.

Hence it cannot be said that Hitler alone did all of this. Here we find details of how the commanding officers and their charges handled the day to day killing of other human beings, even of their own kind. It happened so we cannot say that it is not possible or that it is rare. We are left to confront ourselves to find out if any of us would have done any of this, if we are to magically switch places with these agents of horror.

Hoess in this confession as he saw it, safely eases himself out of culpability by saying that he got orders which had to be obeyed, order which mostly were signed by Himmler. In this way Hoess never confronts his own conscience. He never had to judge himself because to him he was not the origin of the commands or the person who should have questioned the orders.

He actually believed all along that the Germans were the most superior race. You have to read this to believe it and when this is internalized, then you have to own up to see if you would have done exactly the same time if you were in the same position.
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Format: Paperback
How would one not be curious as to what this man has to say about himself! Though not great literature, this book makes a fascinating read -- just one thing to keep in mind: this is not a true account of what went on in Auschwitz. Hoess has written a story that he *wants* to tell, not the truth.

He does at times make it sound as though he were a principal perpetrator in mass murder out of kindness of his heart, being in an impossible situation where murder was the most compassionate thing to do. He describes the gassings as though they were an almost pleasant way for the victims to sleep away, and how upon opening of the gas chambers there were no sign of struggle or convulsion to be seen, no blood, no bruises. Anyone who has read any of the historical accounts knows he is lying.

For as long as the reader keeps in mind that this is not a truthful account, this book is a fascinating read: What kind of story does this man *make up* to excuse himself. And why is it so important for him (as, I suppose it might be for us all) to even as he is waiting for his execution, to lie to make himself seem not quite as bad.

If you are curious as to how a man who has confessed to murdering two million people tries to explain things so as to seem less evil, read this book. If you are looking for an accurate account, this is not the book you should read.

On a side note, just to give some conceivable scale on what this man has done -- he has confessed to killing of some two million people. The number of characters, or printed letters on all the pages of this book is about half million -- you would have to read this book four times over before you will have seen as many letters as this man has committed murders. Keep this in mind -- If at any point you should feel any slightest touch of empathy or understanding while reading this book, save it so someone who deserves it.
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