Monday 3 February 2020

Adolph Höss : The epitome of evil

If you click your mouse on the underlined words. you willget more information.

Höss was born on the 25th of November 1901 (33 years before my birth) in  Baden-Baden  into a strict Catholic family. He was baptized Rudolf Franz Ferdinand on the 11th of December 1901. He lived with his mother Lina (née Speck) and father Franz Xaver Höss. Höss was the eldest of three children and his parent`s only son He was a lonely child with no playmates his own age until he entered elementary school.  All of his companionship generally came from adults.

He claimed in his autobiography that he was briefly abducted by gypsies in his youth. His father, a former army officer who served in German East Africa, ran a tea and coffee business.  He brought his son up on strict religious principles and with military discipline, having decided that he would enter the priesthood. Höss grew up with an almost fanatical belief in the central role of duty in a moral life. During his early years, there was a constant emphasis on sin, guilt, and the need to do penance.  

After the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Höss completed his secondary education and soon joined some of the emerging nationalist paramilitary groups, first the East Prussian Volunteer Corps, and then the Freikorps "Rossbach" in the Baltic area, Silesia and the Ruhr. Höss participated in the armed terror attacks on Polish people during the Silesian uprisings against the Germans, and on French nationals during the Occupation of the Ruhr. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922 (Member No. 3240) after hearing a speech by Adolf Hitler in Munich.

Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 at the age of 21 and the SS in 1934. From the 4th of May 1940 to November 1943, and again from the 8th of May 1944 to the 18th of January 1945 where  he was in charge of Auschwitz, where more than a million prisoners were killed before the defeat of Germany. 

On the 31st of  May 1923, in Mecklenburg, Höss and members of the Freikorps attacked and beat to death the  local schoolteacher Walther, Kadow on the wishes of farm supervisor Martin Bormann, who later became Hitler's private secretary.  Kadow was believed to have tipped off the French occupational authorities that Höss' fellow Nazi, paramilitary soldier Albert Leo Schlageter, was carrying out sabotage operations against French supply lines. Schlageter was arrested and executed on the 26th of  May 1923. Soon afterwards. Höss and several accomplices, including Bormann, took their revenge on Kadow.  In 1923, after one of the killers confessed to a local newspaper, Höss was arrested and tried as the ringleader. Although he later claimed that another man was actually in charge, Höss accepted the blame as the group's leader. He was convicted and sentenced (on the 17th of May 1924 to ten years in Brandenburg penitentiary, while Bormann received a one-year sentence.

Höss was released in July  of 1928th as part of a general amnesty and he joined the Artaman League, that was  an anti-urbanization movement, or back-to-the-land movement, that promoted a farm-based lifestyle.

On the of 17th of August 1929, he married Hedwig Hensel on the  March 1908 – 1989), whom he met in the Artaman League. Between 1930 and 1943 they had five children: two sons (Klaus and Hans-Rudolf) and three daughters Ingebrigitt, Heidetraut and Annegret. Ingebrigitt was born on a farm in northern Germany in 1934 after Heidetraut, Höss's eldest daughter, was born in 1932; and Annegret, the youngest, was born in Auschwitz in November 1943. 

It was during this time frame that he became acquainted with Heinrich Himmler who previously was a chicken farmer.

Hoss joined the  SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death's Head Units) in the same year. He came to admire Himmler so much that he considered whatever he said to be the "gospel" and preferred to display his picture in his office rather than that of Hitler.[ Höss was assigned to the Dachau concentration camp in December 1934, where he held the post of Blockführer. His mentor at Dachau was Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke. In 1938, Höss was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski  in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He joined the Waffen-SS in 1939 after the invasion of Poland. Höss excelled in that capacity, and was recommended by his superiors for further responsibility and promotion. By the end of his tour of duty there, he was serving as administrator of prisoners' property.

On the 1st  of May 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, a territory Germany had incorporated into the province of Upper Silesia. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian (and later Polish) army barracks near the town of Oświęcim; ( its German name was Auschwitz. ) Höss commanded the camp for three and a half years, during which he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  Höss had been ordered "to create a transition camp for ten thousand prisoners from the existing complex of well-preserved buildings," and he went to Auschwitz determined "to do things differently" and develop a more efficient camp than those at Dachau and Sachsenhausen where he had previously served. Höss lived at Auschwitz in a villa with his wife and five children.

The earliest inmates at Auschwitz were Soviet prisoners-of-war and Polish prisoners, including peasants and intellectuals. Some 700 arrived in June 1940, and were told they would not survive more than three months.

At its peak, Auschwitz comprised three separate facilities: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. These included many satellite sub-camps, and the entire camp was built on about 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) that had been cleared of all inhabitants. Auschwitz I was the administrative center for the complex; Auschwitz II Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place and Auschwitz III Monowitz was the slave-labor camp for I.G. Farbenindustrie AG, and later other German industries. The main purpose of Monowitz was the production of buna, a form of synthetic rubber

In June 1941, according to Höss's trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Himmler "to receive personal orders".[22] Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the final solution of the Jewish question. According to Höss, Himmler had selected Auschwitz for the extermination of Europe's Jews "on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation".

Himmler described the project as a "secret Reich matter" and told Höss not to speak about it with SS-Gruppenführer Richard Glücks, head of the Nazi camp system run by the Death's Head Unit.[22] Höss said 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". He told his wife about the camp's purpose only at the end of 1942, since she already knew about it from Fritz Bracht. Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann, who arrived at the camp four weeks late

Höss began testing and perfecting mass killing techniques on the 3rd of  September 1941. His experiments made Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution and the Holocaust's most potent symbol. According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two or three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for four to six weeks. The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp.  Those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or one of the Auschwitz camps, while 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 of those who arrived in the camp.

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 dead 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

The poisonous powder was poured into a ceiling opening on the roof  by a man sitting on the roof of the gas chamber while he was wearing a gas mask. 

Höss experimented with various gassing methods. According to Eichmann's 1961 trial testimony, Höss told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. Höss later introduced hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid), produced from the pesticide Zyklon B, to the killing process, after his deputy Karl Fritzsch tested it on a group of Russian prisoners in 1941. 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.

In 1942 Höss had an affair with an Auschwitz inmate, a political prisoner named Eleonore Hodys (or Nora Mattaliano-Hodys[). The woman became pregnant, and was imprisoned in a standing-only arrest cell. Released from the arrest, she had an abortion in a camp hospital in 1943 and, according to her later testimony, just barely evaded being selected for gassing. The affair may have led to Höss's recall from the Auschwitz command in 1943.  SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen and his assistant Wiebeck investigated the case in 1944, interviewed Hodys and Höss and intended to proceed against Höss, but the case was dismissed. Morgen, Wiebeck and Hodys gave testimony after the war.

After being replaced as the Auschwitz commander by Arthur Liebehenschel, on 10 November 1943, Höss assumed Liebehenschel's former position as the head of Amt D I in Amtsgruppe D of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (WVHA); he also was appointed deputy of the inspector of the concentration camps under Richard Glücks.

In the last days of the war, Himmler advised Höss to disguise himself among Kriegsmarine personnel. He evaded arrest for nearly a year. When arrested on 11 March 1946 in Gottrupel (Germany), he was disguised as a gardener and called himself Franz Lang.] His wife had revealed his whereabouts to protect her son, Klaus, who was being “badly beaten” by British soldiers, many of them Jewish. The British force that captured Höss included Hanns Alexander, a British captain originally from Berlin who was forced to flee to England with his entire family during the rise of Nazi Germany. According to Alexander, Höss attempted to bite into a cyanide pill  once he was discovered. Höss initially denied his identity "insisting he was a lowly gardener, but Alexander saw his wedding ring and ordered Höss to take it off, threatening to cut off his finger if he didn't. Höss' name was inscribed inside.

Jewish soldiers accompanying Alexander began to beat Höss with axe handles. After a few moments and a minor internal debate, Alexander pulled them off of Höss.

Höss testified at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg on 15 April 1946, where he gave a detailed accounting of his crimes. He was called as a defense witness by Ernst Kaltenbrunner's lawyer, Dr. Kauffman. The transcript of Höss' testimony was later entered as evidence during the 4th  Nuremberg Military Tribunal known as the Pohl Trial, named for one of the principal defendants  OswaldPohl. Affidavits that Rudolf Höss made while imprisoned in Nuremberg were also used at the Pohl and IG Farben trials.

In his affidavit made at Nuremberg on the 5th of  April 1946, Höss stated``  I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000 dead. This figure represents about 70% or 80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries. Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of Prisoner of War cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens (mostly Jewish) from The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.

When accused of murdering three and a half million people, Höss replied, "No. Only two and one half million—the rest died from disease and starvation."

On the 25th of  May, 1946, he was handed over to Polish authorities and the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland tried him for murder. In his essay on the Final Solution in Auschwitz, which he wrote in Kraków, he revised the previously given death toll. He said,  I myself never knew the total number, and I have nothing to help me arrive at an estimate. "

His trial lasted from the 11th  to the  29th   of March 1947. Höss was sentenced to death by hanging on the 2nd of April 1947. The sentence was carried out on the 16th  of April next to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. He was hanged on a short-drop gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the location of the camp's Gestapo. The message on the board that marks the site 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.

His death was very slow. He was standing on a tri-pod stool which was pulled away from his feet when the trapdoor was sprung open.
Judging from the photograph I saw of him hanging, he only dropped a few feet.  It was a fitting death for such an evil mass murderer. No hood was placed over head so that the small number of former prisoners of his death camp could see his face as he was dying.

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