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The Commandant of Auschwitz (Hardback)

Rudolf Höss

WWII Frontline Books Hitler & the Third Reich German Forces & Weaponry in WWII Frontline: WWII

By Volker Koop
Frontline Books
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations in centre plate section
ISBN: 9781473886889
Published: 2nd March 2021

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Described as one of the greatest mass-murderers in history, Rudolf Höss, was born in Baden-Baden, on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest region, on 11 December 1901. As a child, his aim was to join the priesthood, but in his early youth he became disillusioned with religion and turned instead to the Army.

Höss joined the 21st Regiment of Dragoons, his father’s and grandfather’s old regiment, at the age of just 14. He served with the Ottoman Army in its fight against the British, serving in Palestine and being present at the Siege of Kut-el-Amara. During this period, he was promoted to the rank of Feldwebel, becoming, at that time, the youngest Non-commissioned officer in the German Army. He was also decorated, receiving among other awards the Iron Cross, First and Second class.

In the midst of the political upheavals in post-war Germany, Höss was drawn to the hard-line philosophies of Adolph Hitler, joining the Nazi Party in 1922. His ruthless commitment to the Nazi cause saw him convicted of participating in at least one political assassination, for which he spent six years in prison.

Predictably, Höss joined the SS and in 1934 became a Blockführer, or Block Leader, at Dachau concentration camp. His ruthless dedication led to him becoming the adjutant to the camp commandant at another concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. Then, in May 1940, Höss was given command of his own camp near the town of Auschwitz.

In June 1941, Höss was told that Auschwitz had been selected as the site for the Final Solution of the Jewish question. Höss set about his task with relish, and a determination to kill as many Jews as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Justice caught up with Höss after the German surrender when he was arrested on 11 March 1946, after a year posing as a gardener under a false name. He was found guilty of war crimes and was hanged on 16 April 1947.

I must admit that I am a big fan of the author Volker Koop, I have read a number of his books previously especially Martin Bormann. He writes so well, clear and comprehensively, he really seems to get to know the person or event with in-depth knowledge. So you can imagine I was more than happy to review this book which follows in the same traditions, despite this particular subject matter and what he did, or allowed to happen as the Commandant of the hell hole that is Auschwitz. Koop uses research and reports from contemporaries both for and against to form a very dark picture of a man who instructed mass murder on a huge scale. While this isn’t a pleasant read, it’s a well written and researched book that doesn’t shy away from the truth. A huge book that certainly warrants high praise and I would highly recommend it to those interested in this particular subject.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Painful as they are to read, I think it's important that our military historians write about them so that we can honestly say "we will never forget".

Books Monthly

These types of books are so hard to read. And not because of this author or writing, which was really really good! But because you know the subject of this book was one of the most evil men of the Holocaust and war. Congrats to the author for tackling such a difficult subject.

NetGalley, Jennifer DiCenzo

These types of books are so hard to read. And not because of this author or writing, which was really really good! But because you know the subject of this book was one of the most evil men of the Holocaust and war. Congrats to the author for tackling such a difficult subject.

NetGalley, Jennifer DiCenzo

I was always curious about the man who was in charge of Auschwitz. This book was well done, giving the reader the full story of Rudolph Hoss, and the role that he played within the Reich.
It was heartbreaking in areas, but overall, a very good comprehensive view.

For those interested in WWII history, and the Holocaust, this is a really good read.

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author performed a great deal of research before writing this book. He not only included facts from several archives a d resources, be also used Hoss's writings, which enhanced the readability of the narrative because we watch and learn about the inner workings and mindset of a horribly evil person who, to the last minute, swore he was not guilty because he was simply following orders. This is a solid contribution to the historical records about WWII.

NetGalley, Brenda Yeager

Koop does a solid job of not just regurgitating things from the memoirs of Rudolf Höss, and quickly points out that Höss appears to be a habitual liar in pretty much everything he does. Much of the information comes from things such as this material, but using historical records, and conflicting accounts by contemporaries, the portrait of a truly terrible man is painted. Even when everything was lost, and the man faced trial, he claimed to be a normal guy that just did his job and had no idea bad things were happening under his command. Reading some of the atrocities he signed off on, such as throwing children directly into a fire pit while still alive, was infuriating to say the least.

This was a tough read, for obvious reasons, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot about, perhaps, one of the biggest monsters in modern history. One would have hoped that he would have stayed in prison much longer than he did when he literally committed a political murder, but alas Hitler needed the most despicable to do his evil deeds. Very good book, if you are curious, or a WWII history buff, I’d check it out.

NetGalley, Stephen Kelley

What an evil creature Höss was. He really has no limits. Koop revealed his entire persona in this novel, and if you were familiar with Rudolf Höss and his propensity for evil before hand, you will be in absolutely no doubt after reading this.

NetGalley, Clara Carter

Whilst saying that you enjoyed a book with this kind of subject matter might sound odd, I actually did. I thought the author did a good job of highlighting the important points about Höss and not getting too carried away with unimportant factoids.

Much of this book is based on the memoirs of Höss himself, and yet it does not read as just another boring example of an author rewriting the words of someone else. Actually, reading this book is far more pleasant (due to the organisation) than reading the original memoirs. The Insight of the author after much time spent researching helps to clarify things for the reader.

I thought this was a fascinating, well-written work with a lot to offer anyone interested in the history of the Nazi movement and the KL System. Recommended to anyone who wants to know more about this subject and to all who are interested in the history of the Twentieth Century's major events and personalities.

NetGalley, Ionia Froment

Rudolf Hoess, one of the central figures of the Nazi mass murder of Jews, Poles, Russians, Catholics, and other enemies of the Third Reich, wrote his memoirs shortly before he was hanged by the Nuremberg Trials. This book has at no point been sold as a light read, it is heavy, stays in your mind, and discusses an important part of history.

I visited Auschwitz a couple of years ago. I read this in an attempt to get some sought insight into Nazi psychology. The book is fascinating but harrowing and it is easy to pretend or not acknowledge the part in history it plays and the fact this is very real. The book contains a lot of detail and it is clear that a lot of research has been done. The book explains how Hoess attempted to downplay his involvement in what happened as well as the power struggles between some of the other SS members. The book discusses poignant parts of Auschwitz such as the deaths, building of the gas chambers, orders carried out, etc. Difficult to read but interesting at the same time.

NetGalley, Chloe Bateman

There is an incredible amount of detail here and a good job is done of showing how someone could become one of the most reviled people in history. The book has documents from Hoss where he tries to downplay his involvement in what happened at the same time as admitting that some atrocities happened describing power struggles between him and fellow SS members. It is chilling that he mentions the building of the gas chambers matter of factly and seems to view what he has done as just following orders. This is fascinating and harrowing.

NetGalley, Karl Wardlaw

About Volker Koop

During a long career as a journalist, VOLKER KOOP has worked at posts for print media, radio and television. In 1987, he took up a role in the information and press section of Germany’s federal Ministry of Defence. In more recent years, he has devoted himself to investigating the events and people of the Nazi era, work through which he has acquired a reputation that extends beyond Germany.

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