Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz by Thomas Harding
WINNER OF THE WINGATE PRIZE
The “compelling,” untold story of the man who brought one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious war criminals to justice—“fascinates and shocks” (The Washington Post).
May 1945. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. One of the lead investigators is Lieutenant Hanns Alexander, a German Jew who is now serving in the British Army. Rudolf Höss is his most elusive target. As Kommandant of Auschwitz, Höss not only oversaw the murder of more than one million men, women, and children; he was the man who perfected Hitler’s program of mass extermination. Höss is on the run across a continent in ruins, the one man whose testimony can ensure justice at Nuremberg.
Hanns and Rudolf reveals for the very first time the full, exhilarating account of Höss’s capture, an encounter with repercussions that echo to this day. Moving from the Middle Eastern campaigns of World War I to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s to the horror of the concentration camps and the trials in Belsen and Nuremberg, it tells the story of two German men—one Jewish, one Catholic—whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way. This is “one of those true stories that illuminates a small justice in the aftermath of the Holocaust, an event so huge and heinous that there can be no ultimate justice” (New York Daily News).
Thomas Hardingis a former documentary filmmaker and journalist who has written for the Financial Times and The Guardian, among other publications. He founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning publisher of a newspaper in West Virginia. Hanns and Rudolf is his first book. He lives in Hampshire, England.
Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz 4.7 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
The author has gone back into the early childhood and adult years to give a little insight into the character of Höss. Most of the men in powerful positions during the Nazi era were the same age and I wonder if there is any correlation between their possible involvement in live warfare during WW1 and their propensity to commit acts of savagery without any sense of wrongdoing. That isn't an excuse of course, but we are talking about normal men from everyday walks of life, who ordered and committed atrocious acts of cruelty upon their fellow human beings.
Although Höss was given the assessment/title of psychopath (in this book) by a medical professional I would argue that the person diagnosing him was probably not impartial enough for that title to be definitive without further assessment by other professionals.
Deeming him a person with psychopathic tendencies makes it easier for the lay person to accept that someone, or any person, would help create and perfect a killing system of such proficiency the likes of which has never been seen before and I hope never is again. Instead of accepting the reality that the majority of the people in charge were just Tom, Dick and Harry's and nice girls from next door.
What I admired most about the way the author described Hanns Alexander was the way he didn't hide the anger. He didn't try to be diplomatic or hide what he really felt. Hanns wore his anger on his sleeve.
These criminals took his home, his city and some of his family. Why wasn't anyone looking for justice for the victims? Forgotten during the war, despite reports of mass murder, and forgotten after the war, because punishing the criminals didn't take precedence over post-war power struggles. So Hanns ended up acting like a vigilante to get the information he wanted and he let his anger control his actions.
None of us can say how we would react to seeing the horrors and live evidence of the suffering in the aftermath of the liberation.
The writing suffered now and again from the literal translation, which was evident in the sentence structure.
Aside from that this book is a powerful reminder that some of the perpetrators were actually hunted down and punished. Unfortunately the reality is that only a few received their dues and the majority of the murderers were allowed to live a full life, unlike their many victims.
Historical accounts like this should serve as a reminder never to forget.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
More than 1 year ago
Well written, informative story of finding and bringing to justice a nazi killer.
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