Rudolf Höß - commandant of Auschwitz
Rudolf Höß (Höss, Hoess) - the first commandant and founder of the Auschwitz camp, was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on April 16, 1947 by hanging in the Auschwitz camp, next to the building of the former headquarters and crematorium.
Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höß was born on November 25, 1900 in Baden-Baden. At the age of 16, against the will of his father who died a year earlier, who wanted his son to become a priest, he volunteered to join the 21st Regiment of Baden Dragoons. His father and grandfather served there earlier. After training in a supplementary squadron in Bruchsal, in 1917, he was sent to the front with an independent cavalry unit "Pasha II". During World War I he fought in Turkey, Mesopotamia and Palestine. He reached the rank of feldfebel. He was awarded the Iron Cross of the 2nd and 1st class and the Gallipoli Star.
After the war, he belonged to Freikorps in Upper Silesia and the Ruhr region. In 1923 he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for the murder of Walter Kadow. He was released after 6 years due to amnesty.
In 1933, at Himmler's urging, he came to the SS and was admitted a year later. He also became a member of Totenkopfverband. He gained his first camp experience in Dachau, in the guard ward and in the management of the camp. In 1938 he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer and was sent to Sachsenhausen, where he served as adjutant of the commandant and camp manager.
On May 4, 1940, he was appointed a commandant of a newly established concentration camp in occupied Poland, in Oświęcim (German: Auschwitz). Heinrich Himmler entrusted him with the task of establishing it in the former barracks.
With Höß as the commandant, until December 1943, the camp grew into the largest camp complex in the Third Reich, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was transformed from a concentration camp intended mainly for Poles and Soviet prisoners of war to the largest known mass extermination camp, mainly of the Jewish population.
He was awarded the War Merit Cross of the Second and First Class for his achievements.
He returned to Oświęcim in May 1944 as the supervisor of extermination of Hungarian Jews and as the head of the Concentration Camp Inspectorate in the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office. It is estimated that around 450,000 people, mainly Hungarian citizens, were killed between May and October 1944.
After the war, he hid under the name Franz Lang, but was recognized and captured on March 11, 1946 in Gottrupel. He was a witness at the Nuremberg trial in the cases of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Oswald Pohl and the management of the IG Farben group. He was handed over to the Polish justice system on the basis of an extradition agreement. On May 25, 1946, along with nine other Nazi criminals, he was transported by plane to a prison in Warsaw. Then he was taken by train to Kraków and imprisoned in the Montelupich prison, together with 120 officers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The accusation was prepared by the coroner Jan Sehn, who in 1945–1946, on behalf of the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, conducted research in the camp. Judge Sehn and psychiatrist Stanisław Batawa, as Höß was awaiting his trial, convinced him to write an autobiography and other books.
The trial began on March 11, 1947 and lasted until April 2. Höß was sentenced to death. 85 witnesses testified, including Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoner, Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz. The process was observed by many journalists and representatives of the camp prisoners' associations from various countries.
On April 7, during a meeting with the prosecutor, Höß asked to see a priest. On April 10, he made a Catholic confession of faith and confessed his sins. According to Höß, he probably received absolution and then received Holy Communion.
On April 16, 1947, Höß was transported and imprisoned in block 11 at the former Auschwitz camp. The sentence was carried out at 10:08am by hanging. The gallows next to the building of the former headquarters and crematorium on which he was hung have been preserved in the museum until today.
Note: Do not confuse Höß with another very important Nazi, Rudolf Heß (Hess), born on 1894 in Alexandria, died 1987 in West Berlin.
I recommend the following books:
"The Commandant: Rudolf Höss, the creator of Auschwitz”, Ian Baxter
"Commandant of Auschwitz : The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess"
" Rudolf Höss : der Kommandant von Auschwitz: eine Biographie”, Volker Koop
" And Your Conscience Never Haunted You? "The Life of Rudolf Höß, Commander of Auschwitz and the question of his responsibility before God and human beings”, Manfred Deselaers