Rudolf Höss

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I didn't want any more shootings, so we used gas chambers instead.

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höß (in English commonly Hoess or Höss; November 25, 1900April 16, 1947) was an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt. Colonel) and from May 4, 1940 to November 1943 was commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. Höß was captured on March 11, 1946. He was disguised as a farmer. During the Nuremberg trials, he appeared as a witness in the trials of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Oswald Pohl, and the IG Farben corporation. On May 25, 1946, he was handed over to Poland, put on trial for murder, and sentenced to death by hanging on April 2, 1947. The sentence was carried out on April 16 immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp.

Sourced[edit]

  • When in the summer of 1941 he (Hitler) gave me the order to prepare installations at Auschwitz where mass exterminations could take place, and personally to carry out these exterminations, I did not have the slightest idea of their scale or consequences. It was certainly an extraordinary and monstrous order. Nevertheless the reasons behind the extermination programme seemed to me right. I did not reflect on it at the time: I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out. Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view.
    • Quoted in "Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess" - Page 144 - by Rudolf Hoess, Constantine Fitzgibbon, Primo Levi, Joachim Neugroschel - History - 2000
There is a difference. If you kill to take money or rob, it is plain murder, but if you kill because of political reasons, that is a political murder.
  • Not justified - but Himmler told me that if the Jews were not exterminated at that time, then the German people would be exterminated for all time by the Jews.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • There is a difference. If you kill to take money or rob, it is plain murder, but if you kill because of political reasons, that is a political murder.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • We cut the hair from women after they had been exterminated in the gas chambers. The hair was then sent to factories, when it was woven into special fittings for gaskets.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • You become hard when you carry out such orders.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 8, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • One woman approached me as she walked past and, pointing to her four children who were manfully helping the smallest ones over the rough ground, whispered: 'How can you bring yourself to kill such beautiful, darling children? Have you no heart at all?' One old man, as he passed me, hissed: 'Germany will pay a heavy penance for this mass murder of the Jews.' His eyes glowed with hatred as he said this. Nevertheless he walked calmly into the gas-chamber.
    • Quoted in "Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess" - Page 150 - by Rudolf Hoess, Constantine Fitzgibbon, Primo Levi, Joachim Neugroschel - History - 2000
I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out. Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view.
  • This mass extermination, with all its attendant circumstances, did not, as I know, fail to affect those who took part in it. With very few exceptions, nearly all those detailed to do this monstrous "work," and who, like myself, have given sufficient thought to the matter, have been deeply marked by these events. Many of the men involved approached me as I went my rounds through the extermination buildings, and poured out their anxieties and impressions to me, in the hope that I could allay them. Again and again during these confidential conversations I was asked; is it necessary that we do this? Is it necessary that hundreds of thousands of women and children be destroyed? And I, who in my innermost being had on countless occasions asked myself exactly this question, could only fob them off and attempt to console them by repeating that it was done on Hitler's order. I had to tell them that this extermination of Jews had to be, so that Germany and our posterity might be freed for ever from their relentless adversaries. There was no doubt in the mind of any of us that Hitler's order had to be obeyed regardless, and that it was the duty of the SS to carry it out. Nevertheless we were all tormented by secret doubts.
    • Quoted in "Commandant of Auschwitz" (1951)
  • Those not able to work were marched to the farmhouses. These were a good kilometer from the side track. There they were made to undress. At first they had to undress in the open, where we had erected walls made of straw and branches of trees that kept them from onlookers. After a while we built barracks. We had big signs, all of which read 'To Disinfection' or 'Baths.' That was in order to give the people the impression that they would merely receive a bath or be disinfected, in order not to have any technical difficulty in the extermination processes.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
Himmler told me that if the Jews were not exterminated at that time, then the German people would be exterminated for all time by the Jews.
  • I believed that crematoriums could be erected fast and so wanted to burn the corpses in the mass graves in the crematory, but when I saw that the crematory could not be erected fast enough to keep up with the ever-increasing numbers exterminated, we started to burn the corpses in open ditches like in Treblinka. A layer of wood, then a layer of corpses, another layer of corpses, et cetera. To start the fire, we used a bundle of straw dipped in gasoline. The fire was usually started with about five layers of wood and five layers of corpses. When the fire was going strong, the fresh corpses which came from the gas chambers could merely be thrown on the fire and would burn by themselves.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
  • Burning 2000 people took about 24 hours in the five stoves. Usually we could manage to cremate only about 1700 to 1800. We were thus always behind in our cremating because as you can see it was much easier to exterminate by gas than to cremate, which took so much more time and labor.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004
My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity.
  • They developed out of the situation. The courts brought in a lot of people who had to be shot. I always objected to having to use the same men for firing squadrons over and over again. During that period one day my camp leader, Karl Fritzsch, came to me and asked me whether I could try to execute people with Zyklon B gas. Until that time, Zyklon B was used only to disinfect barracks which were full of insects, fleas, et cetera. I tried it out on some people sentenced to death in the cell prison and that is how it developed. I didn't want any more shootings, so we used gas chambers instead.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, after being asked about the invention of gas chambers, April 9, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004

About Höss[edit]

  • He struck me as a normal person that's the horrible thing about it. If he had been a monster you know if he'd gone in their like "I did.. I killed all these people. It was my war duty." But he just acted like an unimportant individual. He just answered the questions. Without emotion. Without emotion. Not in the slightest apologetic. Though I think there was a sense of pride. A sense of pride.
    • Whitney Harris quoted in "Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution"

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