- What was the Holocaust?
- Judaism and Jewish life
- What is antisemitism?
- How did the Nazis gain power?
- Life in Nazi-controlled Europe
- What were camps?
- What was the Final Solution?
- How did people respond?
- Survival and legacy
Hoess joined the SS in 1934 and was appointed first commandant of Auschwitz I in May 1940. He organised the building of the extermination camp at Birkenau from the Autumn of 1941. In November 1943 he was transferred back to Germany as an inspector of concentration camps. From May to June 1944 he returned temporarily to Auschwitz-Birkenau to deal with the extermination of Hungarian Jewry.
Hoess lived with his wife and children in a house within Auschwitz I. He was considered to be a good husband and father. His wife described her years at Auschwitz as the happiest time of her life.
At the end of the war Hoess went on the run. He was arrested by British soldiers in 1946. They sent him to Poland where he was sentenced to death.
In prison he wrote his autobiography, ‘Commandant at Auschwitz’. Below are extracts:
‘…….In the summer of 1941 I was summoned to Himmler……He said, ‘The Fuhrer has ordered that the Jewish question be solved once and for all and that we, the SS, are to implement that order.’
‘……The Jews are the sworn enemies of the German people and must be eradicated. Every Jew that we can lay our hands on is to be destroyed, without exception.’
‘………We discussed the ways and means of effecting the extermination. This could only be done by gassing, since it would have been absolutely impossible to dispose by shooting of the large numbers of people that were expected. It would have placed too heavy a burden on the SS men who had to carry it out, especially because of the women and children among the victims.’
Hoess was hanged in Auschwitz in 1947.