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This is a tough book to review. It’s the personal story of the sociopath who ran Auschwitz and was the guy who dreamed up the gas chambers that were used in the annihilation of something over 2 Million people. I’ve read a lot of WWII material and probably more than is healthy around the Holocaust…I’ve even sat through all nine and a half hours of the documentary Shoa which is a mind twisting first person retelling of the holocaust. So I thought I’d heard much of the story of Auschwitz. Apparently not. Bear in mind that this is his story told by him whist waiting to be executed for war crimes. It reveals a great deal of his life story. He was clearly raised a sociopath with no ability to empathize (check out The Sociopath next door on Audible). He recalls how he devised, expanded and ran the death camp which started as a small barracks in the middle of nowhere and became perhaps the greatest stain on the soul of the twentieth century. Against this madness he portrays himself as a mild mannered family man who loved his wife and children and worked to ease the suffering of the prisoners in our care.
Although he oversaw the mass extinction and was present at many of the gassings he claims never to have raised his hand against a prisoner….which means either he is lying or Thomas Keneally (author of Schindler’s Ark) invented the sadistic fornicating monster who was the master of Auschwitz. His self-aggrandizing, self-exculpatory telling has him as the mild mannered would be farmer who was simply “acting under orders” and cared deeply for the wellbeing of his victims. Even through this filter the details of the breathtaking evil he presided over are painfully clear.
If you are a WWII or holocaust completest this is a must read. It’s horrifying but well performed. It’s actually quite compelling in many places. Perhaps the most horrifying aspect is the sheer banality of the entire process. Nobody seemed particularly at odds with the idea that entire groups of humanity should be obliterated and the Teutonic attention to the detail of mass homicide may rob you of sleep. There were five thousand Germans directly involved with the process at Auschwitz...yet nobody knew anything? Hearing him complain about the variable quality of the Zyklon-B they were given which meant that sometimes it took closer to 30 minutes to kill a room full of humans rather than the usual 10-15 minutes is just one hair raising example.
It’s hard to recommend something as disturbing as this book. It’s very good…but very dark. However some of the lessons it teaches about how evil thrives where the good do nothing is one which unfortunately has stood the test of time. So donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Red Cross, then hug your children…then read this book.
19 of 24 people found this review helpful
The mind- boggling insight into the head of a man who loves his wife and children .... yet send not tens of thousands .... but multiple MILLIONS OF FAMILIES to there death .... and feels justified in doing so is .... IM SHOCKED AND UNSETTLED ! Humans are NOT a civilized species !
13 of 21 people found this review helpful
First of all to be honest I skipped a few chapter when he was telling how other SS officers did not function well and actually hinderhis work and stopped him making things better for his prisoners. I felt sick to hear him sort of praising himself for wanting to make things better for the prisoners. I have read a lot about WW11 and have visited Aushwitz so have seen how 'better' things were. In fact I feel the only time he sounded a bit human were in the letters to his wife and children. The book is interesting partly because you wonder how someone can be a family man and still murder so many.
14 of 16 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
Rudolph Hoess was a willing functionary in a system that intended to exterminate an entire ethnic group, but we must never forget that such functionaries require many, many more willing colleagues to complete their despicable task.
The lessons of the Holocaust have not been learnt sadly, so we need to keep revisiting our past so that eventually we learn to cease such barbarism.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful