Thomas Harding is the author of “Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz” (Simon & Schuster; September 2013). Harding discovered that his great-uncle Hanns Alexander had been a Nazi hunter at his eulogy in 2006. The revelation set Harding off on his own search. For six years, the journalist (a British and U.S. citizen) researched archives and interviewed survivors for this book. Harding lives in Hampshire, England, and until recently co-owned the WV Observer in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. (Quoted from the Washington Post.)
How proud Thomas Harding must have been when he learned that his great-uncle had participated in the torture of Rudolf Hoess, the man whose confession proves that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. How happy he must have been to discover that Brigitte Hoess, the daughter of the man, who gassed 2,000 Jews per day at Auschwitz, was still alive.
Harding tracked down the daughter of Rudolf Hoess, who is now living in America, and obtained an interview with her. Sadly, the daughter of mass-murderer Rudolf Hoess told Harding that “her father was the nicest man in the world” and that he was a “sensitive man.” She told Harding that her father “had to do it.”
This quote is from an article, recently written by Thomas Harding, in the Washington Post, which you can read in full in The Japan Times:
I discovered where [Brigitte Hoess] lived while doing research for “Hanns and Rudolf,” a book on how Hoss was captured after the war by my great-uncle, Hanns Alexander, a German Jew who had fled Berlin in the 1930s. It took three years to find her. She would be interviewed only on the condition that neither her married name be revealed nor any details that would disclose her identity.
[Brigitte Hoess] is more willing to talk about when the British captured her father. One cold evening in March 1946, Hanns Alexander, my great-uncle — a German-born Jew but by then a British captain — banged on the family’s door.
“I remember when they came to our house to ask questions,” she says, her voice tight. “I was sitting on the table with my sister. I was about 13 years old. The British soldiers were screaming: ‘Where is your father? Where is your father?’ over and over again.
The story continues. “My older brother Klaus was taken with my mother. He was beaten badly by the British. My mother heard him scream in pain from the room next door. Just like any mother, she wanted to protect her son, so she told them where my father was.”
Alexander assembled a team and headed to the barn in the night. Hoss was awakened. He denied he was the commandant. Certain he had his man, Alexander demanded to see his wedding ring. When Hoss claimed it was stuck, Alexander threatened to cut his finger off until the commandant passed the ring over. Inside was inscribed “Rudolf” and “Hedwig.”
The commandant was the first person at such a senior level to admit the extent of the slaughter at Auschwitz. He was handed over to the Americans, who made him testify [as a defense witness for Ernst Kaltenbrunner] at Nuremberg. Then Hoss was passed to the Poles, who prosecuted him, then hanged him on a gallows next to the Auschwitz crematorium.
[Brigitte Hoess] does not deny that atrocities took place or that Jews and others were murdered in the camps, but she questions that millions were killed. “How can there be so many survivors if so many had been killed?” she asks.
When I point out that her father confessed to being responsible for the death of more than a million Jews, she says the British “took it out of him with torture.”
I had always thought it was Bernard Clarke, who was the British hero that got Rudolf Hoess to confess to the gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz.
This quote gives some of the details of the torture of Rudolf Hoess by Bernard Clarke:
Clarke yelled: “What is your name?”
With each answer of “Franz Lang,” Clarke’s hand crashed into the face of his prisoner. The fourth time that happened, Hoess broke and admitted who he was.
The admission suddenly unleashed the loathing of the Jewish sargeants in the arresting party whose parents had died in Auschwitz following an order signed by Hoess.
The prisoner was torn from the top bunk, the pyjamas ripped from his body. He was then dragged naked to one of the slaughter tables, where it seemed to Clarke the blows and screams were endless.
Eventually, the Medical Officer urged the Captain: “Call them off, unless you want to take back a corpse.”
A blanket was thrown over Hoess and he was dragged to Clarke’s car, where the sargeant poured a substantial slug of whiskey down his throat. Then Hoess tried to sleep.
Clarke thrust his service stick under the man’s eyelids and ordered in German: “Keep your pig eyes open, you swine.”
For the first time Hoess trotted out his oft-repeated justification: “I took my orders from Himmler. I am a soldier in the same way as you are a soldier and we had to obey orders.”
The party arrived back at Heide around three in the morning. The snow was swirling still, but the blanket was torn from Hoess and he was made to walk completely nude through the prison yard to his cell.
So it is that Bernard Clarke reveals: “It took three days to get a coherent statement out of [Hoess]” This admission was corroborated by Mr. Ken Jones in an article in the Wrexham Leader (October 17, 1986)
Strangely, Hoess was allowed to write his version of how he was tortured. Bernard Clarke was apparently very proud of his torture sessions and he wanted Hoess to tell the world about it in his own words.
This quote is from this website:
Here are the words Hoess uses to describe, in succession, his arrest by the British; his signing of the document that would become NO-1210; his transfer to Minden-on-the-Weser, where the treatment he underwent was worse yet; his stay at the Nuremberg tribunal’s prison; and, finally, his extradition to Poland.
I was arrested on 11 March 1946 [at 11 pm].
My phial of poison had been broken two days before.
When I was aroused from sleep, I thought at first I was being attacked by robbers, for many robberies were taking place at that time. That was how they managed to arrest me. I was maltreated by the Field Security Police.
I was taken to Heide where I was put in those very barracks from which I had been released by the British eight months earlier.
At my first interrogation, evidence was obtained by beating me. I do not know what is in the record, although I signed it. Alcohol and the whip were too much for me. The whip was my own, which by chance had got into my wife’s luggage. It had hardly ever touched my horse, far less the prisoners. Nevertheless, one of my interrogators was convinced that I had perpetually used it for flogging the prisoners.
After some days I was taken to Minden-on-the-Weser, the main interrogation centre in the British Zone. There I received further rough treatment at the hands of the English public prosecutor, a major.
The conditions in the prison accorded with this behaviour.
After three weeks, to my surprise, I was shaved and had my hair cut and I was allowed to wash. My handcuffs had not previously been removed since my arrest.
On the next day I was taken by lorry to Nuremberg, together with a prisoner of war who had been brought over from London as a witness in Fritzsche’s defence. My imprisonment by the International Military Tribunal was a rest-cure compared to what I had been through before. I was accommodated in the same building as the principal accused, and every day we were visited by representatives for all the Allied nations. I was always pointed out as an especially interesting animal.
I was in Nuremberg because Kaltenbrunner’s counsel had demanded me as a witness for his defense. I have never been able to grasp, and it is still not clear to me, how I of all people could have helped to exonerate Kaltenbrunner. Although the conditions in prison were, in every respect, good — I read whenever I had the time, and there was a well stocked library available — the interrogations were extremely unpleasant, not so much physically, but far more because of their strong psychological effect. I cannot really blame the interrogators — they were all Jews.
In 17 countries in the world today, if you dispute the confession of Rudolf Hoess, obtained by torture, you could go to prison for five years. Why would anyone lie under torture? Just because Hoess confessed to the gassing of the Jews after three days of torture doesn’t mean that the Holocaust didn’t happen.