Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz
Simon & Schuster September 3rd 2013
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review
The untold story of the man who brought a mastermind of the final solution to justice.
May 1945. In the aftermath of the Second Word War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. One of the lead investigators is Lieutenant Hanns Alexander, a German Jew who is now serving in the British Army. Rudolf Höss is his most elusive target. As Kommandant of Auschwitz, Höss not only oversaw the murder of more than one million men, women, and children; he was the man who perfected Hitler’s program of mass extermination. Höss is on the run across a continent in ruins, the one man whose testimony can ensure justice at Nuremberg.
Hanns and Rudolf reveals for the very first time the full, exhilarating account of Höss’s capture, an encounter with repercussions that echo to this day. Moving from the Middle Eastern campaigns of the First World War to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s to the horror of the concentration camps and the trials in Belsen and Nuremberg, it tells the story of two German men- one Jewish, one Catholic- whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.
Harding, while attending his Uncle Hanns Alexander’s funeral, discovered his uncle captured and delivered Rudolf Hoess to justice. This nugget of information served as the catalyst in propelling his research efforts. After lengthy exploration, Harding compiled his findings to craft this provoking novel.
Harding’s writing is to be recognized without hesitation. Despite his blood relationship with Hanns Alexander he masterfully presents both men equally, showing both are human beings but very different at their core. I found myself breathless as I read of Hoess playing and frolicking with his children as the gas chambers served as the backdrop, made my hair stand on its ends. Hoess was known to possess a reputation as an adept manager, and competent commander to his troops, totally aware of his role and direction, he made it clear he was “following orders”, as justifying his actions as a part in the atrocities. Hoess certainly mastered the art of compartmentalization as well as being absolutely forthright when he was on trial. He was candid as he recounted his participation in the cruel and heinous treatment as well as extinguishing of millions of human lives. A man clearly mentally ill with a unmistakeable black heart.
“I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least two and a half million victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half-million succumbed to starvation and disease making a total dead of about three million.”
Hanns is a true fighter as Harding describes to readers this quiet hero. A young man ready to take on Germany, the country that ultimately turned its back on him and his family. A lover of life, a prankster with a undeniable sense of honor trumping all.
“The number of murderers I had to dismiss made me sick. They made fools out of us. You know, the Russians were more efficient. When they heard such stories they found the accused and shot them. We could not do it. We did not do it.” The war, for him, was never a topic for discussion. “I would not talk to I, however, am full of hatred.”
The parallel lives of both men as the horrific story unfurls along with comprehensive research and reliable sources, numerous documents make for a gripping yet heartbreaking story due to the affecting subject matter. A sobering reminder of the atrocities in history, well worth the time and attention, a reminder of what occurred and what will hopefully never occur again. History does not have to repeat itself.
Harding pays tribute to Hanns along with a legacy of a man of humble, modest conduct. Sobering portrait of abuse of power, leaders and followers annihilating the innocent.