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Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitzby Thomas Harding
Synopses & Reviews
The gripping true story of the tenacious soldier who tracked down Rudolf Höss, the infamous commander of the Auschwitz death camp and the murderer of 1.3 million men, women, and children.
For three and a half years, Rudolf Höss served as commander of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. During that time, he painstakingly tested and perfected the techniques of mass killing that made Auschwitz the most efficient tool of murder in the Nazi’s Final Solution. In the closing days of the war, Höss hid among German Navy personnel, but was finally captured in 1946 — disguised as a harmless and humble farmer in the countryside — by Hanns Alexander and his team of Nazi hunters.
Reading like a fast-paced thriller, Hanns and Rudolf reveals the full, exhilarating story of Höss’s capture as never before told. Delving deep into British Intelligence archives and those of the Auschwitz and Belsen Museums, and interviewing dozens of people, including Höss’s daughter, author Thomas Harding provides the first account of Höss’s life as well as Alexander’s critical role in spearheading the team that hunted down the nefarious war criminal.
Both Höss and Alexander were born in Germany to middle-class families. Both had unexceptional childhoods. One, however, grew up to join the SS and orchestrated mass murder. The other fled with his family to London, returning to Berlin to combat the horrors of Nazi tyranny. Hanns and Rudolf powerfully re-creates and chronicles the lives of the first Nazi hunter and his target — two men whose paths eerily intersect until one brings the other to justice.
“Thomas Harding has written a book of two intersecting lives: His uncle, a German Jew and potential Nazi victim, and Rudolf Höss, Kommandant of Auschwitz. In a neat historical irony, his uncle became a British officer who tracked down war criminals, including one of the worst mass murderers. A fascinating account, with chunks of new information, about one of history's darkest chapters.” Richard Breitman, Author of The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and The Final Solution and Editor-in-chief of the U.S. Holocaust Museum's Holocaust and Genocide Studies
“This important and moving book describes the unlikely intersection of two very different lives — that of Hanns Alexander, the son of a prosperous German family in Berlin who became a refugee in London in the 1930s and Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Well-researched and grippingly written it provides a unique insight into the fate of Germany under National Socialism.” Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Brandeis University
Part history, part biography, part true crime, Hanns and Rudolf chronicles the untold story of the Jewish investigator who pursued and captured one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious war criminals.
May 1945. In the aftermath of the Second World 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, but 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.
About the Author
Thomas Harding is a former documentary filmmaker and journalist who has written for the Financial Times and The Guardian, among other publications. He founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning publisher of a newspaper in West Virginia. He lives in Hampshire, England.
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