‘This book is filled with evil… it has no literary quality and reading it is agony’, comments Primo Levi in his introduction. ‘The author comes across as what he is: a coarse, stupid, arrogant, long winded scoundrel’. And yet ‘… it is one of the most instructive books ever published’. Rudolph Hoess was Commandant of Auschwitz during the war. Taken prisoner by the British he was ordered to write his autobiography in the weeks between his trial and his execution. This is it.
An extraordinary and unique document: Hoess was in charge of the huge extermination camp in Poland where the Nazis murdered some three million Jews, from the time of its creation (he was responsible for building it) in 1940 until in 1943, by which time the mass exterminations were half completed. Before this he had worked in other concentration camps, and afterwards he was at the Inspectorate in Berlin. He thus knew more, both at first-hand and as an administrator, about Nazi Germany’s greatest crime than almost anyone. Captured by the British, he was handed over to the Poles, tried, sentenced to death, and taken back to Auschwitz and there hanged.