Hanns and Rudolf

Winner of the JQ Wingate Prize 2015

Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2013

'A gripping thriller,  an unspeakable crime, an essential history,    a scrupulously   dispassionate   narrator.'   - - John Le Carré  

The extraordinary true story of the German Jew who tracked down and caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz

Hanns Alexander was the son of a prosperous German family who fled Berlin for London in the 1930s.

Rudolf Höss was a farmer and soldier who became the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and oversaw the deaths of over a million men, women and children.

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 some of the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. Lieutenant Hanns Alexander is one of the lead investigators; Rudolf Höss his most elusive target.

Moving from the Middle-Eastern campaigns of the First World War to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s; from the horror of the concentration camps to the trials of Belsen and Nuremberg, it is both a gripping, moving and deeply felt work of history, and the story of a remarkable quest for justice.

In Hanns and Rudolf Thomas Harding reveals for the very first time the full, exhilarating account of Höss’ capture, and of two lives that diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.


  • Chosen as the Book of the Year by The Sunday Times, Times, Telegraph, News Statesman, Observer and Guardian
  • Translated into more than a dozen languages
  • International bestseller:
    • #5 Sunday Times Bestseller (UK)
    • #3 Bestseller in Israel
    • #1 Bestseller in Italy
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (1 May 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0099559056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099559054

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'Hans and Rudolph'  v  'Hanns and Rudolf'

What's in a name.... You might have thought it easy to spell someone's name. Not so for Hanns and Rudolf. Or is it Hans and Rudolph?

When I was researching my book, Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz, I discovered that such things were not always so simple. 

The Kommandant of Auschwitz’s name can be spelled in different ways. Perhaps the most authentic is ‘Rudolf Höß’, which is how the Kommandant himself wrote it. This uses the letter ß, affirming the Kommandant’s conservative Swabian heritage.

The more common English spelling is ‘Rudolf Hoess’. However, the Kommandant never spelled his name this way, and it also has the danger of being confused with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s secretary.

An alternative is to use the contemporary German spelling, ‘Rudolf Höss’, which was not only the way that the SS typed his name, but also the way it was written by Hanns Alexander.

The Kommandant never spelled his first name 'Rudolph', though that does sometimes appear in internet searches.

There are similar confusions around Hanns' name.

His German passport has it as 'Hans', and when I first started my research I was told by some of my family members that this was the correct way of spelling his name.

But looking a little deeper, I confirmed the correct spelling is 'Hanns', as reflected in his Alien identity booklet and death certificate. This was also how he spelled his name, in letters and when labelling books. 

When fighting in the British Army, Hanns officially changed his name, to Howard Hervey, not Howard Harvey, but that's another story.

There is some confusion about how to say Hanns' name, does it rhyme with 'pans' or 'once'. Click on the link below to see how his daughter, Annette, says it should be pronounced.