The Kommandant's Wife: Sitting pretty in her Auschwitz ‘paradise'
On a cold cloudless December afternoon in a cemetery on the outskirts of Washington, I walked past a crowd of animal statues spurting water into a pond and down a gravelly path until I came to a stone wall filled with the names of the deceased. After a few moments I found the words I was looking for: “Mutti 1908-1989”.
In an effort to avoid attention, the family had omitted the woman’s full name. They had also submitted paperwork to the cemetery concealing her true identity — for this was the final resting place of Hedwig Höss: the wife of Rudolf Höss, the kommandant of Auschwitz and the person responsible for the murder of more than 1m men, women and children...more
The Kommandant's Daughter: Hiding in N. Virginia, a daughter of Auschwitz
Brigitte Höss lives quietly on a leafy side street in Northern Virginia. She is retired now, having worked in a Washington fashion salon for more than 30 years. She recently was diagnosed with cancer and spends much of her days dealing with the medical consequences. Brigitte also has a secret that not even her grandchildren know. Her father was Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz.... more
Teaching the Holocaust in the 'Post-Survivor Era'
Who is going to educate young people about the Holocaust when the survivors are no longer with us? That is the question I keep asking myself in the days leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2014. Because the further we get from the end of the Second World War, the fewer survivors we have to share their powerful stories..... more
Was my Jewish great-uncle a Nazi hunter?
Could a German Jew really have been a war crimes investigator for the British, responsible for tracking down Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz? For two years I tried to meet the daughter of Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz. Each time I called, she put me off, saying that she was too busy, or wasn't feeling well. She lived in America, in an affluent suburb in Northern Virginia. Nazis and extermination camps were a world away. She didn't speak about her childhood or father to her own family. Why would she talk to a journalist? ... more
My beautiful boy longed to cycle the world. I ride on for him. Thomas Harding and his 14-year-old son loved cycling, then tragedy struck. After the inquest last week, the writer movingly explains why he at last feels able to get back on a bike.
It's a beautiful day today. Should I go for a bike ride? This seems like a normal question, but for me, this week, it feels like a hard one to answer. On Wednesday, I sat in a courtroom in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and listened to the coroner, David Ridley, give his verdict as to how my 14-year-old son, Kadian, had died in a bicycle accident. Next to me sat my daughter Sam and my wife Debora. .... more
Returning to Berlin: Haunted by a house
In July 2013, I travelled from London to Berlin to visit the lake house my great-grandfather had built. Picking up a rental car at Schönefeld airport, I headed west along the ring road, through Berlin's western suburbs, and into the Brandenburg countryside. Forty minutes after starting my journey, I arrived at the small village of Gross Glienicke, in what had been East Germany.I parked the car and set off for the house. It had been 20 years since I had last visited this place and nothing looked familiar. Although wary of trespassing, I ducked under a strand of barbed wire and pushed my way through a field of shoulder-high grass, heading in the direction of what I guessed was the lake... more
A history of violence: A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz by Göran Rosenberg
The story of Rosenberg’s father David, and his struggle to construct a new life after surviving the Holocaust was first published in Sweden in 2012; since then it has sold over 200,000 copies and been translated into nine languages. But Rosenberg wonders if he has the ability to tell the story at all, given that he is writing it “much later” than the events described. ... more
Inside Ravensbrück, Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm
On the morning of July 26, 1942, a group of 75 female prisoners at the Ravensbrück concentration camp were told to report to the infirmary. In front of a doctor they were asked to raise their skirts and show their legs. They had no idea what this was about. Some wondered if they were being selected for manual labour which required strong physiques. ... more
OP-ED AND BLOGS
Inside the Nazi Mind at the Nuremberg Trials
At Nuremberg, 24 of the highest-ranking Nazis were put on trial, but behind the scenes they were also being analyzed by leading American psychologists to figure out the root of their evil. Thomas Harding on what they discovered.
Why do men commit evil? Were the kommandants who ran the Nazi death camps psychopaths? Did they have subnormal intelligence? Were they just ordinary men who made appalling decisions? ... more
Royal Enemy Aliens – Thomas Harding
When I heard the eulogy in 2006 for my great-uncle Hanns Alexander, I was amazed. Apparently, he had served as a Nazi hunter in the British Army at the end of the Second World War. How was this possible? After all, he had grown up as a Jew in Berlin. Like so many other European Jews in the 1930s, the nineteen-year-old Hanns and his family had fled Nazi persecution and had arrived in Britain in 1936. His first task was to learn the language and find a job... More
From the Community Comes the Story
In July 2013, I stood in front of my family’s lake house in Groß Glienicke, a small village west of Berlin. My great-grandfather had built the house in 1927 as a weekend retreat away from his hectic Berlin medical practice, but he - like so many others - had been forced to flee with his family when the Nazis came to power. Since they left, it had been occupied by a number of families, but now it was abandoned and in a terrible condition. Its windows were cracked, its roof was full of holes. Inside was no better: the walls were covered with graffiti and the floors strewn with rubbish... more
My "Hiding in N. Virginia, a daughter of Auschwitz" article was first published in the Washington Post and then reprinted around the world in the following papers: