Rudolf Höss, the SS officer appointed to create and serve as the commandant of Auschwitz, has been called the greatest mass murderer in history. From 1940 to 1945, more than one million men, women, and children, mainly Jews and Poles, were put to death at Auschwitz. Höss’s testimony at the trial of major Nazi defendants at Nuremberg after the war established that Adolf Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews in the Final Solution. After Nuremberg, Höss was taken to Poland to stand trial for the atrocities he perpetrated at Auschwitz. In his testimony and memoirs, which he wrote while awaiting trial, Höss acknowledged his participation in the Final Solution and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of persons at Auschwitz due to starvation and disease. Yet, he denied that he ever mistreated a prisoner and sought to blame his subordinates for the cruelty imposed on inmates. Höss also claimed that Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, not he, were responsible for the calamity of the Final Solution and that he (Höss) was simply an unknowing “cog in the wheel” of the Nazi extermination machine.
Architect of Death at Auschwitz is both a biography of Höss and a critical analysis of his memoirs. Utilizing Auschwitz records, as well as the testimony of numerous survivors and even SS, the book describes the plight of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children forcibly taken from their homes to ghettos, then from ghettoes to their deaths in the gas chambers within minutes of arrival at Auschwitz. It details the tortuous life in camp for those found sufficiently fit to work yet given little to eat or wear, provided wholly inadequate medical care, forced to perform brutal work, and subjected to medical experimentation. Nuremberg trial records, as well as Höss’s trial proceedings, document the monstrous crimes he committed. Conversations between Höss and prison psychiatrists and psychologists provide an extraordinary insight into his twisted Nazi psyche. The book dispels the impression Höss attempts to create in his memoirs that he was never cruel or mistreated any prisoners and demonstrates, instead, he acted with unscrupulous brutality. $23.99 on Kindle.