"...I have been constantly associated with the administration of concentration camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938; then as Adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 to 1 May 1940, when I was appointed Commandant of Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total dead of about 3,000,000. This figure represents about 70 or 80 percent of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concetration camp industries; included among the executed and burned were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht (German army) transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countires. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944....

"The 'final solution' of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in June 1941. At that time, there were already in the General Government (western Poland) three other extermination camps: Belzek, Treblinka, and Wolzek.... I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their exterminations. The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one-half year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas (truck engine emissions), and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So, when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Cyklon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about one-half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special Kommandos (Jewish prisoners who were gassed after doing this job for several weeks) took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses....

"Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chamber to accommodate 2,000 people at one time whereas at Treblinka their gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: We had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make the spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminationed. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz."

Excerpted from the testimony of Rudolf Hoess, Nuremburg, 1946

After the war, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess was captured by the British. Amazingly, he escaped, and spent eight months working as a farm labourer before military police found him again (perhaps deliberately, the arresting party was largely jewish, and Hoess was brutally interrogated). Whilst in prison for final time, he wrote his autobiography, a book which is still in print nowadays. It is often rubbished by Holocaust deniers, although the details appear to tally with physical evidence and the testimony of survivors, allowing for the fact that, as the memoirs were written in prison, he did not have access to paperwork. He repudiated the figure of 2,500,000 given above, for example, downgrading it to 1,100,000, something which tends to suggest that the book was not written under duress (in which case, the censors would certainly not have allowed Hoess to make himself look better, although admitting that you have the blood of over a million people on your hands hardly qualifies as 'looking better').

He was executed, in Auschwitz, in 1947. Not to be confused with Rudolf Hess.

From the transcript of his trial:
DR. KAUFFMANN (the prosecutor): Did you yourself ever feel pity with the victims, thinking of your own family and children?
DR. KAUFFMANN: How was it possible for you to carry out these actions in spite of this?
HOESS: In view of all these doubts which I had, the only one and decisive argument was the strict order and the reason given for it by the Reichsführer Himmler.

It is from this short exchange that the 'we were only following orders' defence became notorious.

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