Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Commandant of Auschwitz

A few years ago, I was browsing a book sale held every year at my college. The sale was for the Women's Club, and sold thousands of books donated by the community. Books were sold by the inch, for only $0.75 per inch. Needless to say, it was one of my favorite book sales ever.

What I liked most about it was the uniqueness of books found. Some were textbooks; others, bestsellers. And the best ones? They came from the libraries of professors. Commandant of Auschwitz, by Rudolf Hoess, was among them.

As many of you may know (or perceived from previous novels read), I'm fascinated with the events of WWII, both in Germany and America. Commandant of Auschwitz is a true account from the Auschwitz Commandant's perception of all the events taking place in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

I've had this book, which consists of only 235 pages, on my bookshelf for a while now. It should, theoretically, be a quick, easy read. But it isn't. My stomach was churning with every page. The accounts of what happened sickened me.  I applaud Hoess for his honest recollection while in prison waiting to be murdered for the events in Auschwitz. Not one group in the camp goes unexamined by Hoess, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, women, and homosexuals.

A particularly disturbing excerpt from the book reads:
" By will of the Reichsfuhrer SS,  Auschwitz became the greatest human extermination center of all time. When in the summer of 1941 he himself gave me the order to prepare installations at Auschwitz where mass exterminations could take place, and personally to carry out these exterminations, I did not have the slightest idea of their scale or consequences. It was certainly an extraordinary and monstrous order. Nevertheless the reasons behind the extermination program seemed to me right. I did not reflect on it at the time: I had been given an order, and I had to carry it out. Whether this mass extermination of the Jews was necessary or not was something on which I could not allow myself to form an opinion, for I lacked the necessary breadth of view."

Hoess continues to describe, in great detail, the look, function, and activity taking place in gas chambers. He estimates numbers killed (which never made it to the millions, because Hoess believed there was no way there had been millions murdered).

This novel is an incredible first-person account of Auschwitz. I recommend it to anyone interested in the events of World War II in Germany.

My stats:
Commandant of Auschwitz by Rudolf Hoess
Rating: 5/5
Pages: 235
2011 Reading Goal: 9182/12500

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