Peter Smith

Publications, Lectures and Other Stuff

Rudolf Höss & the Accountancy of Death

Rudolf Höss (Hoess) was the first commandant of Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II. According to one account I read, after his arrest and interrogation in 1946, when presented with a copy of his confession in which it stated that he had ‘personally arranged the gassing of three million persons’, he took a pen and crossed out ‘three million’ and wrote ‘two million’ and then signed the document. The casualness of this account is horrifying — a million people more or less.

A different report of his trial, gives different numbers: when accused of murdering three and a half million people, Höss replied, ‘No. Only two and one half million – the rest died from disease and starvation’.

Accounts of him during his imprisonment (he was hanged in 1947) describe him as largely apathetic towards what he had done. His memories were matter-of-fact accounts of how he was able to increase the rate of killing efficiently and the problems of disposing so many dead bodies (“You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time”).

File:Höss, Rudolf.jpg

Rudolf Höss (1901-1947). Image from Wikipedia under fair use.

One comment on “Rudolf Höss & the Accountancy of Death

  1. Pingback: Supplementary Materials for World History C (April 2014) « Peter Smith's Classes at MUIC

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2014 by in History and tagged , , , .
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