WASHINGTON – Brigitte Höss (Hoess) has spent the last 41 years living in a suburb of Washington DC, and was employed at a trendy beauty salon owned by Jews who fled Germany after Krystalnacht.
Höss, now 80 and cancer stricken, has a dark secret that even her grandchildren do not know: Her father, Rudolf Franz Höss,
was a senior Nazi war-criminal, who served as the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp from May 1940 to November 1943.
During the weekend, The Washington Post published an interview with her in which she commented on a new book called Hans and Rudolf, written by the journalist Thomas Harding, about her father and the Jewish man who brought to his arrest. Höss, who goes by her married name, conditioned the interview on the promise that her name or whereabouts would remain unpublished.
In the past, Höss's grandson attempted to sell
private items which had belonged to his Nazi grandfather to Yad Vashem.
Auschwitz death camp (Photo: EPA)
Rudolf Höss, Brigitte's father, was the man behind the design and construction of the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland, whose crematoriums could consume 2,000 souls an hour. Many years after the Holocaust, Höss does not deny that Jews as well as other were sent to their deaths, but does maintain that the overall toll stands at less six million.
"How can there be so many survivors if so many had been killed?” she wonders.
She remembers her father as a good man, and claims his confession at the end of the war was extracted from him under torture. “He was the nicest man in the world,” she says, explaining that “He had to do it. His family was threatened. We're threatened if he didn’t. And he was one of many in the SS. There were others as well who would do it if he didn’t.
"He was very good to us,” she adds.
Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi death camps, it was founded in 1940 near the Polish town of Oświęcim. The number of Jews killed in the camp was about 1.3 million, in addition to more than 100,000 Polish prisoners, 17,000 Soviet prisoners of war and an additional 23,000 Romani (Gypsies). All in all, almost a million and a half people found their death at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
During her childhood years, Brigitte Höss lived in a villa on the outskirts of the camp.
Hanns Alexander, the father of the book's author's uncle, was a Holocaust survivor turned Nazi-hunter who worked to secure Höss's arrest in 1946. Brigitte, who was 13 at the time, remembers the threats and blows her brother received from the British interrogators working to find their Nazi father whereabouts. According to her, it was in wake of the event that her mother broke down and revealed his location.
Gallows on which Rudolf Franz Höss was executed
After his capture, Höss admitted to his crimes: "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% of all persons sent to Auschwitz."
According to him, he received the orders from Heinrich Himmler
and later from Adolf Eichmann.
SS Chief Heinrich Himmler during the war (Photo: AP)
While working on the book, and after locating her, Harding contacted Brigitte in a bid to interview her. At the time, she also conditioned the interview on the secrecy of her name and address. There are crazy people out there, she told Harding, they are liable to burn down my house or shoot somebody, she said.
In the interview published by the Post, she expressed reserve about telling her granddaughters the truth, claiming she didn't want to “upset them,” adding she is concerned about what the girls might tell people, thus putting the family in harms way.
Once, at a work party in her Jewish-owned salon, Brigitte got drunk and revealed to a colleague that she was the daughter of Auschwitz's commander. He revealed the fact to her boss, we responded by claiming that she had committed no crime and could stay.
Nonetheless, she claims “I am still scared here in Washington… There are a lot Jewish people, and they still hate the Germans. It never ends."
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