Institute for Historical Review
The concept of the death camp as a means of liquidating Jews returns us to Auschwitz. Poliakov's Harvest of Hate placed great stress on Polish lanquage memoirs, Wspomnienia, by Rudolf Höss, which were later published in English as Commandant of Auschwitz (Cleveland, 1960). Höss was the commander of what is supposed to have been the greatest death camp in world history.
The fact that these memoirs were published under Communist auspices makes it utterly impossible to, accept their authenticity without decisive reservations. Furthermore, the statements made by Höss both to British security officers at Flensburg under third-degree conditions and under torture at Nuremberg makes it very difficult to believe that anything attributed to Höss after his capture in 1946 bears much relation to actual facts. Even Gerald Reitlinger, who grasps at every straw to document the extermination program, rejects the Nuremberg trial testimony of Höss as hopelessly untrustworthy.
The purpose in examining the Höss material here is to decide to what extent, if any, a plausible narrative has been presented under Communist auspices. The atrocity photographs in the English-language edition are "supposed" to have been taken, by an "unknown SS man" who received "special permission." They were allegedly found by a Jewish woman in the Sudetenland and sold to the Jewish museum in Prague. There is nothing whatever about these photographs to render plausible their authenticity. They are undoubtedly akin to the pictures of the piles of corpses alleged to have been civilians slain by the Germans during their eastern campaigns during the First World War but were later proved to be Jews and others killed in pogroms carried out by the Russians under the Tsar, years before 1914.
The introduction to the American edition of Höss's memoirs was written by the Germanophobe Lord (Edward F.) Russell of Liverpool. He is the author of The Scourge of the Swastika (N.Y., 1954) which contains a brief survey of the atrocity evidence presented at Nuremberg. The survey ends with obsolete claims about Dachau as a death camp. These claims about Dachau had been repudiated and disproved years before, by Cardinal Faulliaber of Munich.
Russell, after mentioning the fact, in introducing Höss, that there were very few camps and prisoners in Germany at the outbreak of World War II, claimed that not less than five million Jews died in German concentration camps during the war. He discussed other estimates, and, after satisfying himself that he was between those who claim six million and those who claim four million, concluded: "The real number, however, will never be known". One can only add that he had no right to claim "not less than five million". One might have expected that there would be more interest than there apparently has been in persuading, even at this late date, such countries as the United States, Great Britain, the USSR, and the Communist satellites to count and report their Jewish populations.
The site at Auschwitz was allegedly selected for a concentration camp in 1940, in addition to the availability of good transportation facilities, because it was a fearfully
unhealthy place. This is totally untrue. The Neue Brockhaus for 1938 indicated a population of 12,000 in the town of Auschwitz including 3,000 Jews. Although the place was not a popular health resort, it did enjoy a reputation for a healthy and bracing Upper Silesian climate.
Höss began the story of his life in convincing fashion with his account of a happy boyhood in the German Rhineland. His first disturbing experience was a violation of confessional by a Catholic priest who informed on him to his father for a minor dereliction. Höss succeeded in joining the German army at an early age in 1916. He was sent to Turkey and served at the fronts in Iraq and 1?alestine. At the age of seventeen he was an NCO with extensive combat experience and the iron cross. He had his first love affair with a German nurse at the Wilhelma hospital in Palestine. The end of the war found him in Damascus. Three months of independent traveling at the head of a group of comrades brought him home and thus enabled him to escape the fate of internment.
Höss was unable to adjust to the post-war life at home with his relatives, and he joined the Rossbach Freikorps for service in the East. Höss was arrested on June 28, 1923, for participating in the murder of a Communist spy. He was sentenced to ten year's in prison on March 15, 1924, and was amnestied on July 14, 1928. Although he had a brief period of mental breakdown while in solitary confinement, Höss emerged with the record of a model prisoner.
Höss spent ten exciting days in Berlin with friends after his release before turning to farming. He believed that National Socialism would best serve the interests of Germany, and he had become Party Member no. 3240 at Munich as early as November, 1922. He joined the Artamanen farming fraternity, to which Himmler also belonged, in 1928. He married in 1929 and was persuaded by Himmler to join the SS. In 1934 he agreed to serve at the Dachau concentration camp.
At first, Höss was bewildered by the philosophy of hostile reserve toward the prisoners at Dachau, which was indoctrinated into the SS guards by a local commandant, later replaced. Höss himself had been a prisoner, and be tended to see all questions from the inmate's viewpoint. Nevertheless, he believed that the concentration camps were a necessary transitional phase in the consolidation of National Socialism, and he was greatly attracted to the black SS uniform as a symbol of quality and prestige. After a few years he was transferred to Sachsenhausen, where the atmosphere, was more favorable.
The outbreak of war in 1939 brought a new phase of experience to the SS men on concentration camp service. The enemies of Germany had sworn to annihilate the National Socialist Reich. It was a question of existence, and not merely of the fate of a few provinces. The SS were supposed to hold the ramparts of order until the return of peace and the formulation of a new code of laws. A high-ranking SS officer, whose laxity had made possible the escape of an important Communist prisoner, was executed by his comrades on direct orders from Himmler. This brought home the seriousness of the situation to all of the SS men at Sachsenhausen. Some of the prisoners were amnestied in 1939 when they agreed to serve in the German armed forces.
An untoward incident occurred in 1939 when some Cracow University professors were brought to Sachsenhausen, but they were released a few weeks later through intervention by Göring. Höss had extensive contacts at Sachsenhausen with Pastor Martin Niemoeller, a much-respected opponent of National Socialism.
Höss went to Auschwitz with high hopes early in 1940. There was no camp there as yet, but he hoped to organize a useful one which would make an important contribution to the German industrial war effort. He had always been idealistic and sensitive about prison conditions, and he hoped to establish housing and supply conditions for the prospective inmates which would be as normal as possible for wartime. Höss ran into all the irritating obstacles of red tape and shortage of supplies in his early work of organizing the camp, and he bitterly criticized the inadequate qualifications of many of his colleagues.
Polish prisoners constituted the largest single group in the camp during the first two years, although many inmates were also brought to Auschwitz from Germany. Russian contingents began to arrive late in 1941 in poor condition after long marches. From mid-1942 the Jews constituted the main element in the camp. Höss recalled that the small groups of Jews at Dachau had done very well with their canteen privileges in the early days of the system. There had been virtually no Jews at Sachsenhausen.
It is at this very point that the hitherto highly plausible Höss narrative becomes highly questionable. The manner in which the alleged deliberate extermination of the Jews is described is most astonishing. A special large detachment of Jewish prisoners was allegedly formed. These men and women were to take charge of the contingents, either newly arrived or from within the camp area, who had been selected for destruction. The role of the SS was to be limited to the most general supervision and to the release of the Zyklon-B gas pellets through the shower fixtures of the supposed extermination sheds.
The actual taking of the clothes and the leading of the Jews into the pre-extermination sheds was to be done by this special group of Jews. Later they were to dispose of the bodies. If the "doomed" Jews resisted, they were beaten or forced to comply in other ways by the "privileged" Jews. Allegedly, the latter did their work so thoroughly that it was never necessary for the SS guards to intervene. Hence most of the SS personnel at the camp could be left in complete ignorance of the extermination action. Of course, no Jew would ever be found to claim to be a member of this infamous "special detachment." Höss was released from his post at Auschwitz at the end of 1943, and he became a chief inspector of the entire concentration camp system. He supposedly concealed his earlier activities from his SS colleagues.
It should be pointed out that no Auschwitz inmate has ever personally claimed to have witnessed the actual operation of these so-called "gas chambers." The explanation has been that those who were victims did not survive, and those who were accomplices had good motives not to admit anything.
The Communist editors of the Höss memoirs obviously did everything in their power to make the account plausible. Much effort was made to show that the individual in the SS counted for nothing, orders for everything. The evident timidity of Höss in voicing his criticism of the hostile rather than friendly attitude of the SS leadership toward the Dachau prisoners in the early years was exploited to lend credence to the supposition that be would have been willing to accept any excesses, including the massacre of huge numbers, even millions, of captive Jews. The same account depicts Höss as a highly sensitive and gifted man living a normal family life with his wife and children throughout his period at Auschwitz.
Höss is supposed to have said that the Jehovah's Witnesses at Auschwitz favored death for all Jews because Jews were the enemies of Christ. This was a staggering slip on the part of the Communist editors. It must be remembered that a bitter struggle against the Jehovah's Witnesses is waged today by the Communists throughout all Satellite countries, and especially in the Soviet zone of Germany. One cannot escape the conclusion that this special defamation of the Jehovah's Witnesses was introduced by the Communist editors.
It is, hence, impossible to avoid the conclusion that these so-called memoirs of Höss have been subjected to an editorial supervision by Communists and others sufficiently extensive to destroy their validity as an historical document. They have no more validity than the alleged Memoirs of Eichmann. The claim that there is a hand-written original of these supervised memoirs can scarcely be regarded as relevant. The Communists are notoriously successful in obtaining "confessions," and they possessed an amplitude of techniques which could be used to persuade Höss to copy whatever was placed before him. The evidence of hand-writing in this case is no more convincing than the famous after-the-event gas chamber film of Joseph Zigman, "The Mill of Dealth," used at the Nuremberg Trial. The so-called Höss memoirs end with the irrelevant statement that the Nuremberg documents had convinced the defendant that Germany was exclusively to blame for World War II.
It is important to note that Hermann Göring, who was exposed to the full brunt of the Nuremberg atrocity propaganda, failed to be convinced by it. Hans Fritzsche, The Sword in the Scales (London, 1953, p. 145) related that Göring, even after hearing the early Ohlendorf testimony on the Einsatzgruppen and the Höss testimony on Auschwitz, remained firmly convinced that the mass extermination of Jews by firing squad and gas chamber was entirely propaganda fiction.
Fritzsche pondered this question, and he concluded that there had certainly been no thorough investigation of these monstrous charges. Fritzsche, who was acquitted at the trial, was a skilled propagandist. He recognized that the alleged massacre of the Jews was the main point in the indictment against all defendants. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the SID (SS Security Service) chief, was on trial as main defendant for the SS because of the suicide of Himmler, just as Fritzsche was representing Goebbels for the same reason. Kaltenbrunner was no more convinced of the genocide charges than was Göring, and he confided to Fritzsche that the prosecution was scoring apparent successes because of their effective technique in coercing the witnesses and suppressing evidence. It was easier to seize a German and force him to make an incriminating confession by unmentionable tortures than to investigate the circumstances of an actual case.