in paradise

Rudolf Hoess has mainly interested Olin because before his execution he composed a memoir said to be mostly trustworthy. At the end of World War I, age seventeen, he served as the youngest noncommissioned officer in the German army. Joining Hitler’s party in 1922, he soon proved his mettle by committing a political murder for its leaders and enduring six years in prison. In 1934, Hoess was conscripted for the black-booted SS; in official photographs of its high-ranking officers, he is the stocky man seen often at the elbow of his mentor, Minister of the Interior Heinrich Himmler, the tall triple-chinned Minister of the Interior in bottle-bottomed glasses. In May of 1940, after a tour of duty at the Sachsenhausen camp. Hoess was transferred to Oswiecim, bringing with him a squad of thirty condemned criminals to carry out SS orders as the barracks Kapos. By his own account, Hoess took such pride in his efficiency that photographers were invited from Berlin to record his operation for unlucky colleagues who had had no opportunity to visit.

Like perpetrators of atrocities worldwide, Rudolf Hoess would lay all blame on his superiors, describing himself as “a normal person overcome by a ruthless concept of obedience.” This appraisal of his own character seems almost rational when compared to the vainglory of Adolf Eichmann, for whom the knowledge that he helped consign five million Jewish human beings to their deaths was a source of “extraordinary satisfaction.” “I shall leap into my grave laughing,” Eichmann said.

– In Paradise by Peter Mathiessen

 in paradise



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