Interview with the Devil

Rudolf Hoess

Rudolf Hoess

2015 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation by allied troops of Nazi extermination camps at Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz and other locations.

Many of the architects and perpetrators of the mass killing were eventually rounded up and imprisoned for trial and punishment.

In 1946, American psychiatrist Leon Goldensohn (G) interviewed dozens of these prisoners at Nuremburg.

Among them was Rudolf Hoess, (H) SS lieutenant colonel and the longest serving commandant at Auschwitz.

Here is Hoess, interviewed by Goldensohn:

G: How many were executed at Auschwitz in the four years you were there?

H: I estimate about 2.5 million Jews.

G: Don’t you have a mind or opinion of your own?

H: Yes, but when Himmler told us something, it was so correct and so natural we blindly obeyed it.

Heinrich Himmler

Heinrich Himmler

H:  We cut the hair from the women after they had been exterminated in the gas chamber.  The hair was then sent to factories where it was woven into special fittings for gaskets.

Human Hair at Auschwitz

Human Hair at Auschwitz

G:  How many people were murdered at one time at Treblinka?

H:  Motors from old tanks or trucks were set up and the exhaust was directed into the cells.  …About two hundred people were shoved in at one time, pressed into the cell very close together.

G: Men, women, and children?

H: Yes.  Two hundred people would have to be packed like sardines… the door had to be jammed shut.

[At Auschwitz, Hoess had two farmhouses converted into gas chambers.]

G:  How many people at a time were exterminated in each farmhouse?

H: 1,800 or 2,000.  They were killed with Zyklon B gas.

H:  The selection (of who would live and who would die) was made at Birkenau.

G:  Then what happened?

H: They were made to undress.  We had big signs saying, “to disinfection” or “baths.”  That was in order to give people the impression that they would merely receive a bath or be disinfected.

At the last moment when the chambers were filled, the internees who worked for us slipped out and the doors were jammed shut and the Zyklon B gas was thrown through small openings.

Zyklon B

Zyklon B

G:  Was there panic among the people prior to their murder?

H: Yes, sometimes, but we worked it smoothly, more smoothly as time went on.

We started to burn the corpses in open ditches…a layer of wood and then a layer of corpses, another layer of corpses, etc.  The fire was usually started with five layers of wood and five layers of corpses.

H:  In 1942 the great crematoriums were completed and the whole process was then done in the new buildings.

Gas Chamber

Gas Chamber

There were four gas chambers each, two large ones, each accommodating two thousand people and two smaller ones accommodating sixteen hundred people.

The corpses were brought by elevator to the crematorium above.  There were five double stoves.

Burning two thousand people usually took 24 hours in the five stoves.

Usually we could manage to burn only seventeen or eighteen hundred.

We were thus always behind in our cremating, because as you can see, it was much easier to exterminate by gas then to cremate, which took so much more time and labor.

Hoess was hanged at Auschwitz on April 7, 1947.


Source: The Nuremberg Interviews, Leon Goldensohn, Vintage Books, 2004



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