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Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz [Hardcover]

Thomas Harding
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Aug 2013


Shortlisted for The Costa Biography Award

The true story of the Jewish investigator who pursued and captured one of Nazi Germany's most notorious war criminals.

Hanns Alexander was the son of a prosperous German family who fled Berlin for London in the 1930s.

Rudolf Höss was a farmer and soldier who became the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and oversaw the deaths of over a million men, women and children.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. Lieutenant Hanns Alexander is one of the lead investigators, Rudolf Höss his most elusive target.

In this book Thomas Harding reveals for the very first time the full, exhilarating account of Höss' capture. Moving from the Middle-Eastern campaigns of the First World War to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s, to the horror of the concentration camps and the trials in Belsen and Nuremberg, it tells the story of two German men whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann; First Edition edition (22 Aug 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0434022365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434022366
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Thomas Harding has shed intriguing new light on the strange poison of Nazism, and one of its most lethal practitioners... Meticulously researched and deeply felt." (Ben Macintyre The Times, Book of the Week)

"Fascinating and moving...This is a remarkable book, which deserves a wide readership." (Max Hastings The Sunday Times)

"A gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history." (John Le Carré)

"This is a stunning book...both chilling and deeply disturbing. It is also an utterly compelling and exhilarating account of one man's extraordinary hunt for the Kommandant of the most notorious death camp of all, Auschwitz-Birkenau." (James Holland)

"Only at his great uncle's funeral in 2006 did Thomas Harding discover that Hanns Alexander, whose Jewish family fled to Britain from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, hunted down and captured Rudolf Höss, the ruthless commandant of Auschwitz, at the end of World War Two. By tracing the lives of these two men in parallel until their dramatic convergence in 1946, Harding puts the monstrous evil of the Final Solution in two specific but very different human contexts. The result is a compelling book full of unexpected revelations and insights, an authentic addition to our knowledge and understanding of this dark chapter in European history. No-one who starts reading it can fail to go on to the end." (David Lodge)

"In this electrifying account, Thomas Harding commemorates (and, for the tired, revivifies) a ringing Biblical injunction: Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue." (Cynthia Ozick)

"Its climax as thrilling as any wartime adventure story, Hanns and Rudolf is also a moral inquiry into an eternal question: what makes a man turn to evil? Closely researched and tautly written, this book sheds light on a remarkable and previously unknown aspect of the Holocaust - the moment when a Jew and one of the highest-ranking Nazis came face to face and history held its breath." (Jonathan Freedland)

"Absorbing ... Thomas Harding narrates, in careful, understated prose, the story of how his great uncle Hanns Alexander hunted down the man who vaingloriously identified himself as 'the world's greatest destroyer': Rudolf Höss, the Bavarian-born Kommandant of Auschwitz.Harding balances with scrupulous care the stories of the pursuer and the pursued . Le Carré is quite correct. The last section of Harding's book does indeed read like a gripping thriller." (Miranda Seymour Spectator)

"An extraordinary tale deriving from meticulous research - the story of how a young Jew after 1945 almost single-handedly hunted down the Kommandant of Auschwitz." (Frederick Forsyth)

"A highly readable detective story . This is really a book about the world of Hanns Alexander.[and it is] well worth reading ... Harding has researched it thoroughly." (Richard Overy Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description


The extraordinary true story of the Jewish investigator who pursued and captured one of Nazi Germany's most notorious war criminals.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story 7 Sep 2013
By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
"Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz" by Thomas Harding is a well researched and documented account of two men's lives.
We learn about Rudolf Hoess, commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the man responsible for millions of deaths, from his childhood to the rise within the SS, his running of the camp, his life in hiding and his capture.
Hanns Alexander, a Berlin Jew who fled to London with his family, joined the British Forces and then went on to capture Hoess.
The book is very informative and gave a great account of what the people behind the names might have been like. Either lives are incredible and Harding has done a great job at venturing an educated guess at looking into the minds of these two people.
Having read several books of similar themes I found this book to be shining with its credibility and objectivity.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For anyone who finds the post-war accounts of the search for justice interesting, this is a must. It has a great personal touch in that the writer's admiration for his great-uncle Hanns shines through. I found the comparison between Hanns' and Rudolf's lives very interesting and thought the book was balanced in its views and in conveying the facts to the reader.

The writer had a healthy approach and did not veer towards outright condemnation of the Nazi, though his views were clear in that regard. He saw him as a flawed human being who had subscribed to and embraced a dangerous doctrine.

Well written, thought provoking and an enduringly interesting subject matter.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a highly readable account of two Germans of much the same age: one who had to flee his privileged Berlin background and become immersed in a new country, culture and language; the other who rose from a more humble provincial background to be responsible for one of the most efficient extermination camps of all. That the former became responsible for bringing the latter to justice makes a fascinating story in itself, but the author, nephew of the hunter, has done a brilliant job of exploring the attitudes and motives of each, while keeping them firmly rooted in the events and influences of the time. The result is a more individual view of how Nazi Germany escalated it's attack on its own Jewish countrymen to the 'final solution' of mass murder, and the hasty rush in the immediate aftermath to bring the perpetrators to justice. It also explains how ground-breaking the Nurenburg trials were. The paradox is how Hess wrote up his story prior to his execution while Hanns generally refused to talk about it for the rest of his life.
This is a well researched and readable biographical study that is also a fine tribute to the author's uncle.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of two Germans 9 Feb 2014
By Chris Pearson VINE VOICE
Two Germans. One Jewish, one not. Both grow up affected by the rise of the Nazis. Hanns flees to London whilst Rudolf, a family man, becomes Kommandant of Auschwitz.

Harding's storytelling is compelling, and the book is real page-turner.

The war ends, and Hanns, as a member of the British Forces, goes to Europe to track down war criminals. Ironically tracking down Gustav Simon, the Gauleiter of Luxembourg proves a challenge, whereas locating and capturing Hoess is much simpler.

You're rooting for Hanns, yet trying to comprehend why family man Rudolf initiated and oversaw such atrocities.

It's a very moving book, and reminds us of the horrors of the Holocaust, its impact and why we can't forget it.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent balancing act 17 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thought this was an excellent book. It's certainly not the first I've read about the Holocaust, but it's impressed me for a particular reason. The author, Thomas Harding, is the great-nephew of Hanns Alexander, the eponymous German Jew. Given what his family went through during the Third Reich, it would not be unreasonable to expect him to succumb to the temptation of painting a one-dimensional portrait of his great-uncle as the perfect hero and Rudolf Hoess as the blackest of black villains. Yet, remarkably, he doesn't. While he doesn't hesitate to describe in harrowing detail the mass murders and appalling 'lesser' crimes for which Rudolf Hoess was responsible, and his utter lack of real, genuine remorse for them as opposed to for their consequences for him and his family, he also reflects the other side of the man - the obedient, hard worker and loving father. In equal detail he describes the sometimes wilful child that his great-uncle was, and writes openly of his prolonged procrastination towards the girl who was later to become his wife. I was especially struck by how Hanns and his twin brother Paul, both as children and adults, teased children in an almost bullying way that left me feeling rather uncomfortable. I couldn't help wondering how that trait might have developed had they later found themselves in circumstances where it could have been given free rein and encouragement - running a concentration camp, for example. It's very much to Mr Harding's credit, especially given how emotionally involved he must be in the story - that he gave us a picture of both Mr Hoess and Mr Alexander as human beings, with all the qualities and the flaws that every human being has. I think that added a great deal to the awful fascination of their stories, and it makes it almost impossible to finish the book without wondering 'what might I have done?' - in either Mr Hoess's or Mr Alexander's position. A very, very good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 1 day ago by Mrs schofa
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight, perspective, and human experience: it's unmissable.
Once in a blue moon you come across a book which you can devour in no time, and consequently leaves you with a feeling of loss and bewilderment over where to find another read as... Read more
Published 2 days ago by GP23
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, telling the story of the Commandant of ...
Excellent book, telling the story of the Commandant of Auschwitz and the German Jew who arrested him in 1946. Written in a very 'easy to read' style. I would recommend this book.
Published 4 days ago by Dekkajon
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
an eye opener
Published 4 days ago by Jacqueline Nathan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent modern history.
Published 5 days ago by Peter Simons
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a truly amazing book. It is very well researched and reads ...
This is a truly amazing book. It is very well researched and reads like a thrilling novel - all the more compelling because it is true. I found I could not put it down
Published 7 days ago by AlanG
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone who thought they knew all about Auschwitz
I did miss a few details in the book. When and how did Hoess write his memoirs (which I read almost 40 years ago, without really understanding)? Read more
Published 11 days ago by Michael
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 14 days ago by Mrs ICM Kenny
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb read,difficult to put down
Published 14 days ago by Super rover
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary story of three extraordinary men
This is a superb account linking the author, his great-uncle Hanns (of the title) who was a Berlin Jew who escaped from the Nazis and joined the British forces during the war, and... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mike in Sussex
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