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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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 easily enjoyable. 'Hanns and Rudolf' is one of these books.

Two diametrically opposed lives evolving from post WW1 Germany through the Rise of Nazism and the German Reich come full...
Published 9 months ago by GP23

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously unengaging read.
Hanns and Rudolf is a good, but not a great read. There is very little in the book that wasn't already known about the Endlösung, but that might not have mattered so much had the author's narrative been powerfully sweeping, but unfortunately he is, purposely, very matter-of-fact and detached. Also, I was struck by the fact that no mention is made of e.g. the Wannsee...
Published 3 months ago by JJA Kiefte


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight, perspective, and human experience: it's unmissable., 25 Aug. 2014
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 easily enjoyable. 'Hanns and Rudolf' is one of these books.

Two diametrically opposed lives evolving from post WW1 Germany through the Rise of Nazism and the German Reich come full circle to be drawn together in (if perhaps not strictly a 'thriller') a thrilling historical account of WW2 through the eyes of two polar opposite war personalities.

Alternating chapters between Hanns the German Jew (later Nazi-hunter) and Rudolf the paradigmatic German country boy (later Kommandant of Auschwitz), Harding traces each lifetime from the very beginning. The first thing this achieves is the juxtaposition of a German Jew's life vs. the life of a 'normal' German boy in the rise of the Reich. Second, it allows the reader to trace the fabric of both personalities, a vital part of the book. For Rudolf, Harding addresses the constant moral enigma: how was the holocaust carried out? but addresses it from the biographical perspective of the man who personally administered the mass killings, the man who forced himself to look through the peep-hole of the gas chambers to show the face of unflappable conviction to his subordinates. This is an insight into humanness and how Rudolf lost his, retreating behind a wall of glass on the way to conducting one of the most abominable crimes in history. For Hanns, Harding highlights with how a German Jew deals with the intractable circumstances of Nazi Germany. An identical twin with an insatiable hunger for causing havoc and pulling pranks, Hanns develops into a prudent adult with a sense of duty, and it is specifically this which leads him along his extraordinary path to end up in post-war Auschwitz. Third, if the two characters' biographies were not interesting enough in themselves, Harding brings them together in a gripping dénouement, exploring the often overlooked matters of what happened after the war.

This book provided me with a different outlook on Nazi Germany. The concentration camps were not run by villainous killing experts, but men whose botched initiatives at mass murder evolved into a terrifyingly efficient system of genocide. The element of revenge that ought to induce satisfaction towards the book's end is tinged with an awareness of the inability to restore any sense of normality after such an atrocity. The comfort that one might think to find in revenge is therefore, in this book, replaced by settling for justice, since there were no winners in such a sad episode for mankind.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, 7 Sept. 2013
"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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable story of how a final solution was served on the main agent of the Final Solution, 25 Sept. 2013
By 
A. Hunter (Merstham, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent personal account of one man's search for justice, 28 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of two Germans, 9 Feb. 2014
By 
CRP - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping: cannot put it down, 3 Jan. 2014
By 
B. R. Chandler "sunnyholt" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
I devoured this book in several sittings. I have read many books about the Holocaust, and seen many films, always returning to Primo Levi as author of the definitive accounts. This book similarly takes you right inside the minds of its subjects, and in particularly Rudolph, quoting many extracts from his own writings. You begin to even build up a feeling for this man - surely the archetype of evil - a feeling which starts, really, with calling him "Rudolph" in the book title, and then throughout the story, rather than the bleaker impersonal and more familiar Hoss. Thus is demonstrated the shifting sands of how we view people, and what determines what we think of them. Chillingly, it is Hoss himself who discovers (via an underling) how effective Zyklon B might be and then perfects it as instrument for mass murder. "Now my mind was at ease" he later wrote. How could I at any later point "feel" for this man? Yet I did over and over again - even when Hans "permits" a mass-beating of the newly captured Hoss (actually I think I find it difficult to call him Rudolph). It is these contradictions in feelings (also explored by Levi and Arendt - and indeed by Browning and Goldhagen) that make the history of the Holocaust so terrible yet so compelling. Matthew 7:1-3: King James Version: 7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Maybe this is what makes the book so compelling. The author does not judge by his own utterances of outrage, but sticks in the main to facts and testimonies. We have to come to our own conclusions and judge we must.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and challenging book, 30 Dec. 2013
By 
Mysay (Wythall, Worc.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
I found I could not put this book down. The story of the lives of two men is told in a very simple and straightforward way. Both men were shaped by their past - and both damaged by it. What the Kommandant of Auschwitz was responsible for is truly inexplicable and I think this book does a great job of presenting the facts and leaving the reader to try and struggle with this problem. Clearly Rudolph was a monster - but in presenting him as a man, a husband and father reminds us of what we are capable of.

Just as Rudolf is a product of many unimaginable factors (joining the army first world war at the age of 14 - and killing people) so too is Hanns, a most remarkable man who in this book is presented in an equally realistic way. A man who grew up witnessing so much misery after a privileged early life and who joined the British army and took on the job of hunting down war criminals. What must have been in the mind of a Jewish soldier who entered Belsen shortly after it was discovered by the allies? Again unimaginable. There is no moral equivalence between the two men and happily one was hung and the other lived a long and I hope fruitful life.

The greatest part of the book is that it left me wrestling with my emotions and trying to put the events into a modern context. At this moment their are other Rudolfs doing bad stuff, and others being formed by the environments they are growing up in. And if a monster of our age was captured as the result of intimidating and bullying his wife and children, if he was subject to 'cruel and inhuman treatment' as no doubt Rudolph's beating and interrogation would be interpreted these days where would Hanns be? The recent case of the marine who 'finished off' an Afghan insurgent came to mind.

I have no answers and there are no simple ones, but good books make us ask questions.

D
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How An Ordinary German Helped To Achieve The Final Solution, 24 Aug. 2013
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
In April 1943 Admiral Horthy,the Hungarian Regent asked Hitler 'What should we do with the Jews?'. He was told 'They are to be treated like tubercular bacillus'.

This excellent book by Thomas Harding tells the remarkable story of Hans Alexander, a German Jew who as a British officer tracked down Rudolf Hoss, the Commandant of Auschwitz while serving in the war crimes investigation unit.

Some of the photographs in Harding's book are very disturbing. These are not ones of emaciated Camp Jews or the piles of dead Jews they are photographs of Hoss's young children playing on a slide, eating a picnic or simply playing in the famliy garden. The family garden was in the middle of the death camp where their father daily slaughtered men, women, children and babies. The happy children had pets and numerous Jewish servants who would in due course be murdered. A few yards away from the garden with its apple trees Jewish children were being gassed and shoved into ovens.

The book, like many others, emphasises the sheer ordinariness of men and women like Hoss. Like many other killers he was of average intelligence, a devoted father, and a loving husband. Like thousands of ordinary Germans he was an admirer of Hitler and his henchmen. He was the son of a merchant and he had intended entering the Church until service in WW1 changed his mind. In the 1920's he was befriended by Himmler.

As the author points out Hoss was not a psychopath. Like all too many Germans after 1933 he was nevertheless only too willing to do what he was told. In 1939 he became a very obedient part of the German killing machine.

The man who tracked him down was altogether different. Hanns Alexander was the son of a doctor who was a friend of Einstein. Seeing the dangers once Hitler became Chancellor the family fled to Britain.

When Himmler told Hoss to increase the murder rate at Auschwitz Hoss said 'I thought no more of it at the time-I had been given an order, I had to obey it'. He therefore had two more buildings converted into gas chambers in order to 'solve the problem'. Meanwhile, his children and wife had tea in their garden.

When the war ended Hoss hid until he was found by Hanns working on a farm under the name Franz Lang. He was severely beaten by the soldiers who were with Hanns. Under questioning Hoss revealed he was one of Hitler's willing-very willing-executioners. He was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death.

This riveting account demonstrates yet again what Arendt called the 'banality of evil'. Before he was hanged at the death camp where he had organised the massacre of hundreds of thousands before returning to the family home for tea-one frequently wonders with monsters like Hoss, and their wives, what they discussed at the table-he admitted that 'I never gave much thought to whether it was wrong'.

Harding tells us that some 60 years later Hoss's grandson paid a visit to the death camp to see where his father had played not knowing that just over the garden wall thousands of innocent people were being slaughtered daily.

Of all the numerous books on the Holocaust this is by far the most disturbing for it demonstrates how the ordinary German, not just the SS fanatic, was willing to commit mass murder on a daily basis before returning to the family hearth.

On 5 September 2013 Rochus Misch, for 5 years Hitler's courier, telephonist and bodyguard, died. He said working for Hitler was the best time of his life. He was an unquestioning admirer and servant of Hitler. He described Hitler as 'a perfectly ordinary man'. He was, he said 'a normal man with nice words'. Like all too many he claimed to know nothing of the Holocaust, despite listening to Hitler's telephone conversations. In his memoirs 'The Last Witness' he spoke of 'his unconditional loyalty to Hitler'. His daughter refused to have anything to do with him. He was one of the many thousands of 'ordinary' Germans who never regarded the actions of Hitler and his brood of evil doers as 'out of the ordinary'. Like them he developed a convenient amnesia after the war. He denied being a fanatic or a member of the Nazi Party.

Sir Richard Evans, Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, a leading historian of the Third Reich, has recently written that Misch was 'an unrepentant Nazi and SS man'. His claim that he, like others, knew nothing of the murder of millions of Jews is 'a downright lie'.

Misch is an example like Hoss of the culpability of ordinary Germans for the systematic annihilation of millions. They willingly drove the trains to the death camps. They kept the meticulous records of the industrialised butchery, and then like Hoss went home to have tea and biscuits with the family.

When the war ended Misch became a painter and a shop manager. Not far away worked former SS men as carpenters, dentists and lawyers, a common occurrence.

This month, German State Prosecutors have been requested to bring charges against another 30 Auschwitz death camp guards who until now have escaped justice. Like many, once the war ended they had re-entered German society posing as ordinary citizens. In many proven cases, despite their ghastly secrets being known, people like them were protected by friends and neighbours. There were and still are many, many like Hoss and Misch.

Do read this remarkable and disturbing book.

Do read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone who thought they knew all about Auschwitz, 16 Aug. 2014
By 
Michael (Onsala, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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)? I was also slightly disturbed by the footnotes, why not include this very interesting information directly in the text?

The parallell stories where most thrilling and I loved to, for a change, read about a Jewish family who took the right decision to leave Berlin, even if it was almost too late. They made it and survived, although at the cost of lot of losses and and psychological problems.

The hate within Hanns in understandable, and I liked that this was not hidden. He was really a jerk (the story about the tree binding and the leaving of the children in the pit where most disturbing) possibly even more so than Hoess. I guess this is a quite deliberate telling...if you can do that, could you possibly have done what Hoess did? In my mind, yes.

That is one of the key features of the book, it puts the by far most disgusting villain of modern times in comparison with one who should come out white and shining. It turns out that, without diminishing the crime of murdering over 1 Million, there are shades. They black does have white spots and the white has moe than a fair share of grey and black taints.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The devil is in the dice", 1 Feb. 2015
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It seems strange at first that the author should refer to the former Kommandant of Auschwitz by his first name, Rudolf. There can be no such misgivings that the man who hunted him down should be Hanns, but then Hanns didn't have a hand in killing in excess of one million people.

But as one reads their life stories told in alternate chapters, one begins to understand through the disparities of the two men's background and circumstances, why the author tries to remain nonjudgmental. And he is surely right to concentrate on their actions, rather than make any detailed attempt to examine their characters. It seems at times that Hanns is portrayed as less than perfectly good and Rudolf less than totally evil. But finally, there can be little doubt that their lives might have been very different but for circumstances.

The publicity for the book gives prominence to the hunt and capture of Rudolf. And whilst that is absorbing enough, it is the contrast in their lives that really makes the book notable. The sentences are plain, almost matter-of-fact, without recourse to hyperbole. There are perhaps too many books which seek to exploit the holocaust, but this isn't one of them. It is in understatement that the true enormity of the crime is profiled.
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