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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book
This book is a a very interesting and indepth read indeed and tragic in its consequences. I have read extensively Hoss`s own personal writings whilst he was in prison awaiting trial, and depsite what the other review outlines, it is completley flawed. Baxter reveals Hoss`s personality from the commandants memoirs from a very different perspective. He has researched the...
Published on 28 Oct 2008 by M. Morris

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Solid, but lacking in insight
Ian Baxter's biography of Rudolf Hoess is, I think, the first full-length biography in English of this leading figure in the Third Reich. As the commandant of Auschwitz, Hoess presided over the camp's growth from a converted Polish army barracks into the biggest, most destructive and most notorious of the Nazi extermination camps. Under Hoess, Auschwitz became almost a...
Published on 23 Oct 2008 by lexo1941


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Solid, but lacking in insight, 23 Oct 2008
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lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Commandant: Rudolf Höss, the creator of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
Ian Baxter's biography of Rudolf Hoess is, I think, the first full-length biography in English of this leading figure in the Third Reich. As the commandant of Auschwitz, Hoess presided over the camp's growth from a converted Polish army barracks into the biggest, most destructive and most notorious of the Nazi extermination camps. Under Hoess, Auschwitz became almost a city of death; besides Auschwitz I, the concentration camp, there was Auschwitz II (aka Birkenau), the much bigger camp where the main gas chambers and crematoria were; Auschwitz III (Monowitz), where prisoners worked for Nazi industry; and numerous smaller sub-camps scattered around the area.

Hoess was the man who was in charge of making it happen, and he carried out his job with tireless energy and zeal. Even after he had been hauled up on corruption charges and shunted upstairs, he still wanted to go back to his old job at Auschwitz and when the chance came for him to do so, he jumped at it. Arrested after the war, he complied fully with his interrogators and wrote a fascinating memoir of his life, as well as several other documents of vital interest to historians. He was eventually hanged at Auschwitz in 1946 and went to his death without ever seeming to realise that what he had done at Auschwitz was fundamentally, undeniably, irredeemably wrong.

Ian Baxter has relied heavily on Hoess' own autobiography, which is readily available. This means that what interest this book has must derive from whatever other material, and insight into that material, Baxter can bring to it. Unfortunately, the way his book is written prevents him from making it into the kind of biography a figure of Hoess's importance deserves. He says in the preface "I have been unwavering in my determination to assume Höss's perspective at all times." This is a terrible mistake in a biographer. It means that Baxter has essentially rewritten Hoess's memoirs in the third person. There are many, many questions about Hoess that a critical biography should address: how truthful is his memoir? From what else we know about him, how seriously should we take his protestations that he didn't enjoy killing people and that it was a strain for him to be as cold and unwavering as the job demanded? What exactly were the reasons why Hoess couldn't get the building materials he needed? How typical, or atypical, was he as a camp commandant? What did he know about Nazi policy-making, and what didn't he know about it?

Because Baxter is writing about Hoess's life as Hoess experienced it, he can't answer any of these questions. The result is a book that's as one-eyed and narrow as Hoess's own memoir, but which doesn't even have the value of the information Hoess betrays about himself from the way he writes and the way he seems to think. There is some mildly interesting stuff about the affair Hoess had with a prisoner, Eleonore Hodys, which Hoess never mentioned in his own book. This affair was incidentally the inspiration for William Styron's tear-jerking novel "Sophie's Choice", in which Hoess is a calculating, sadistic and rather glamorous figure, unlike the pedestrian man he appears to have been. But Baxter doesn't even tell us what happened to Hodys; did she survive the war? Did she die in the camps?

Hoess is a chilling figure partly because he is so unlike the kind of colourful and eccentric Germans we find in the top hierarchy of the Third Reich: Goering with his bluster, Himmler the bespectacled chicken farmer with his weird theories, silver-tongued Goebbels with his club foot and his women. Hoess is not a thug, like his subordinate Josef Kramer or his colleague Amon Goeth. He is colourless, obedient, a good family man, sentimental about the wife and kids, fond of a drink - more than any other major figure in the Third Reich, he seems almost ordinary. Even the relatively colourless Adolf Eichmann seems to have got more of a kick out of his job.

Hoess is disturbing because he goes to show what someone with an ordinary lack of moral scruple will do if he is willing enough to obey what his superiors tell him to do. Baxter's biography will not tell you much about him that you can't get more directly from Hoess's memoirs. I would read them instead.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book, 28 Oct 2008
By 
M. Morris (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Commandant: Rudolf Höss, the creator of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
This book is a a very interesting and indepth read indeed and tragic in its consequences. I have read extensively Hoss`s own personal writings whilst he was in prison awaiting trial, and depsite what the other review outlines, it is completley flawed. Baxter reveals Hoss`s personality from the commandants memoirs from a very different perspective. He has researched the subject very well, and there are many parts of the book that has filled the gaps that Hoss`s autobiography has missed. Notably, the evolotuion of the camp, the misdated years that Hoss had forgotten, the various unpublished diaries, and the capture of Hoss. This is the first real study of Rudolf Hoss and a brilliant portrayal of the commandant of Auschwwitz. what the first review forgets to mention is that Baxter has read and translated the orginal hand-written memiors of Hoss and included extracts that have never been published before. He has even unearthed documents about the building of the crematoria and high-lighted the huge typhus death toll that ravaged the camp, that was a constant problem to the SS. The book is an absolutely brilliant study of the commandant, and whatever the first review says, you must read this book and take on board the horror. Baxter writes the book as if captivated in the same mind-set of an SS soldier. He mentions lists of things that are never included in Hoss`s orginal works. For instance, those that worked and lived at the commandants villa, an interesting insight into his affair with one of the prisoners and a mulitude of other well researched items that can not be found elsewhere.

This book is a must. Its a book that you will be unable to put down!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great insight into this history, 28 Jan 2010
By 
John Taylor (West Midlands,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Commandant: Rudolf Höss, the creator of Auschwitz (Hardcover)
This book surprised me. It covers the holocaust events from the viewpoint and life of the German officer whose responsiblilty it was to implement the camp and to begin the genocide. It is not symapathetic to Hoss (the commander) but puts him into the perspective of that time, From his first involvement with the National Socialists through his joining the SS and his later career and involvment with the holocaust events, through to his own trial and execution at Auschwitz. If you want some insight into the history of this period its worth a read.
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The Commandant: Rudolf Höss, the creator of Auschwitz
The Commandant: Rudolf Höss, the creator of Auschwitz by Ian Baxter (Hardcover - 24 April 2008)
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