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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz
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on 12 August 2014
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 Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz. There would be little surprise if Harding had descended to a story of his Uncle's heroism and Hoess's villainy, but there is none of that. The impeccable research is presented factually and we learn a great deal about the individuals, much of which is mundane, despite the extraordinary nature of their roles in history. Much rings true because Hoess wrote his autobiography while in prison awaiting trial and execution after the events of this book and I suspect that was an important source for the author, because the man comes across exactly the same in both accounts. Hanns comes across as an ordinary man who became extraordinary for a period as a consequence of his experiences, then returned to ordinariness when he had fulfilled his mission. The pursuit and capture of Hoess is a great detective story in its own right. This is an exceptional book, a fascinating story, fascinating characters and well written.
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on 4 October 2013
The interesting and well written story is allowed to flow without interruption. All references and bibliography are at the end. It describes the good and the bad of both sides. It tells the story of events of 70 years ago objectively, even the most appalling, which makes them the more vivid.

An interesting contrast to John Buchan's Mr Standfast which I have just reviewed.
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on 3 March 2015
The book was thankfully what I wanted to read. Having seen and read so much on this subject this only increased my education on this dreadful period in time. Heroes and villains, it's quite incredible what people will do, an excellent read that continues to remind me that we should never forget such an awful events took place in such recent times
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on 18 May 2014
This is the story of two men - Hanns Alexander, a German Jew, and Rudolf Hoss, commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. It traces their lives from birth through the rise of the National Socialist Party and the Second World War. Hanns was able to escape to England with almost his entire family before the Nazi's Final Solution was put into practice. Rudolf rose up the ranks of the SS while Hanns, having grown to hate his own country of birth, signed up with the British army. Because he was German speaking, Hanns was drafted into the British War Crimes unit at the end of the war, and after witnessing the horrors of Belsen shortly after the camp was liberated, began his own hunt for senior SS officers including Rudolf Hoss. After exhaustive investigative work, Hanns eventually tracked down and arrested Rudolf Hoss. This book is fascinating. Both men are complex characters, and we are given plenty of details about their family life and personalities. Highly recommended.
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on 29 April 2014
Two Germans brought up in Germany in the same era, one Jewish, the other not. This is a true story written by a journalist so there is no wasted narrative and the situation moves along at a good pace. After Hanns and his family mangae to get out of Germany and live in England, Hanns joined the British army and eventually searches and finds Rudolf who has become the person who put the final solution together whilst Kommandant of Auschwitz. I have read many books about the holocaust and was wary of yet another, but this book was recommended and I am so pleased that I read it. It is shocking, but not unnecessarily so. It became apparent that my family possibly had met Hanns and his family as we both frequented the same synagogues. As most Jews would say, "We must never forget," and we sit and watch atrocities going on in the world and ask ourselves if we should take sides and help. If you read the book you will find yourself asking these questions again.
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on 19 October 2013
The book is an excellent account of the lives of Hanns Alexander and Rudolf Hoess. The author follows both men's lives from birth right to the highlight of their respective careers. Both accounts are well written and the author manages to create sufficient suspense to make his story a pageturner. What I found an absolute gem are the notes on the chapters at the end of the book. There is a lot of additional information there you don't want to miss.

What I found fascinating is what a normal person Rudolf Hoess turns out to be. They guy seems to be an able administrator and doesn't seem to be bothered at all about the nature of the goods to be disposed off. If you have read David Cesarani's Eichmann: His Life and Crimes you will come to understand that the SS bureaucracy is littered with people like Rudolf Hoess.

What I found a bit odd is the book's title. When you read the book you will find that Hanns had a hell of a time trying to locate and arrest Gustav Simon, the Gauleiter of Luxembourg. Compared to that, the hunt for Rudolf Hoess is recounted like a walk in the park. Strictly speaking the book should have been titled `Hanns and Gustav'. But apart from that, this is a fine book.
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on 10 August 2014
I really loved the book, it totally captured me and made me think and talk about it long after i had finished it. It is well researched and brings that period to life, although it is still uncomprehensible how people were able to commit those atrocities. I actually shed some tears in the end too.
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on 24 October 2014
A glimpse into the mind of the cold, calculating minds of murderers. Should be on all school reading lists. My father was with the British army that saw the aftermath of some of these "camps." I wish he could have read this. He wouldn't talk about what he saw.
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on 26 May 2014
A powerful and balanced account of how men can be turned into monsters by the extraordinary circumstances of the time. An important read for those wishing or needing to inform themselves of the holocaust.
It is balanced in the way that Rudolf, in the end analysis, accepts his fate with resignation, and plays his part in the condemnation of others - though never really fully accepting his guilt. Also by revealing that Hanns himself had his faults, at best turning a blind eye to the brutalisation of prisoners. It is difficult, of course to imagine the emotions of the time, but this book goes some way to doing so.
Only 4 stars, because the actual tracking and capture of Rudolf himself was a bit of an anticlimax - rather too easy in view of its status in the title line.
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on 12 July 2014
This is one of those books that everyone should and could read. A fascinating story told with amazing insights and written with exceptional simplicity. Never confusing and never overly dramatic. The story is handled with dignity, taste and respect.
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