Rudolf Hoess was history's greatest mass murderer, the SS Kommandant of the largest killing center ever created, the death camp Auschwitz. Responsible for exterminating 2,5 million people in World War II, he was a mild-mannered, happily married Catholic who enjoyed normal family life with his five children despite his view of the crematoria chimney stacks from his bedroom window.
This is excerpts from Hoess' signed testimony given at the Post-War Nuremberg War Crime trials:
"I am fortysix years old, and have been a member of the NSDAPI since 1922; a member of the SS since 1934; a member of the WaffenSS since 1939. I was a member from 1 December 1934 of the SS Guard Unit, the socalled Deathshead Formation (Totenkopf Verband).
have been constantly associated with the administration of concentration
camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938; then as Adjutant in
Sachsenhausen from 1938 - 5/1/1940, when I was appointed Kommandant of
Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz until 12/1/1943 and estimate that at
least 2.5 million victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing
and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and
disease making a total dead of about 3 million. This figure represents
about 70-80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder
having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp
industries; included among the executed and burned were approximately
20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of
prisoner-of-war cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in
Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The
remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German
Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish, from Holland, France,
Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We
executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of
The 'Final Solution' of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in 6/1941. At that time, there were already in the General Government three other extermination camps: Belzek, Treblinka and Wolzek. These camps were under the Einsatzkommando of the Security Police and SD. I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their exterminations.
The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one-half year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas, and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyklon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from 3-15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about one-half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special Kommandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses.
Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chamber to accommodate 2000 people at one time whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: We had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work.
Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.
We received from time to time special prisoners from the local Gestapo office. The SS doctors killed such prisoners by injections of benzine. Doctors had orders to write ordinary death certificates and could put down any reason at all for the cause of death.
From time to time we conducted medical experiments on women inmates, including sterilization and experiments relating to cancer. Most of the people who died under these experiments had been already condemned to death by the Gestapo.
I understand English as it is written above. The above statements are true; this declaration is made by me voluntarily and without compulsion; after reading over the statement I have signed and executed the same at Nuremberg, Germany, on the 4/5/1946. - Rudolf Hoess."