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Harsh Reminder to Remember

Flyers were allegedly handed out earlier this week to Jewish Ukrainians leaving synagogue in the eastern city of Donestk.

While Denis Pushilin denies the validity of the content or being responsible for the creation and distribution – he does not deny the incident occurred and since images have surfaced, he obviously cannot deny the existence of this antisemitic material.

jewsmustregister

No matter who printed and handed out these leaflets, what disturbs me, other than their sheer existence, is that there continues to be groups that provoke and manipulate at the expense of the Jewish people.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day begins April 27th and ends in the evening of April 28th.  (The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.)

I can only hope that this recent disgusting display of ignorance and racism serves to draw more attention to that day.

There must continue to be conversation!

We must never forget!

Appropriately, Rainer Hoess will be giving a radio interview on April 27th – click the link to our website for more information:

http://www.daserbedeskommandanten.com/

I was asked after I posted my interview almost a year ago, why he continues to speak out. 

Because simply, he is deeply horrified by the actions of his grandfather and refuses to leave his family with such a legacy.  

Because someone MUST continue to speak out.

Because there is always a chance for hope to grow when the brave step out of the shadows. 

Many, many good people do – they don’t give up.  They keep educating the young and reminding the old because it MUST be done!

We cannot be apathetic and risk allowing the past to repeat.

 

 

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Das Erbe des Kommandanten: The Heritage of the Commandant.

Rainer with his book - October 2013.

Rainer with his book – October 2013.

Here is the link for the whole book in German Das Erbe des Kommandanten – once I have a release date for the English version, I will definitely post it.

Rainer has allowed me to post two excerpts from his book in English.  Estimated time of publishing for the English-speaking market is early next year, 2014.

Incredibly moving and rich with history – I found myself lost in the words I share with you below.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did – Amanda.

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TITLE: The Heritage of the Commandant

Subtitle: On being part of a terrible family

The burden of an infamous surname (excerpt)

“My name, that’s for granted, is that of an outlaw all over the world. And poor you will get in unnecessary trouble over and over again with this name.

Especially the children will have a hard time in their further progress… so it’s the best if – together with myself – my name would vanish too.“

My grandfather Rudolf Höß on April 11th 1947 (a few days before his execution) in a letter to his wife Hedwig.

It was on my second visit to Auschwitz in October 2010 when a teenage-girl from a group of Israeli students asked me:  “If you met your grandfather today – what would you do?“

“I would kill him“, I answered right away.

Some of the students applauded.

I enjoyed that and felt pretty cool – like a cowboy. But later that night, lying in my bed thinking, my hands got clammy.  What a stupid, boasting answer!

What should that mean – kill him?  Was I, like my grandfather, to decide about life and death?

As an offspring of a Nazi-criminal you have to be cautious with what you say.  Whatever you prattle around could suddenly become a sort of significance you didn’t mean and attention you are not entitled to get.

But a fact is – especially in Europe – the name Höß is connected with Auschwitz.  And the name of Auschwitz is connected with millions of murdered

Jewish men, women and children.

So, when you say “My name is Höß ” over there – people get curious. And their interest, I have to admit, is in a way flattering.  All of a sudden you are not one in a crowd anymore, not a John Smith – Hallo and Goodbye. You are somebody, all the same if you are the descendant of a statesman or of a criminal.

It’s really strange with names – famous or infamous – it doesn’t make that much difference in the attention one gets.

I really do sympathize with the children and grandchildren of the holocaust victims when they look at us – the children and grandchildren of the nazi-committers – with distrust and aversion. They have all reason for it: quite often we are in the focus and they are forced to remind people of what their families suffered and went through before anyone listens to them.

But of course, there are some disadvantages too bearing the name of a nazi-killer. Some people judge you right away. Preferably anonymous in the internet. Other people might try to approach you for reasons you don’t ever want them to get closer for – like old or Neo-Nazis.

So, of course, I could have followed the advice of my grandfather and changed my name. For my grandmother Hedwig this was no choice.

She was proud to bear the name Höß, never ever would she give it up. Impossible for them.

Just thinking about how her friends would react to something like that, all those eminent ladies, whose husbands also had been fanatic servants of the so-called Third Reich.  “No, no ” she used to say, “A Höß stays a Höß! There is nothing to be ashamed of“ – That was her point of view.

And myself?  Should I do what my grandfather suggested? No. I did not want this Mass murderer  to tell me what I have to do or not to do. So I kept the name.

Chapter 1

The end of a war-criminal / Animal-lover and child of nature

“Along with this letter I was allowed to send you my wedding ring. Full of melancholy I think of the times in the spring of our lives when we put on those rings. Who could ever have expected such an end of our togetherness?“

Rudolf Höß, commander of Auschwitz, in his Farewell-Letter to his wife Hedwig on April 11th 1947, five days before his execution

I still see this ring right in front of me. It used to be kept in grandmothers casket, along with a pile of letters and curls of hair from her children – and her jewellery.

A simple, narrow ring it was, the edges slightly rounded. Inside, in flourish handwriting: August 17th 1929, Hedwig and Rudolf.  The engraving was a little shabby.

My grandfather wore this ring 17 years, seven month and 14 days.

He wore it in the year 1933, when he lifted his hand to take the oath of allegiance with the SS; he wore it, when the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler appointed him in 1940 to be Commandant of the concentration camp Auschwitz – the camp, Höß himself described as “the largest manufacturing plant of all times for the extermination of human beings“.

He even wore this ring when he went to bed with his mistress, the beautiful and mysterious captive Nora Hodys, and he wore it while under his order hundreds of thousand men, woman and children were killed in the gas chambers.

On April 11th 1947 my grandfather rubbed the skin of his right hand with soap in order to make it smooth and pulled off the ring from his finger.

Supposedly he used to do that every night before he went to sleep. Along with his farewell-letter to his “beloved and sweet Mutz“ – that was his pet name for his wife, my grandmother Hedwig – and letters to each one of his five children, he put the ring in a brown envelope.

Five days later he was being executed by hanging right at his former field of activity: in Auschwitz.

Up to one and a half million people, most of them Jewish men, and woman and children were killed in Auschwitz while Rudolf Höß was Commandant there and, later on, when he was a so-called “Standortältester“, which means kind of an elder camp-statesman.

One and half a million is the number he calculated himself . From a simply “technical“ point of view, he measured while in prison in the polish town of Cracow, it might even have been possible to match the number given by Adolf Eichmann, the Organizer of the holocaust. Eichmann named about two and a half million “Exterminations ” in Auschwitz.

Whereas Rudolf Höß, painstaking book-keeper that he was, estimated this number as settled “much too high“.

I did not know the man I dread since I know who he was – and therefore know who I am but not want to be: the grandson of a multimillion contract killer.

It put an imprint on my whole life.

First there was Leo: Leopold Heger, short, wiry, closely cropped hair, strong like a bull and in his sixties when I was born. He was the one who told me more than anyone in my family about my late grandfather when I was a child.

He used to be the official driver of my grandfather in Auschwitz until Rudolf Höß became chief of the so-called Amtsgruppe D1 – Inspection of all concentration-camps – in Oranienburg by the end of 1944.

During the weeks of the dissolution of Auschwitz, the head over heels flight and the collapse of the Nazi-rule Leo again followed Höß and his family, now acting as their in official driver. A loyal vassal he was to his “boss “or the “senior“, how he referred to him until his own death.

This man Leo became my substitute-grandfather. Once in a while he called me “prince“– since for him I was the grandson of the King of Auschwitz.

Whatever I, as a little boy, learned to like about this “grandfather in heaven“, whatever impressed me about him – I got it from Leo. When we were rambling together through the woods of the Swabian Alps he told me his tales about the “senior“.

What a daring horseman he had been. How deeply he had cared for his horses and for Rino, his breed of large German dog. An animal-lover and child of nature through and through. How could I have not adored a man like this – dead or alive?

The truth trickled through to me only many years later and only little by little. In the beginning I was just too naive, later on than I was much too startled and frightened to grasp that this “king“ actually was a slaughterer.

At home in my family? No word about it. You are too young. You are too stupid. You wouldn’t understand it anyway.  Your Grandfather? He died for his fatherland and now he is with the lord in heaven.  Period.

The subject “Rudolf Höß” was a taboo in the family of his second-born son Hans-Jürgen, my father.  The force of law at our house were his orders: Sit still and upright!  Keep your mouth shut!  Don’t you ask questions! And if you do it in spite of it – well then: carpet lifted up, question put underneath it, carpet back in place to cover it up.

With Leo it was quite different: At his house I couldn’t ask enough questions about the “senior“– as long as I did not put anything in question. Neither his former boss nor the Nazi-Ideology and the mass-killings. When I was little this was easy play for me.

And yes, I loved Leo, my substitute-grandfather.

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My interview with Rainer Höss. Part I

**In honor of Rainer’s book release in Germany, I am reblogging this interview from May.  Click on the Amazon link within the interview to purchase the book.  There still WILL be a part II to the interview, Rainer has been very busy but things seem to be finding a chaotic rhythm for him lately.  On a personal note, congratulations Rainy on the book – I’m so proud to see you holding it! 🙂 **

 

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It is 3:15 am in Germany as I begin my writing.   My friend ‘Rainy’ is sleeping.  I miss the ‘ding’ of the email as he shares more and more about his journey,  his hopes and his fears. 

He is a book I cannot put down – a person I have come to deeply respect and care for in a short time.  I do not know what time or even what day it will be in Germany when I finish.  Or if I’ll ever be finished.

While it has to be mentioned to make any sense, this post is not going to be about his grandfather, Rudolf Hoess, (Höss, Höß) Commandant of Auschwitz.

It’s not for at least two very good reasons.

1)  I am smart enough to know that I am too ignorant on the topic to have the nerve to offer any opinions or insights.  There are far too many souls who have been personally harmed. I will not rehash only what is available to me on the internet and in history books. That information can’t begin to afford me the experience to decide how it must have felt, how it must have been.  I will not disrespect those who have personally been affected by the holocaust.

2)  My intention from day one was to offer Rainer’s story.  His story, in my voice.

When I first saw him in a documentary I was immediately pulled into his world.

He cried, I cried.  He was nervous standing before a group of students, I was nervous.  He looked around the Villa where his father grew up on the grounds of Auschwitz, I was peering around the corners with him.

Rainer outside of the Villa

Rainer outside of the Villa at Auschwitz, where his father lived

So engrossed was I in that documentary, Hitlers Children, that it affected me profoundly.

We all have family secrets … personal shame about something or another and a lot of us must confess to having at least one ‘monster’.

That in mind, I could not fathom the magnitude of bearing the weight of not only having a most well-known ‘monster’ (I have a problem using that word) in my past, but it not being a secret.

Far from it.

Once Rainer shares his last name – the speculation and judging begins.

It is here that I will offer my ever so humble opinion.

We cannot be great people because our ancestors have done great things, so it stands to reason that we cannot be evil if our ancestors have done evil things.

I believe that those in fear, and still suffering, need something tangible to blame.  Someone in the flesh to hear their story and to turn their anger on.

And that is not fair.  And that is not right.

Rainer has said often he fears he has his grandfathers evil in him, “As if it could be inherited.”

My heart swells and my instinct is to protect – I do not believe for one minute that evil can be inherited.  I believe that we choose our own paths and that we are not defined by our forefathers deeds.  Or, more to the point, we don’t have to be.  Sometimes our circumstances make it harder to take a different route, but it can be done. 

As Rainer said to me, “To come to terms with your past, it takes a lot of strength, but it is also worthwhile to confront his demons.  Rising to the task, and where there is a will there is a way.  Of course, the path is sometimes rocky and hard, and not immediately visible.  Giving up is too easy.”

Let me tell you about Rainer Hoess, who chose not to give up.

His favorite color is blue. “I could paint everything blue around me. The blue color gives me a sense of harmony and security.”

He likes to sit outside on his terrace and look at the stars at night, thinking about nothing. Sometimes with one of his cats in his lap.

He loves diving in the ocean, kickboxing, jogging, cycling. 

He practices Tai Chi and Chi Gong daily for focus. 

He is well-traveled, educated, genuine and loves his family.  He often mentions his 4 beautiful children and his two beloved grandchildren.

And yet, in his words, “Often you stand before the mirror in the morning and look at yourself, similarities, comparing yourself with this monster.  The worst thing is that you being to ask yourself the question, what I have of him that I do not know yet?”

I argued with him – pointed out how very different he is from his grandfather, from his own father even!  But how can I think for one minute I have the right to do that?  I am not walking in his shoes. 

He went on to say, as we discussed his never-ending research, “I am always deeply penetrated into the psyche of my grandfather and have therefore often put myself in danger.”  He was speaking of his health – his obsessive research in an attempt to understand, resulted in 3 heart attacks.  He immersed himself in a desperate quest.  (Which resulted in this book.)

But Rainer is also a thrill seeker – an adrenaline junky.  “It gives me the opportunity to make myself free of these constraints of society.  Myself to determine how far I want to go.  There is also a kind of therapy to overcome boundaries.” 

I think it’s also a vehicle to get out of his own head, if only for a little while – to feel something other than the weight of his ancestry.

Good thing he has a God of his understanding on his side.  

Rainer also studied theology in his ‘free time’, “To cover all eventualities in my research and to get answers of my questions”

He went on to tell me, “But in churches I encountered a lot of misunderstanding after my questions.  Faith as a shield and excuse for such crimes I cannot accept.  And especially the denial of this crime by some churches and their leaders.”

Rainer is not in denial. 

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Rainer in the barracks in Birkenau

“To me it’s important that my generation had the chance to speak.  Because what we have seen and experienced applies to everyone, and not just for descendants of Nazis.”

And speak he does.  To students, to survivors.  Rainer is on a mission to speak out in hope of understanding, healing and prevention for all who care to listen.

“Many believe what they read in the media, whether it’s true or not.  They want to get to know me really the least, because who would gladly look in the mirror of his own soul through me?”

I wanted to look.

And as for the ‘Rainy’ nickname at the beginning.  I know Rainer isn’t pronounced like Rain-er in German.

But when I saw the man who was raised to believe “A Hoess does not cry!” shed tears at Auschwitz – I cried along with him. 

This morning I said to him,

“I’m glad to know the Hoess that DOES cry. 

Tears are cleansing. 

Like Rain.”

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(All photographs copyright of Rainer Hoess.  Used with permission.  All quotes and material is owned by Debauchery Soup/Amanda Hoskins.)

There is such good …

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I find myself from time to time almost pleading Earths case to God.

I’ll share with you my nightly prayers.  I always say “Thank you.” I always end with “God bless all those in my heart, on my mind and in the world, Amen.”

The meat of my prayers is usually me asking for guidance –  praying for strength in areas I’m lacking.

Sometimes I pray for more patience, the increased ability to love – to be tolerant.  I pray to know which path I should be taking.

When it’s a particularly sad news day though, when atrocities have been committed and we’re made aware of them – I don my humankind legal defense cap.

As if God doesn’t already know, I plead “God, there is such GOOD in the world too.”  As if I’m afraid he’s going to shut the whole event down because of evil.

I have a favorite quote, by W.H. Auden.

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table …”

I love that quote.  I love how the words feel coming out of my mouth  – how the thought provokes – the simple eloquence of it.

And it, for me, is truth.

I watched a documentary this morning called “Hitlers Children.” (If you have Netflix, it’s a streamable selection. )

One particular storyline resonated with me.

It was that of Rainer Hoess – grandson of Rudolf Hoess.

He looked at photographs of his father standing in the garden of the family home on the grounds of Auschwitz.  Other photos showed his grandfather in that same back yard.

Later in the documentary, he took a trip to Auschwitz – his first one.

One of the questions he pondered, while staring at a photo of his father standing by the garden gate was, how could they not have known – not have seen?

He was afforded entry into that same garden and stood at that very garden gate.  The house was cleverly designed with no views of the crematorium – textured glass windows on the side of the house that might let some truth in.

The garden itself was surrounded by tall walls, offering only a glimpse of outlying buildings.

I wondered what it must have felt like to stand in that location.  To know that your lineage included a monster.  I didn’t need to wonder for long – when Rainer lost his composure, I did too.  I wept on the couch with this man who was riddled with guilt for a crime against humanity that he couldn’t possibly have anything to do with.

During the tour, he agreed to speak to a group.  He was nervous – understandably.  At one point, a holocaust survivor, from that camp, wanted to shake his hand.

My already wet cheeks were wet anew when this old man took his hand and told him, ‘you didn’t do this.’

They hugged and my heart wanted to burst.

There is good.

There is good everywhere if you look for it – take time to avert your eyes from your problems and worries and choose to see it!

On a personal note, I have a friend, who takes care of not only her grandchildren – but her bed ridden mother and her disabled brother and reached out to ME to offer ME help to send my son to England!  She is the epitome of selflessness to me.

She smiles and though she gets tired, she’s happy and grateful and is of service to others.

GOD!  There is SUCH good.

I’ll be praying tonight to be a part of that good.