Blog Archives

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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Musings from the Laundromat: Website Edition

I got here later than usual – and as a result, I have a lot more company.

I am at a table completely foreign to me – exposed in the middle of the room. I prefer to face the door with no one behind me.  I don’t like the sensation that someone could be reading over my shoulder.  (Which is odd when you consider that what I’m writing I publish for all to see.)

I am finding myself even missing the giant rainbow umbrella table!

I am in uncharted laundry waters.

Here is my view:

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Have to say, I much prefer my laundry basket to those in front of me:

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Back to uncharted waters.

I spent most of yesterday and the night – creating a website.  At this point, as I sit at my strange little exposed table I am feeling bonkers.com

Other than this site, I have never created a website before – and when it is for something as important as the subject I was presenting, the stress multiplies.

Somehow, with the help of clickable question marks and trial and error – I got it up and running.

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Of course, there is always tweaking to be done.  Things you notice the next day when your eyes and brain have rested.

After getting more feedback and translations from Rainer,  I went back to the desk and edited.

You know, there are some words that can turn your blood to ice in your veins, and I can testify that some of those words are: “Unable to Save.”

After my initial palpitations and cursing in my head – I switched to logical mode and tried to solve the problem.

Shut down, restart.  Nope.  Try Chrome instead of Firefox. Nope.  Update Chrome because you’ve been ignoring all the ‘update’ messages for a very long time now.  Nope. Shut down, restart again.

I came to the conclusion that the issue must be with the site and not with me.  And I am hoping this is not an indication of their servers.  The domain is claimed – the site created – so if editing is a recurring problem, that will not be good.  I will have to take the domain name elsewhere.

Without further ado: I now present to you, in all it’s ‘not completely edited’ glory:

http://www.daserbedeskommandanten.com

In all seriousness – it is the website for Rainer’s book.  It will be available next year in English.  The German version is available now.

It is so VERY important that we do not forget!  History has a way of repeating itself, personally and globally, when we do not learn from the past!

The book recounts the past and answers frequently asked questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ Rainer continues to do what he does.

Speaking out against your family for the right reasons is brave – and good.

As I said to Rainer: ‘Remember, there is such GOOD.’

And I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to play a small part in it.

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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