Hanns and Rudolf
Written by Thomas Harding
Publication Date September 14, 2013
Shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award.
Part history, part biography, part true crime, Hanns and Rudolf chronicles the untold story of the Jewish investigator who pursued and captured one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious war criminals.
May 1945. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. One of the lead investigators is Lieutenant Hanns Alexander, a German Jew now serving in the British Army. Rudolf Höss is his most elusive target. As Kommandant of Auschwitz, Höss not only oversaw the murder of more than one million men, women, and children, but he perfected Hitler’s programme of mass extermination. On the run across a continent in ruins, Höss is the one man whose testimony can ensure justice at Nuremberg.
Hanns and Rudolf reveals for the very first time the full, exhilarating account of Höss’s capture, an encounter with repercussions that echo to this day. Moving from the Middle-Eastern campaigns of the First World War to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s to the horror of the concentration camps and the trials in Belsen and Nuremberg, it tells the story of two German men — one Jewish, one Catholic — whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.
Short-listed for the Costa Biography Award 2013
Thomas Harding is a journalist who has written for the Financial Times, Sunday Times and the Guardian, among other publications. He co-founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning publisher of a newspaper in West Virginia. He lives in Hampshire, England.
"As the twentieth century recedes, especially for the newest generations, its horrific record of the German abduction and mass murder of entire European Jewish populations grows more and more remote. ‘Never again’ slides easily into ‘Let’s forget,’ and the criminally explicit inferno of Auschwitz melts into lazily generalizing abstraction (‘man’s inhumanity to man’). Yet Auschwitz-as-metaphor masks what Rudolf Höss, its overseer, speedily and savagely achieved: the industrialized annihilation of living Jewish families — children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents — even as in the very pit of atrocity he gaudily sentimentalized his own family. Thomas Harding’s Hanns and Rudolf not only declines to forget, but challenges and defies the empty sententiousness characteristic of those who privately admit to being ‘tired of hearing about the Holocaust.’ In this electrifying account of how a morally driven British Jewish soldier pursues and captures and brings to trial the turntail Kommandant of Auschwitz, Thomas Harding commemorates (and, for the tired, revivifies) a ringing Biblical injunction: Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue." Cynthia Ozick
"A gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history, a scrupulously dispassionate narrator." John le Carré
"A refreshingly human account of war. Hanns and Rudolf is a gripping, moving read, written with masterful research and endless compassion." Bookseller Magazine
"An extraordinary tale deriving from meticulous research - the story of how a Jew after 1945 almost single-handedly hunted down the Kommandant of Auschwitz." Frederick Forsyth, award-winning author of The Day of the Jackal
"...a well-told true story. Hanns and Rudolf is as absorbing as [David] Lodge, [John] Le Carré and [Jonathan] Freedland alledge." The Spectator
"...an enthralling, thoughtful book—part history, part biography, part thriller." Wall Street Journal
"...the standout book of the year for its ability to wring a series of emotions from the reader: shock, disgust, despair, excitement and relief." Star Tribune
"...a gripping tale..." Maclean's
"...compelling..." Globe and Mail
"...absorbing..." Winnipeg Free Press