Modern History Sourcebook:
Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz:
Testimony at Nuremburg, 1946
Rudolf Hoess born in 1900, , joined the SS in 1933,
and eventually commanded the massive extermination center of Auschwitz,
whose name has come to symbolize humanity's ultimate descent into
evil. This is his signed testimony at the Post-War trials of Major
War Criminals held at Nuremburg.
1, RUDOLF FRANZ FERDINAND HOESS, being first duly sworn, depose
and say as follows:
1. 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
2. I have been constantly associated with the administration of
concentration camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938;
then as Adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 to 1 May, 1940, when
I was appointed Commandant of Auschwitz. l commanded Auschwitz
until 1 December,1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 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 3,000,000. This figure represents
about 70% or 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 burnt 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 1944.
4. Mass executions by gassing commenced during the summer 1941
and continued until fall 1944.1 personally supervised executions
at Auschwitz until the first of December 1943 and know by reason
of my continued duties in the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps
WVHA2 that these mass executions continued as stated above. All
mass executions by gassing took place under the direct order,
supervision and responsibility of RSHA.31 received all orders
for carrying out these mass executions directly from RSHA.
6. The "final solution" of the Jewish question meant
the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. l was ordered
to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in June 1941.
At that time there were already in the general govemment 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 onehalf 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, l used Cyclon B, which was a crystallized
Prussic Acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small
opening. It took from 3 to 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 onehalf hour before we opened the doors and
removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special
commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth
of the corpses.
7. Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built
our gas chambers to accommodate 2,000 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 .
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Rudolf Mildner was the chief of the Gestapo at Kattowicz and
as such was head of the political department at Auschwitz which
conducted third degree methods of interrogation from approximately
March 1941 until September 1943. As such, he frequently sent prisoners
to Auschwitz for incarceration or execution. He visited Auschwitz
on several occasions. The Gestapo Court, the SS Standgericht,
which tried persons accused of various crimes, such as escaping
Prisoners of War, etc., frequently met within Auschwitz, and Mildner
often attended the trial of such persons, who usually were executed
in Auschwitz following their sentence. l showed Mildner throughout
the extermination plant at Auschwitz and he was directly interested
in it since he had to send the Jews from his territory for execution
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 Nurnberg, Germany on the fifth day of April
Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess, "Affidavit, 5 April 1946,"
in Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International
Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 19451 October 1946 (Nuremberg: Secretariat of the International Military
Tribunal, 1949), Doc. 3868PS, vol. 33, 27579.
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997