Mira Foster
History 133Q
March 1, 2006

Discussion questions for Rudolf Hoess,
Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz

  1. 1. On pages 52-3 Höss describes an early traumatic experience in which his confessor broke the professional discretion and notified Höss' father about his son's misconduct. Why is this experience so traumatic for the young Höss? How can we understand and explain the impact of this incident on Höss later life? Why does he relate to this occurrence as to a fracture in his faith? (Is he perhaps indirectly trying to blame the confessor or even his father for the crimes with which he is charged as the Commandant of Auschwitz?)
  2. Höss is obsessed about cleanliness (p. 70) and yet he is the commandant of the most filthy and unhygienic human dwellings. He is deeply passionate and emotional about his first love encounter (p.58) and his wife (p.79), and yet he has no respect for women and mothers in the camp (p. 149). Höss seems to be furious when he hears about the man who "killed the maid with an axe, then murdered the wife, who was in her final month of pregnancy" (p.65) while he is responsible for the murder of Parchimer and later on for the death of thousands of innocent people. These types of dichotomies can be traced all though his memoirs. What do they reveal about his psyche? What kind of character did he display and how was he perceived my others? What kind of explanation, if any, did his psychologist Prof. Stanislaw Batawa provide?
  3. On p. 123 Höss describes his estrangement and withdrawal from his social surroundings due to disappointments and deception. Is it possible to verify his alienation? Do other sources, testimonies, etc. exist which could confirm his memoirs? Or is he retrospectively trying to find excuses for his inhumane behaviors?
  4. "In Auschwitz escape was not difficult" according to Höss (p. 128). How many prisoners at Auschwitz attempted an escape? How many succeeded? Do any records exist about/from those who escaped?
  5. Höss dedicates a chapter to a brief description of the Lebensborn program (p. 327f). How many houses for the expectant mothers exist and where? Since extramarital procreation was promoted on the men's side, what was the reaction and understanding on the women's side? Did the women consent to the extramarital activities/ pregnancies or was it mostly a matter of rape?

questions by Mira Foster, Mar. 1, 2006; prepared for web by H. Marcuse, Mar. 2, 2006; updated:
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