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Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz
WINNER OF THE JQ WINGATE PRIZE 2015 SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD 'A gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history.' JOHN LE CARRÉ
Hanns Alexander was the son of a prosperous German family who fled Berlin for London in the 1930s.
Rudolf Höss was a farmer and soldier who became the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and oversaw the deaths of over a million men, women and children.
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. Lieutenant Hanns Alexander is one of the lead investigators, Rudolf Höss his most elusive target.
In this book Thomas Harding reveals for the very first time the full account of Höss’ capture. 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, Hanns and Rudolf tells the story of two German men whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.
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Thomas Harding has shed intriguing new light on the strange poison of Nazism, and one of its most lethal practitioners... Meticulously researched and deeply felt. - The Times, Book of the Week
Fascinating and moving...This is a remarkable book, which deserves a wide readership. - The Sunday Times
A gripping thriller, an unspeakable crime, an essential history. - John Le Carré
This is a stunning book...both chilling and deeply disturbing. It is also an utterly compelling and exhilarating account of one man's extraordinary hunt for the Kommandant of the most notorious death camp of all, Auschwitz-Birkenau. - James Holland
Only at his great uncle’s funeral in 2006 did Thomas Harding discover that Hanns Alexander, whose Jewish family fled to Britain from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, hunted down and captured Rudolf Höss, the ruthless commandant of Auschwitz, at the end of World War Two. By tracing the lives of these two men in parallel until their dramatic convergence in 1946, Harding puts the monstrous evil of the Final Solution in two specific but very different human contexts. The result is a compelling book full of unexpected revelations and insights, an authentic addition to our knowledge and understanding of this dark chapter in European history. No-one who starts reading it can fail to go on to the end. - David Lodge
In this electrifying account, Thomas Harding commemorates (and, for the tired, revivifies) a ringing Biblical injunction: Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue. - Cynthia Ozick
Its climax as thrilling as any wartime adventure story, Hanns and Rudolf is also a moral inquiry into an eternal question: what makes a man turn to evil? Closely researched and tautly written, this book sheds light on a remarkable and previously unknown aspect of the Holocaust - the moment when a Jew and one of the highest-ranking Nazis came face to face and history held its breath. - Jonathan Freedland
Absorbing ... Thomas Harding narrates, in careful, understated prose, the story of how his great uncle Hanns Alexander hunted down the man who vaingloriously identified himself as ‘the world’s greatest destroyer’: Rudolf Höss, the Bavarian-born Kommandant of Auschwitz.Harding balances with scrupulous care the stories of the pursuer and the pursued … Le Carré is quite correct. The last section of Harding’s book does indeed read like a gripping thriller. - Spectator
An extraordinary tale deriving from meticulous research – the story of how a young Jew after 1945 almost single-handedly hunted down the Kommandant of Auschwitz. - Frederick Forsyth
A highly readable detective story … This is really a book about the world of Hanns Alexander…[and it is] well worth reading ... Harding has researched it thoroughly. - Sunday Telegraph
A remarkable book: thoughtful, compelling and quite devastating in its humanity. Thomas Harding’s account of these two extraordinary men goes straight to the dark heart of Nazi Germany. - Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
A fascinating, well-crafted book, entwining two biographies for an unusual and illuminating approach to the history of the Third Reich, its most heinous crime and its aftermath. - Roger Moorhouse
This fascinating book, based on the gripping story of one man’s unrelenting pursuit of Rudolf Höss in his search for justice, confirms my belief that much of the most important knowledge of the Holocaust, comes from the personal accounts of those involved. Hanns and Rudolf vividly brings to life, not only the impact of Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies on the author’s German Jewish family, forced to flee Berlin in the 1930s; but shows how an ordinary German farmer became one of the most feared and notorious war criminals in history, implementing with chilling efficiency the extermination of over a million Jews in Auschwitz. As awareness of the full horror of these dark years continues to advance, this book fills a unique and vital role. - Lyn Smith, author of Heroes of the Holocaust
This important and moving book describes the unlikely intersection of two very different lives – that of Hanns Alexander, the son of a prosperous German family in Berlin who became a refugee in London in the 1930s, and Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Well-researched and grippingly written it provides a unique insight into the fate of Germany under National Socialism. - Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Brandeis University
Thomas Harding has written a book of two intersecting lives: His great uncle, a German Jew and potential Nazi victim, and Rudolf Höss, Kommandant of Auschwitz. In a neat historical irony, his uncle became a British officer who tracked down war criminals, including one of the world’s worst mass murderers. A fascinating account, with chunks of new information, about one of history's darkest chapters. - Richard Breitman, Author of The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and The Final Solution and Editor-in-chief of the U.S. Holocaust Museum's Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Written with the verve of a writer and the sure touch of an historian, Thomas Harding's Hanns and Rudolf is a fascinating, fresh, and compelling work of history. - Jay Winik
A vivid account of the pursuit of justice and what happened to two men who found themselves in the chaos of evil of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. - Sunday Business Post
Thomas Harding … tells the story with great verve. - Financial Times
An astonishing and moving story…[an] excellent book - Britain at War magazine
Remarkable … A beautifully balanced double biography, admirably measured but also gripping, which offers a fresh perspective on a much-examined subject - Good Book Guide
A remarkable book, which deserves a wide readership. - The Oldie
fascinating, intelligent, compelling, dramatic and intimate... The style is open, clear, forthright, and sprightly. It seeks – and finds – clarity at all times, whether to events or character, and delivers everything it manages to pick out of the private archives, classified documents and more just brilliantly. - The Bookbag
Hanns and Rudolf is a magnificent book. In an era where WWII is passing from living memory and into history, it offers both, and does so in a way which is spellbinding, poignant and harrowing. - Nudge Me Now
Harding builds a compelling, remarkable picture of war and its aftermath - Sunday Times
Hoss’s life is grimly fascinating … Hanns and Rudolf is written with a suppressed fury at the moral emptiness of men like him - The Times
About the Author
Thomas Harding is a journalist who has written for The Sunday Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian, among other publications. He 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.