Who was Rudolf Hoess?

according to Wikipedia:

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss (represented in German as Höß, also sometimes spelledHoeß, or Hoess) (25 November 1901[1][2] – 16 April 1947) was an SSObersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel). Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and the SS in 1934. From 4 May 1940 to November 1943, and again from 8 May 1944 to 18 January 1945, he was the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, where it is estimated that more than a million people were killed.[3][4] He was hanged in 1947 following a trial in Warsaw.

Four days before he was executed, Höss acknowledged the enormity of his crimes in a message to the state prosecutor:

“My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the ‘Third Reich’ for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.”

His grandson Rainer Hoess has come out publicly in opposition to his family’s past, going so far as to tattoo a Star of David and the prisoner identification number on his chest of his Jewish adopted ‘grandma’ Eva Mozes Kor. And he campaigns against neo-Nazis and the rise of the far right as you can see in this video.

Read more about Rainer and his planned visit to the 70th anniversary commemorations at Auschwitz on 27 January 2015 in this article:


Understanding the Nuremberg Laws

I have studied these progressively more restrictive laws in the past.  Until now I didn’t understand that one of the Nazis’ goals was voluntary emigration…. while it might still have been possible.

The following is excerpted wholly from the Holocaust Educational Trust’s excellent ’70 Voice for 70 Days’ website and mobile app.


January 27, 2015

Throughout the 1930s, German Jews were subjected to ever increasing legal persecution. The most important legislation came in the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935 which stripped Jews of the rights of German citizens and prevented marriage to non-Jews. However, as the following examples of laws show, persecution could affect any area of life.

10 July 1935
The establishment of Jewish youth hostels is allowed only if they are not adjacent to other institutions or residences and the police have the possibility of easy access for the purpose of supervision. Jewish campsites are forbidden except when they are established on land belonging to Jews and are not located in the vicinity of non-Jewish residences. Hiking by Jewish youth groups of more than 20 is forbidden.

3 April 1936
Appointment as a vet shall be refused if the candidate cannot be an official because of his or his spouse’s ancestry.

22 March 1938
Only honourable racial comrades who, as well as their wives, are citizens of the German Reich of German or kindred blood, can become allotment gardeners.

27 July 1938
If they have not already been so, all streets or lanes named after Jews or half-Jews are to be renamed. Old street signs are to be removed at the same time with the placement of new signs.

The anti-Jewish laws were intended to make life in Germany so uncomfortable that Jews would emigrate. However, by 1938 a growing number of Nazis believed that more radical action was needed to force Jews out of Germany.

HET day 8 picture of boy

Photo: a young German Jewish boy in a garden, 1930s; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ralph Blumenthal

Laws: Joseph Walk (ed.), Das Sonderrecht für die Juden im NS-Staat : eine Sammlung der gesetzlichen Massnahmen und Richtlinien (C.F. Müller, 1981)


forced walks now live!

item provided by Lorna Brunstein and Richard White:
Tuesday 27 January was Holocaust Memorial Day, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. As part of the events we launched Forced Walks: Honouring Esther, a walking arts project. We presented the project concept at 44AD Gallery, Bath, where we will be exhibiting documentation from the walk and new work produced in response to it. Although we are still desperately short of cash, the project is now live:

Over the coming two months the project will develop, generating and connecting local human rights resonances. We are especially keen to hear from veterans of the soldiers who liberated the death camp at Belsen and their descendants, as well as local historians, migrants and exiles interested in this walking witness and creative exploration of exile and belonging.

We walk on April 14 and 15 arriving at the Old Jewish Burial Ground, Coombe Down, Bath, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen by the British Army. We will walk on rights of way as close as possible to the transposed line and conduct interventions where our walk intersects that line. We plan for an intimate participatory and performative walk gathering sounds and images, pausing to reflect and share with the world. We will use smart devices and social networking as well as talk and bits of paper! If this is successful we plan to repeat the walk on its 71st anniversary, in early February on the actual route in Germany.

In order to deliver the project as we imagine it we need drivers and stewards and non walkers to support us on the day, as well as social network users who can actively spread the words and images we will generate. If you would be interested in supporting this project in any way please express your interest on the blog site here, there is a contact form at the bottom of the home page:

We are hugely grateful for support in kind from Bath Spa University and the kindness of many colleagues. If you would like to back the project even by a small amount follow this link:

Donation Page

If you would like to physically join the walk, numbers are strictly limited, so you will need to formally register by following this link:

Walker Registration

Forced Walks image


Commemorations taking place in France this week

Each country will feel different and have a different national context this week for commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago tomorrow, and Holocaust Memorial Day more generally.

I imagine that in France and Belgium where I have lived, the national narrative about Jewish people and the Holocaust will be quite different, and possibly quite a bit more difficult, than here in the UK because of the very different national context for Jewish people. Here in the UK teaching the Holocaust is embedded in the national curriculum, statements of commitment to Holocaust education have come from our national leaders, and a national charity (the HMD Trust, annually provides civic, school and faith organisations with resources with which to organise commemorations.

France have the Fondation Pour La Memoire de la Shoah and the national commemoration tomorrow will be addressed by President Francois Hollande at 9 am. At 6 pm, members of the Association of Auschwitz Survivors will light a memorial flame under the Arc de Triomphe.

“Nous sommes avec vous de tout coeur,” say we in Bristol to them in France.


‘Night Will Fall’

And fall it did, when British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen in Germany on 15 April 1945.

This documentary of the footage that was filmed at the time, how it was suppressed, and subsequently revisited in the 1980s makes difficult viewing.

Here in Bristol, we will be seeing it at The Watershed Cinema on Sunday April 19th, as part of our series of HMD-linked events. It will be introduced by Professor Tim Cole, historian from the University of Bristol.


Keeping the memory alive

What does it mean to ‘keep the memory alive’? Whose memories, of what, and with what medium?

Well, some clever people at the national charity Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, ( wrestled with these questions and what they came up with was a stroke of genius.

What they did was to pair up a Holocaust survivor with a British artist — of words, paint, clay, etc. The suvivor told his or her story and the artist created a response to that story which… will help to KEEP THE MEMORY ALIVE.

When it was announced in November 2014, this was the headline:

Stephen Fry and British artists encourage you to share the powerful stories of survivors and Keep the memory alive for Holocaust Memorial Day 2015. – See more at:



poem ‘Welcome to Auschwitz’

The New Zealand war poet, Mike Subrizky, visited Auschwitz and wrote this moving poem about his experiences.

Bristol HMD steering group member Eva Fielding-Jackson wrote to Mike asking permission to use it and appears at the bottom of this page interpreting it in British Sign Language (BSL).


“Welcome to Auschwitz.” The survivor said.
A paradox really, he’s a Christian and his name is Stanislaus.

I step down from the bus and blink into the kaleidoscope
of a dappled morning sunlight. Nothing has changed!
It is all still there! Just like the photographs taken by the Home Army.

No bodies, but the awful presence of death,
enormous death, 10 kilometres of death.
Auschwitz 1 – A Slave Labour Camp
Auschwitz 2 – A Death Camp
Auschwitz 3 – A Chemical/Munitions Factory
Death envelopes me, engulfs me, enters my body
through my eyes, mouth and ears
whilst in the hedge-grove a song bird warbles;
Perhaps a blackbird or maybe a thrush.

I am afraid and the hyper-vigilance of the soldier returns.
I want my rifle, bayonet and combat gear.
“Jesus protect me.” I whisper

I stand beside Ada Steiner – Auschwitz No. 67082,
she is from Haifa and the blue wound on her forearm
is clearly visible. For her this is no visit,
she is returning to the nightmares of her childhood.
Stanislaus also bears the blue wound;
they nod and greet each other children who survived.
One a Jew and one a Christian.

“My dear Comrades!
I could not eliminate all lice
And Jews in one year.
But in the course of time,
And if you help me,
This end will be attained.”

So said Hans Frank,
Nazi Governor General of Poland.
Auschwitz, 10 kilometres of death;
A true monument to German Efficiency!

The gravel crunches beneath my feet
as we walk between the electric wires
and enter the gate – the sign reads
“Work Will Set You Free”
Another bloody paradox.

And all the while Stanislaus calls the numbers
eighty thousand Russians starved here.
Thirty thousand Poles; gassed mostly.
Two hundred and fifty thousand gypsies,
many thousands of political prisoners, mainly German.
And 2.5 million Jews.
“Zyklon B” at its very best.

January 27, 1945, and Liberation.
7000 starving inmates remain,
836,525 items of women’s clothing,
348,820 items of men’s clothing,
43,525 pairs of shoes, 460 artificial limbs,
7 tons of human hair and so he continues.
I see the mountain of children’s shoes,
and leave the warehouse as the tears begin to flow.

In the sunlight once more, I walk down the avenue
past the work-party gallows, towards the gas chamber
and the sole, remaining crematoria.
I hear the sound of gravel (and bone fragments) crunching underfoot,
and the warble of the songbirds nesting in the hedge-grove.
I will wash away the taste of death tonight
with a bottle of good Zubrowka vodka, and sing.
But I shall never forget this day,
or this place, or the murder that happened here. NEVER!


My life in ten pictures

A fascinating 30 minute interview by Sherrie Eugene with HMD Steering Group member Eva Fielding-Jackson who describes how she discovered age 14 that she was deaf, as were both of her parents, who were Holocaust survivors from Hungary. She describes sleeping rough in her second home country, Israel, and growing up to find herself in a new world.

This appears on the Made in Bristol TV channel (Sky 117, Virgin 159 and Freeview channel 8) on the 23rd of January 2015 and over the weekend that follows.