Rudolf Hoess Testimony
I, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess, having been duly sworn in, state and declare as follows:
1. I am 46 years old and member of the Nazi party since 1922, member of the SS since 1934; member of the SS-in-arms since 1939. I was, from December 1, 1934, a member of the SS-Wachverband, the so-called skull unit.
2. Since 1934 I was continuously busy in the administration of concentration camps and did service in Dachau until 1938; then as adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 until May 1, 1940, at which time I was appointed as commander of Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz up to December 1, 1943 and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were put to death and exterminated there through gassing and burning; at least a further half million died through hunger and sickness, which amounts to a total number of approximately 3,000,000 dead. This number represents approximately 70 or 80 percent of all persons who were sent to Auschwitz as prisoners; the others were selected and used for slave labor in the industries of the concentration camp. Among the executed and cremated persons were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (who earlier were singled out by the Gestapo from the jails of the war prisoners); these were delivered into Auschwitz on the Wehrmacht transports, which were commanded by the regular officers and men of the Wehrmacht. The rest of the entire number of victims contained approximately 100,000 German Jews and a large number of inhabitants, mostly Jews, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece or other lands. Approximately 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone were executed by us in Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.
4. Mass executions through gassing began in the course of the summer, 1941, and continued up to the fall, 1944. I personally supervised the executions in Auschwitz up to December 1, 1943… All mass executions by gassing took place under the direct order, under the supervision and responsibility of the RSHA. I received all orders for the carrying out of these mass executions directly from the RSHA.
6. The “final solution” of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I had the order to produce extermination facilities in Auschwitz in June 1942. At that time three further annihilation camps already existed in the general government: Belzec, Treblinka and Wolzek. These camps found themselves under the mission command of the security police and the SD. I visited Treblinka in order to determine how the annihilations were carried out. The camp commander of Treblinka said to me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of a half year. He had mainly to do with the liquidation of all Jews from the Warsaw ghetto. He used monoxide gas and according to his opinion his methods were not very effective. When I built the annihilation building in Auschwitz, I therefore used Zyklon B, a crystallized hydrocyanic acid, which we threw into the death chamber through a small opening. It took 3 to 15 minutes, depending on the climatic conditions, in order to kill the people in the death chamber. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We waited usually a half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were brought forth, our special commandos took off the rings and pulled the gold out of the teeth of the bodies.
7. One other improvement as compared to Treblinka was that we built gas chambers which could hold 2000 people at once, while the 10 gas chambers in Treblinka held only 200 people each. The method and manner how we chose our victims was as follows: two SS doctors were busy in Auschwitz in order to look over the arriving prisoner transports. The prisoners had to pass by one of the doctors, who pronounced the verdict by a sign in their march past. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. The others were immediately sent into the annihilation installations. Children of a tender age were indiscriminately destroyed since on the basis of their youth they were unfit to work. Still one other improvement, which we made opposite Treblinka, was the one that in Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were supposed to be annihilated, while in Auschwitz we strove to keep the victims unknowing in that they believed that they had to undergo a delousing procedure. Of course they also often recognized our true intentions and we therefore had sometimes rebellion and difficulties. Very often women wanted to hide their children under their clothes, but when we found them, the children were, of course, sent in to destruction. We were supposed to carry out these annihilations in secret, but the rotten and nauseainducing stench, which went out from the uninterrupted burning of bodies, permeated the whole region, and all the people who lived in the surrounding communities knew that annihilations were in progress in Auschwitz.
The foregoing statements are true; this explanation I have given voluntarily and without coercion. After reading through the statements I have signed and ratified the same in Nuremberg, Germany, on the 5th day of April, 1946.
Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess
From “Der Kommandant von Auschwitz erzaehlt,” in _Das Dritte Reich und die Juden_, edited by Leon Poliakov and Josef Wulf. Berlin Grunewald, Verlag-GmbH, 1955.