Reading anything Holocaust-related is emotionally difficult. Reading the riveting, recently published Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding, is no different. Yet, something sets this book apart. I read it in one sitting this past Sunday.
Echoing the style of another riveting book, Lawrence and Aaronsohn by Ronald Florence, Hanns and Rudolf is a dual biography, interweaving the personal stories of Nazi SS officer Rudolf Hoss (whose name is spelled in various ways) and a Jewish German turned captain in the British army, Hanns Alexander. The books leads up to the convergence of these two parallel lives.
Although the book is researched meticulously and is a historical record, it is a history veiled as a series of vignettes with the pace of a thriller, even though you know in advance what the outcome will be.
The contrast of two men, who dedicated their lives to precise opposites, is a striking dichotomy. Here are two biographies side by side, one of a Nazi sadist, a mass murderer, and the other of a German Jew caught in the clutches of pre-Holocaust Germany who escapes in the nick of time. He returns to Germany one final time, this time not as a refugee, but as a Nazi hunter for the British.
As soon as I completed the book, I thought to myself: This might just be another “Schindler’s List” in the making. I became curious about the Nazi in the book, Rudolf Hoss, kommandant of Auschwitz, under whose watchful eye the final solution was systematically carried out.