Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects, News & Relevant Topics, Social Issues & Politics, The World Wars

The Repentance of Rudolf Höss

Let’s get political again, sort of. It’s not new for the internet to be flooded with posts and articles comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler (and you can bet that even more will follow soon enough), all the way down to how the two of them saluted the cheering crowd as I’ve found below and just a quick Google search of Hitler salute will give you an equal amount of Trump pictures:

Anyway, in one article there was a mention of Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz. I found this interesting for several reasons; the first being that Trump’s highly controversial (and currently banned) executive order was passed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27th 2017), which also happens to be the day that Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops. While I don’t believe that Trump is Hitler 2.0 his racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and nationalistic policies did send me on one epic rant about two weeks ago and hundreds of nasty Tweets.

I want to take a moment to comment on that since at one point I seemed to imply that Trump might as well create Auschwitz 2.0 if he can’t purge the unwanted immigrants from his country but I want to make it clear that I do not believe such a thing. There are mechanisms in place to prevent this type of genocide from happening in America no matter what the circumstances, but World War III could still start tomorrow! Such posts are also increasing in my news feed and while I do my best to believe that politicians aren’t stupid enough to repeat the disaster my grandparents survived, the cold hard truth is that even a small conflict can quickly get out of control and have large-scale catastrophic impacts. I sure hope that the world is overreacting on most issues, but I honestly do not know of a single person that doesn’t experience some degree of anxiety regarding these uncertain times.

I’ve calmed down considerably since my previous rant, but my opinion on the issue hasn’t changed. Not wanting immigrants is one thing, but getting rid of your green card holders (permanent residents) and separating families is taking it to a whole other level. The last I’ve heard though, the green card thing was dropped, but I don’t know about the rest. I’m just as confused as everybody else. As others have put it on social media, je suis sick of this shit.

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So much for writing about what I originally came here to write… I don’t know where I’m going with this post anymore. I originally wanted to respond to a political rant I saw elsewhere on the internet that mentioned Rudolf Höss, which mentioned his repentance, but I’ve gone way off-topic. What I was getting at is that I was honestly surprised that he would actually ever have a shred of remorse considering the way he’s always been portrayed in films about Auschwitz. In another twist to this story though, I began a reading challenge with a group of friends and one of the topics is a book written by a criminal and my friend who organized the group recommended Death Dealer written by none other than Rudolf himself. He ends his autobiography with the following words:

May the public continue to see in me the bloodthirsty beast, the cruel sadist, the murderer of millions – for the majority of people would not be able to imagine the Commander of Auschwitz in any other way. The broad mass of people will never understand that he also had a heart, that he wasn’t evil.

Aside from being one of the most chilling books I’ve ever read, his autobiography frustrated me deeply exactly because of the way he ended it. He wrote just before that paragraph that he was shown kindness in prison and broke him, and that he chose to deliberately omit the sections of his book that would portray him having a heart. The reason that frustrated me is that now I’m extremely curious to know who “Rudolf with a heart” actually was but he deliberately took that part to his grave. I know that the world isn’t black and white, but Death Dealer left out the shades of grey in between. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars and I recommend anyone reading this to read it too.

A Catholic priest named Manfred Deselaers also wrote a book based on Rudolf’s autobiography exploring the issue of evil from a theological point of view. Even as a Muslim, I found it very enlightening and well-written. Whether you are Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or something else, the concept of evil is something that touches all of us. That is also a book I would recommend. A third one that I’ve read (during my stint in the hospital I’ve had a lot of time to indulge in books) was Kolbe and the Kommandant written by Ladislaus Kluz in which Rudolf further elaborates on his repentance shortly before his execution:

My conscience is forcing me to make also the following assertion: In the isolation prison I have reached the bitter understanding of the terrible crimes I have committed against humanity. As a Kommandant of the extermination camp at Auschwitz, I have realized my part in the monstrous genocide plans of the Third Reich. By this means I caused humanity and mankind the greatest harm, and I brought unspeakable suffering particularly to the Polish nation. For my responsibility, I am now paying with my life. Oh, that God would forgive me my deeds! People of Poland, I beg you to forgive me! Just now in the Polish prisons have I recognized what humanity really is. In spite of everything that happened I have been treated humanely, which I had never expected, and this has made me feel deeply ashamed. Would to God…that the fact of disclosing and confirming those monstrous crimes against mankind and humanity may prevent for all future ages even the premises leading to such horrible events.

Naturally some people will never accept his plea for forgiveness, but I thought it was pretty powerful and even more so since I never would’ve expected something like that from someone like him. Honestly, it restores my faith in humanity in these tumultuous times to read something like that. If only we only opened our hearts more to the people that around us and their needs, and to focus more on being guided by warmth and by humanity, as Rudolf put it in his final letter to his eldest son. If the greatest mass murderer in history can come to understand this, why can’t we?

I will ask again, have we learned nothing from history? Why do our societies still thrive on hatred and bigotry? Why do we still elect officials that promote these ideologies? Many of my American friends tell me, “oh you’re Canadian you don’t understand American’s history,” and while that may be true to some degree, it doesn’t change the fact that this isn’t an American problem, it’s a humanity problem.

So what’s the point of this post? Have humanity. It’s free.

Author:

Liberal Muslim, social justice and human rights activist, cat lover, author and fellow human.

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