Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust

By Carol Rittner; John K. Roth | Go to book overview

Part Two
VOICES OF INTERPRETATION

And when your throat is gagged, your bleeding cry suppressed, When brutal shackles bind your trembling arms, Oh let me be the voice that echoes down the shaft of all eternity, The hand stretched high to touch God's towering heaven.

GERTRUD KOLMAR

If Auschwitz was anus mundi, Berlin was where that "asshole of the world" began. During the summer of 1941, SS officer Rudolf Höss, who at the age of forty had been officially named commandant of Auschwitz on May 4, 1940, was summoned there to meet Heinrich Himmler, the SS commander in chief. Höss did not keep a daily Auschwitz diary, but while he was under investigation for war crimes in 1946-1947, he wrote an autobiography. Höss is vague about the exact time of his meeting with Himmler, but one probable date is July 29, 1941, two days before Hermann Göring officially ordered Reinhard Heydrich to lay plans for the "Final Solution."

Höss precisely recollects Himmler's directives to make Auschwitz a major extermination center to carry out the "Final Solution." Instructed to keep Himmler's orders "absolutely secret," he learned that Himmler expected him to take the steps necessary for the camp's expansion. 1 Immediately after their meeting, Höss returned to Auschwitz and got to work. Later that summer, Adolf Eichmann, the SS leader responsible for organizing Jewish transports to Auschwitz and other killing centers, met with him at the camp. "We discussed

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