Rudolf Höss Biography

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss, a German Schutzstaffel official and war criminal, is infamous for his role as the commandant of Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp during the Nazi era. He implemented various methods, including the use of the deadly pesticide Zyklon B, to expedite Hitler’s “Final Solution” and systematically eradicate the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe. Raised with a strong sense of duty, Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and later became a member of the SS in 1934. He oversaw the killings of over a million people before being captured by British forces in 1946. Höss was subsequently tried, sentenced to death, and executed in 1947. During his imprisonment, he wrote his memoir, ‘Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess’.

Quick Facts

  • German Celebrities Born In November
  • Also Known As: Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höß
  • Died At Age: 45
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Hedwig Hensel (m. 1929)
    • Father: Franz Xaver Höss
    • Mother: Lina Speck
    • Children: Annegret Höss, Hans-Rudolf Höss, Heidetraut Höss, Ingebrigitt Höss, Klaus Höss
  • Born Country: Germany
  • War Criminals
  • Military Leaders
  • Died on: April 16, 1947
  • Place of death: Oswiecim, Poland

Childhood & Early Life

Rudolf Höss was born on November 25, 1901, in Baden-Baden, Grand Duchy of Baden, German Empire. He was the eldest of three children born to Lina and Franz Xaver Höss. He had two younger sisters. His father, a former army officer, raised him with strict religious principles and military discipline. Höss was baptized Rudolf Franz Ferdinand on December 11, 1901.

Marriage and Family

On August 17, 1929, Höss married Hedwig Hensel. They had five children together: Klaus, Heidetraud, Inge-Brigitt, Hans-Juergen, and Annegret.

Initial Military Career

At the start of World War I, Höss briefly worked at a military hospital. At the age of 14, he joined the German Army’s 21st Regiment of Dragoons, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He fought in various battles and received several decorations for his bravery. After the war, he traveled through Romania before returning home to Bavaria.

Becoming a Nazi

After his return from the war, Höss joined nationalist paramilitary groups and became a member of the Nazi Party in 1922. In 1923, he was involved in the murder of a local schoolteacher and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was released in 1928 and became a member of the Artaman League. It was during this time that he met Heinrich Himmler.

Career in the Schutzstaffel

In 1934, Höss joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) and began working with the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death’s Head Units). He was deeply influenced by Himmler and rose through the ranks. In 1938, he joined the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as an adjutant. He later became part of the Waffen-SS and proved himself to be a competent officer.


In 1940, Höss was appointed as the commandant of Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. He served there for three and a half years and expanded the camp into a larger complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau. Initially, the camp housed Soviet prisoners-of-war and Polish prisoners. However, after a meeting with Himmler in 1941, Höss was informed that Auschwitz would be used for the extermination of Europe’s Jews. He implemented mass killing techniques, including the use of the pesticide Zyklon B.

Capture, Trial & Execution

As the war was ending, Höss evaded capture for nearly a year. He was eventually caught in 1946 and stood trial at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. He was later prosecuted by the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland and found guilty of war crimes. Höss was sentenced to death and hanged on April 16, 1947, in Auschwitz, Poland.

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