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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
While awaiting trial in Poland between 1946-47, Rudolf Höss, the man referred to as the greatest mass murderer in history, wrote his memoirs. Höss systemically executed 1.1 million men, women, and children with a chilling lack of empathy or culpability. As the prisoners entered the camp, only 20%-30% of them would survive the first day. Throughout his account of the atrocities, Höss denied any involvement in the mistreatment of prisoners, simply stating he was following orders regarding Hitler's Final Solution. Architect of Death at Auschwitz by John W Primomo is a detailed analysis of Höss's journals as well as accounts from Auschwitz survivors. How did a young boy who was destined to enter the priesthood become the head of all the Nazi death camps and develop such a warped mentality regarding human life? Discover what instigated Hitler's hatred of the Jewish people and where the infamous sign on the entrance of Auschwitz, 'Arbeit Macht Frei,' derives from.
The content of this well-written book is extremely disturbing but absolutely compelling. The accounts from the survivors of the concentration camps regarding the treatment and torture will stay with me always. The book is extremely well researched and includes details about the prisoners' degradation, torture, and humiliation that I was unaware of. The accounts of the standing cells, dusting out the cells, and roll calls were particularly horrendous. Höss's attempt to exonerate himself and paint himself as an innocent bystander was astounding. Architect of Death at Auschwitz by John W Primomo is an excellent in-depth look at how humanity can turn on one another to survive; the behavior of the Sonderkommandos is a perfect example of this. Höss's narcissist attitude left me speechless throughout; his pride in deceiving those as they entered the gas chamber, his belief he was just following orders, and the lack of empathy for anyone but himself. This analysis of Höss from childhood to execution is a superb, non-biased factual account that dissects Höss's memoir and highlights the inconsistencies such as his belief that he was powerless to stop the atrocities. Joseph Stalin regarding the mass murder once said, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”