Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim

Manfred Deselaers, God and evil in the biography of Rudolf Hoess

God and evil

in respect to the life and testimony of Rudolf Hoess,

commandant of Auschwitz

"Let the public continue to regard me as the bloodthirsty beast, the cruel sadist, the murderer of millions; for the masses could never imagine the commandant of Auschwitz in any other light. They could never understand that he, too, had a heart and that he was not evil." Rudolf Hoess, 1947.

This text pinpoints the central problem: Rudolf Hoess was neither an animal without conscience nor a bloodthirsty beast. His was not the irresponsibility of mental illness nor the cruelty of a sadist. However, he was the "murderer of millions", and the responsibility for his actions lay with his human heart. Only from this perspective can we ask if he was evil.

In this book Manfred Deselaers tries to tackle the above issues. The work is based on a dissertation written for the Catholik Academy of Theology in Krakow. It is entiteled God and evil in respect to the life and testimony of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz.

The author is a German Catholic priest in the diocese of Aachen. He is now working at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Auschwitz.

In the first part of this work, Father Deselaers presents a biografy of Rudolf Hoess which is based on original documents. He tries to assess the way in which Hoess saw himself.

Part two analyses the above mentioned documents from philosophical and theological viewpoints and is strongly influenced by the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. The facts of Hoess's life are considered in the context of the meaning of "God" and "evil". In childhood Hoess had a fanatical Catholic education, though he came from a seemingly balanced family. On leaving home, he became a Nazi and was eventually promoted to the post in Auschwitz. Finally, after the break-up of his National Socialist world, he returned to the Catholic faith.

This work discusses the relationship between ideology and conscience, an between fanatism and humanity. Most importantly, it considers the relationship between the evil in man and his belief in God who is love.

German original edition:

„Und Sie hatten nie Gewissensbisse?“: Die Biographie von Rudolf Höß, Kommandant von Auschwitz, und die Frage nach seiner Verantwortung vor Gott und den Menschen. 2., neubearbeitete Auflage. 424 Seiten. Leipzig: Benno-Verl., 2001. ISBN 3-7462-1474-2. 25,- €. Kontakt: service@st-benno.de

Polish edition:


Bóg a zło w świetle biografii i wypowiedzi Rudolfa Hössa komdentanta Auschwitz.

Przekład Juliusz Żychowicz. Kraków: WAM 1999. Kontakt: handel@wydawnictwowam.pl


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