Hanns Alexander was the son of a wealthy German family who fled Berlin for London in the 1930s. Rudolf Höss was a farmer and soldier who became Kommandant of Auschwitz and oversaw the deaths of over a million people. In the aftermath of World War II, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen.
Lieutenant Hanns Alexander is one of the lead investigators, Rudolf Höss his most elusive target. In this book, Thomas Harding reveals for the very first time the full, exhilarating account of Höss' capture. Moving from the First World War to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s, to the horror of the concentration camps and the trials in Belsen and Nuremberg, it tells the story of two German men whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.
©2013 Thomas Harding (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
“A chilling portrait of the banality of evil” (Ben Macintyre, The Times Books of the Year)
“[an] extraordinary story...The tale of how he then doggedly tracked down Rudolf Hőss, the merciless commandant of Auschwitz is stunning - not just because it is so gripping, but because Harding interweaves Hanns’ life story fascinatingly with Hőss's... A compelling, remarkable picture of war and its aftermath.” (The Sunday Times Books of the Year)
“Harding sketches the parallel lives of the SS officer with notable skill. The book is a moving reminder of what an extraordinary amount Britain gained by the Jewish flight from Europe in the 1930s.” (Max Hastings, Guardian Books of the Year)
“Hanns and Rudolf tells the mesmeric tale of his uncle's hunt for an arch perpetrator of the Jewish Holocaust.” (John le Carré, Telegraph Books of the Year)
“This superlative look at two men - one, Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz; the other, Hanns Alexander, the man who arrested him - makes for uncomfortable, but essential reading.” (Stuart Evers, Netgalley Books of the Year)
“The detective story approach worked well in Thomas Harding's Hanns and Rudolf” (Ben Shephard, Observer History Books of the Year)
“An unexpected delight... It is amazingly well researched, resists judgement, and above all is an utterly compelling read.” (David Shrigley, New Statesman Books of the Year)
Parallel narratives between the rise and fall of Rudolf Hoess, infamous commandant of Auschwitz and the fall and rise of the Jewish refugee who led the hunt converge in the Nazi's ultimate capture. Hoess' tale has been told before but the story of his pursuer, a distant relative of the author, adds a fatalistic element. Will appeal to those with an interest in the how the Nazi war criminals we're brought to justice as well as those who like a decent true life detective story.
The fate of Hoess won't come as a surprise but the pursuit and how he was captured might. The fact that Hans was a relative of the author and how this impacted him brings a nice personal element to the telling.
Hans' backstory and the subtle reminder that the generation who lived to tell this tale will soon no longer be with us.
I enjoyed it. There are some interesting and suspenseful elements in Hoess' evasion and pursuit. My one complaint is that as heroic as Hans was and as vile as Hoess was, it was Hoess' narrative line that was more compelling and interesting sad to say.
"Moving, shocking and completely absorbing"
Definitely one of the best things I've listened to this year, its part historical, part thriller, part biography...... Its the entwining of the lives of two extraordinary people (extraordinary for very different reasons) that make this book so mesmerising. It really gives a sense of scale to the evil that is within living memory.
This book sheds extraordinary light on the mind of the mass executioner of the Holocaust. It is subtle, balanced, at times so 'reasonable' as to almost carry the reader along with the flawed and appalling rationale for the attempted extermination of the Jews. A compelling and genuinely fresh perspective on a chapter in history that should never be forgotten. Exquisitely read with no unnecessary sensationalism.
"A must listen."
A moving and fascinating account of the capture of the Kommandant of Auschwitz. It's very well written and read, the horrors of concentration camp life and the fear of Nazi suppression are dealt with delicately but factually. Frankly, this story needs to be heard by as many individuals as possible. After listening to this on audiobook, I felt compelled for the first time to write a review. Highly recommended.
"Spellbinding Thriller...And All True"
I would listen again to pick up facts I may have missed on first hearing.
I would compare it to Ben McIntyre's books about espionage in the Second World War. Equally compelling and informative.
He read with conviction and empathy. And he kept the narrative going, never calling attention to himself, allowing the author's voice to come through.
This is an exemplary audiobook.
"Excellent historical book"
One of my favourite factual books
Hitlers furies along similar lines although I preferred hans & rudolf
Definitely one of sadness and interest
Worth a read
"Great story of WWII parallel lives"
Tells the story of two families, one jewish and the other a concentration camp commanders and about there lives before, during and after WWII. Fascinating insight into two very different Germans paths crossed at the end of the war.
interesting and factual which brought to life the struggle of jewish families to escape nazi Germany and how those left behind had to live in constant fear of being sent to concentration camps.
Reading was good compared with some non fiction books which can be heard to follow because of the use of facts and no personal feelings, but Mark Meadows with the help of a well written book made it easy to get inside the characters.
The story of the Torah is moving and made me find out some more information about is history.
"Familiar story well told"
Many aspects of Nazi Germany are fairly familiar however this was a very new angle and it was so interesting. I happened to listen to this book around remembrance day, it was a very timely reminder of the appalling horror that was inflicted on very ordinary families and how it changed their lives for ever in the most brutal way possible. The narration is quite deadpan - almost journalistic style. This grated on me at first but as I got caught up in the compelling story it faded and I'm very glad I persevered. A story we should all know.
Ive not read it
It was interesting throughout. What you read in the blurb does happen but although it happens towards the end of the book, it remains thoroughly interesting throughout. I pause before using the word "enjoy" to describe a book of this context but i did. It had humour bits (early pranks) and does a wonderful job of showing how two different people ended up where they did without being judgmental. It makes you think about the wars and soldiers today, although i am making this book sound dull, it is not.
This must be made into a film or at least inspire the writing of one. Possibly about rudolf's wife. We see them struggling, with rags on their feet, people hating them when they walk around (in a "we need to talk about kevin" esq way) the plot is slowly revealed through flash backs and makes us reconsider our sympathy.
If my film idea happens. Id like a credit: jonathan r brock.
This is a very well written and narrated account, part biography with historical facts rolled into one, its exceptionally well organised I like how the human elements of the main characters backgrounds are fully explained, how the events unfold. With the background of the captors and captives so well portrayed early on in the book, it made it all much more real even though we know this story to all be very real, listening to it like this with each set of characters having their own sections then intertwined together made it all very easy to listen to. I found it difficult to stop listening each time I had to stop for a bit to go do something else like work!
the way in which the Kommandant's own journals are used to portray his madness, at first he seems like such an ordinary man, father and husband but as the factual story develops it becomes clear that there is a very fine line between madness and sanity, even the most horrendous crimes were self deluded into normality for himself.
brings the characters of the captors to live beautifully
parts of it made me feel uneasy despite already knowing the history, the reader adds the element of vocal emotional inducing audio which would be missing had I just read the book
definitely well worth a listen, gives a real insight into before, during and after the horrors of world war two.
"Refreshingly Real, Gripping and Moving"
The story of two men, born in Germany and growing up in the 1930's is captivating. The story puts you there, within the time and place. You learn not to be judgemental but to follow the lives of these two individuals as they find themselves in extreme circumstances or the 'events' of history.
The story is very moving and thought-provoking.
I had no favourite character but could feel empathy for both of the main characters.
I was interested in the description of the lives of the two main characters, Hanns and Rudolph, as children and as young men; and the story of how the times, the place and the circumstances we are born in to shape our lives.
I was gripped by this book and listened to it all from beginning to end. I listened to it again the next day and shall enjoy listening to it again.
A wonderful book.
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