Holocaust

Rudolf Hess’ Grandson: "If I Met my Grandfather Today, I Would Kill Him"

The young Israelis visiting Auschwitz had a life altering meeting with Reiner Hess, grandson of Auschwitz camp commander Rudolf Hess.

| 24.04.17 | 01:47
Rudolf Hess’ Grandson: If I Met my Grandfather Today, I Would Kill Him
Hess's villa is right next to the camp. Reiner Hess wants to hear more and more testimonies, to learn more and more about the suffering the Jews experienced here. “I cannot forgive him for the burden he brought to our lives,” Hess said in an interview to the British newspaper The Telegraph. "We had to carry a very heavy cross throughout our lives."
 
Suddenly Reiner pulls an old, worn photograph out of his pocket. A small toddler is standing, the famous camp gate with the caption ‘Work Makes Free’ behind him. This toddler would later grow up and discover horrible things about the camp with the 'innocent' gate in the picture.
 
Hess walks with the Israeli student’s delegation to the museum that was built there, and pauses to look at the pile of shoes of those who were killed. There are tens of thousands of shoes from adults and children, who were murdered, massacred just because they were Jews.

torah portion

"The camp commander's grandson, Reiner Hess, is here with us," the tour guide told the shocked delegation. "Who wants to ask him a question?"

Hess stands before the young men poker faced, waiting for questions. First a girl gets up, tries to ask a question but bursts into uncontrollable crying and leaves the room. Then silence. Then one boy gets up and asks, "If you met your grandfather today, what would you do?"

"I would have killed him," he spews out, his expression full of disgust and hatred for his grandfather.
 
Reiner only found out about his cruel grandfather's past by chance through a Holocaust survivor. "My father forced my mother and me to admire Rudolph. By the age of 12 I still had no idea that he was one of the greatest criminals in human history," he says. "Father forced us to treat him as a hero, and every time we wanted to rebel, Father would punish us. The house was a dictatorship, and we were not allowed to disagree with my father."
 
On my first visit to Auschwitz: "The night before, I could not sleep"
 
One day he and his friends were caught stealing food from the school kitchen. As punishment, the schoolmaster sent him to work in the school garden. Unfortunately for him, the school's gardener was a survivor of Auschwitz. When this survivor found out he was dealing with the camp commandant’s grandson, he seized the opportunity and would hit him whenever possible claiming he didn’t do good work.
 
This lasted for three months, until Reiner told one of the teachers about it. It was then he learned the bitter truth about his grandfather and the terrible crimes he committed against the camp prisoners. As a small illustration of his evil; Hess ordered his subordinates to execute 20,000 people daily before retiring to lunch at his villa.

weekly torah portionReiner Hess Today  Twitter Photo 

At the age of 16, when he could no longer tolerate his father’s dictatorship and the stories about his grandfather, he left the house and cut ties with all his family members who called him a ‘traitor’. For years he considered visiting the Auschwitz extermination camp, but only in 2009, with his mother and a pair of journalists who documented the event, he dared to visit. "I will never forget this visit forever," he later said. "The night before, I could not sleep; I walked around the room, looking for excuses not to go. But the curiosity overwhelmed me, I wanted to see with my own eyes and feel Auschwitz, even though going there was difficult and frightening."
 
After visiting Auschwitz, he became an activist against the extreme right and neo-Nazi movements in Germany. He regularly visits 70 schools in Germany every year, lecturing on racism. He talks about the Holocaust and its many victims murdered by no fault of their own, courtesy of his grandfather. "I don’t miss any opportunity to fight the extremist right-wing organizations, and I don’t fear them ... All of the extreme right parties are just like the Nazis," he says today.
 
"Their ideology is the same, and they use terrible expressions to convince the young generation that minorities are stealing their jobs. This is the same as what the Nazis did to the Jews, but now they talking not just about Jews but about a much larger target. They spread their hate quietly. They are much more organized than Hitler's Nazi Germany, and I think other countries have not learned anything from the past, "he concluded.
 
 
 
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