I knew Hoess well. He did his duty at Auschwitz, as any other man would have done it. It was Hoess who once told me that Reichsführer Himmler, taking a personal look at the entire liquidating action, had declared that this was a bloody fight which our coming generations would need to fight no more. I valued Hoess as an excellent comrade and a very proper fellow. He was a good family man, and he held the Iron Cross from the first World War.
Since the war I have read that two and a half million Jews were physically liquidated under Hoess's command. I find this figure incredible. The capacity of the camp argues against it. Many of the Jews confined their were put on work details and survived. After the war the Auschwitzers sprouted like mushrooms out of the forest floor after a rain. Hundreds of thousands of them are today in the best of health.
Along with the liquidation camps we continued to maintain the ghetto system. I would not say I originated the ghetto system. That would would be to claim too great a distinction. The father of the ghetto system was the orthodox Jew, who wanted to remain by himself. In 1939, when we marched into Poland, we found a system of ghettos already in existence, begun and maintained by the Jews. We merely regulated these, sealed them off with walls and barbed wire and included even more Jews than were dwelling in them.
The assimilated Jew was of course very unhappy about being moved to a ghetto. But the Orthodox were pleased with the arrangement, as were the Zionists. The latter found ghettos a wonderful device for accustoming Jews to community living. Dr. Epstein from Berlin once said to me that Jewry was grateful for the chance I gave it to learn community life at the ghetto I founded at Theresienstadt, 40 miles from Prague. He said it made an excellent school for the future in Israel. The assimilated Jews found ghetto life degrading and non-Jews may have seen an unpleasant element of force in it. But basically most Jews feel well and happy in their ghetto life, which cultivates their peculiar sense of unity.
June 7, 1998