Rudolf Höss was history's greatest mass murderer, the architect and SS Kommandant of the largest killing center ever created, the death camp Auschwitz, whose name has come to symbolize humanity's ultimate descent into evil. Responsible for exterminating 2,5 million people in World War II, he was a mild-mannered, happily married Catholic who enjoyed normal family life with his five children despite his view of the crematoria chimney stacks from his bedroom window.
Rudolf Höss joined the SS in 1933. In 1934 he was attached to the SS at Dachau, on August 1, 1938, he was adjutant of Sachsenhausen concentration camp until his appointment as Kommandant of to the newly-built camp at Auschwitz early 1940, located nearby the provincial Polish town of Oshwiecim in Galacia.
Rudolf Höss found that gassing by carbon monoxide, the recommended method, was inefficient and introduced the cyanide gas Zyklon B.
He later recalled: "The gassing was carried out in the detention cells of Block 11. Proctected by a gas mask, I watched the killing myself. In the crowded cells, death came instantaneously the moment the Zyklon B was thrown in. A short, almost smothered cry, and it was all over... I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon, and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain as to how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas and how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, and we had established a procedure."
In late 1943 Rudolf Höss was appointed chief inspector of the concentration camps and worked hard to improve the 'efficiency' of the other extermination centres. He performed his job so well that he was commended in a 1944 SS report that called him 'a true pioneer in this area because of his new ideas and educational methods.'
Rudolf Höss fled at the approach of the Red Army and went into hiding in Germany under the name Franz Lang. He was arrested by Allied military police in 1946, handed over to the Polish authorities, who tried him in 1947. He was sentenced to death, and returned to Auschwitz to be hanged on the one-person gallows outside the entrance to gas chamber.