The man who caught Luxembourg's Nazi leader
A British author visited Luxembourg this week to promote his new book, which raises questions on how the former Nazi leader of Luxembourg was killed.
Hanns and Rudolf, by Thomas Harding, contains two biographies, one charting the work of his Jewish Great-Uncle, Hanns Alexander, as a war crimes investigator and the other the life of Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss.
“The story is about my great-uncle, a German Jew in World War Two, who joined the British army and at the end of the war became a war crimes investigator,” Mr Harding told wort.lu/en, explaining that his great-uncle successfully caught former Nazi leader of Luxembourg Gustav Simon in Paderborn, in Germany. “At first he didn't know who he was. He had taken on a different identity, it was like in the Day of the Jackyl.”
The past returns
Mr Harding began the book shortly after the death of his uncle in 2006 when he learned of his incredible past through the funeral eulogy. He dug further and discovered that everything that was said about his late relative had been true. What remained unclear, however, was what role he played in Gustav Simon's death while in custody.
Officially, Gustav Simon died by hanging himself from his bed. However, since the man was taller than the length of his bed, this version is not considered reliable. Rumours suggest that the former leader was killed in a forest before he was brought back to Luxembourg to stand trial.
Mr Harding's relatives claim that Hanns had alluded to having been involved in the killing. However, in an archive video interview recorded in 2003 and shown publicly for the first time in Luxembourg on Wednesday, Hanns said he “got a few good customers” but said that the Gauleiter killed himself and he simply drove the body to Luxembourg.
“Why wouldn't he have told the truth in 2003, unless there was some kind of blood oath?”, Mr Harding said.
Hanns Alexander was also responsible for tracking down the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp Rudolf Höss. He was successfully brought to trial and his witness testimony marked a watershed moment in the Nuremberg Trials.
Mr Harding's book presentation was hosted at the British Embassy Residence to Luxembourg to mark the UK's Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Speaking at the presentation, Ambassador Alice Walpole talked about the importance of this inter-governmental organisation which, among other things, educates future generations on the holocaust in a bid to prevent it happening again.
She quoted British Prime Minister David Cameron who said that the Holocaust did not begin with “mass murder...It began with pure discrimination.”
“This is a lesson we must take forward with us in our modern world,” she said.
The book "Hanns and Rudolf, the German Jew and the hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz", by Thomas Harding, is available in Luxembourg in English and French. It will be published in German in August. A film version of the book is expected to follow in the coming years.
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