there is an amazing story in the Washington Post, titled Hiding in N. Virginia, a daughter of Auschwitz. It is about Brigitt Höss (born Inge-Brigitt Höss in 1933), whose father was the Commandant of Auschwitz. The story is written by Thomas Alexander, who writes
I discovered where she lived while doing research for “Hanns and Rudolf,” a book on how Höss was captured after the war by my great-uncle, Hanns Alexander, a German Jew who had fled Berlin in the 1930s. It took three years to find her. She would be interviewed only on the condition that neither her married name be revealed nor any details that would disclose her identity.Here I note that her "thick German accent" and her age and her first name are probably sufficient for people who know her to identify her.
She was born on a farm near the Baltic Sea, where her parents met, a farm
which was a haven for German youths obsessed with ideas of racial purity and rural utopia.The third of five children, her childhood is a roadmap of the obscenity of the Holocaust:
Brigitte had an extraordinary childhood, moving from the farm to one concentration camp after another as her father scaled the ranks of the SS: Dachau from ages 1 through 5; Sachsenhausen from 5 to 7; and from 7 to 11, in perhaps the most notorious death camp, Auschwitz.Please keep reading.
From 1940 to 1944, the Höss family lived in a two-story gray stucco villa on the edge of Auschwitz — so close you could see the prisoner blocks and old crematorium from the upstairs window. Brigitte’s mother described the place as “paradise”: They had cooks, nannies, gardeners, chauffeurs, seamstresses, haircutters and cleaners, some of whom were prisoners.
I am the descendent of Eastern European Jews. My mother's maternal grandmother was trying desperately to get relatives out of Bialystok, from which she came, as the Holocaust ramped up. After an failed uprising in 1943, most of the remaining Jews were sent to Treblinka where they were exterminated.
I grew up in a suburb of New York City that had survivors, although in the 1950s we did not often talk openly about it. The family across the street had a mother from Switzerland and a father from Austria who had been lucky to get out in time, avoiding the camps.
I have over the years known people who history was to put it mildly troublesome. One, a bishop in the Orthodox Church of America with whom I served on a church-wide committee, had as a young seminarian given a rabble rousing speech in Bucharest which led to a mini-program in which some Jews were hung alive on meathooks in butcher shops.
I have known people who helped liberate the camps.
The Holocaust and its history remains an open sore within me, not completely healed.
Yet I cannot hold against this woman what her father did, or even what her mother believed.
I can understand why she has tended not to discuss this pas, including with her grandchildren, for almost 7 decades - after all, she was not quite 12 when the war ended (although her now ex-husband shared her father's autobiography with two of the grandchildren).
Her immediate family knew
The family that employed her, Jews who had survived the Holocaust knew.
She married an Irish-American engineer in 1961. He knew her background.
This is in some ways a troubling story to read.
She does not understand or accept how many were killed in the Holocaust, even though her father, who later testified in war crimes trials on behalf of the Allied prosecution, admitted his own responsibility for the deaths of over a million - in other words, as Commandant of Auschwitz he was one of the worst mass murderers in history.
From the description of the neighborhood in which she lives, this daughter of Auschwitz could well be my neighbor in Arlington, or in nearby Falls Church.
I wonder how I might react were I to encounter her.
Again, I cannot hold her responsible for what her father did.
The author spoke with the son of the salon owner who had employed this daughter of Auschwitz. Allow me to push fair use and share three relevant paragraphs:
When I ask him why his parents had decided to employ her all those years ago, despite knowing that her father had been a senior member of the Nazi leadership that had driven their own family out of Germany, he told me that it was because of “humanity.”I offer no judgment.
His parents had seen her as a person, in her own right, apart from her father. “The one has nothing to do with the other. She is a human being,” he says. “She was not responsible for her father.”
Reflecting on his parents’ decision, he says, “I am proud to be their son.”
I encountered the article, read it, and thought more ought to see it, so I posted this.
Make of it what you will.