Rudolf Höss, Kommandant of Auschwitz, born 111 years ago today, on 25 Nov 1901, not 1900 as he often lied

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss first lied about his age when he enlisted with the German Army in 1916. He said he was born in 1900 when he was in fact born in 1901. Even with this lie he would have been only fifteen-years-old, well below the required minimum age of sixteen. The Dragoons accepted his application, however, partly because he was recommended by a member of the unit, partly because he looked like he could handle himself at war.

He maintained this fiction about his date of birth for the rest of his life, managing to alter his SS records, and filling in every form with the incorrect information - even his British arrest report in 1946. When he made an officer in 1917, he was one of the youngest in the German Army, commanding men at least a decade older than himself. 

Hundreds of thousands of children fought in the First World War. Both the Germans and the British turned a blind eye to youthful recruits, eager to replenish their forces who were fast losing their lives at the front. There are examples of child soldiers from this war, from Australia, England, Belgium, and America. I met WW1 veteran Frank Buckles at his home in West Virginia when he was 108 years old. At that time, he was the last remaining American soldier to have fought in the Great War, partly because he had enlisted at the age of 16. He explained that he had enlisted because he felt it was the right thing to do and because he was excited to go to war. Much the same could be said of Rudolf Höss. 

Rudolf Höss' mother did not want him to join the army, but Rudolf was inspired to serve, like his father and grandfather. The first that she knew of his enlistment was when she received a letter from her son on his way to the frontline.