Hanns and Rudolf is Waterstones Book of the Month

The UK's largest book retailer has selected Hanns and Rudolf as their non-fiction book of the month for May. 

Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award Hanns and Rudolf tells the story of two German men whose lives crossed in an shocking way.

Hanns, the son of a prosperous family, fled Berlin in the 1930s for London. Rudolf, farmer and soldier, became the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. After the Second World War a British War Crimes Investigation is assembled to hunt down senior Nazi officials. Hanns is lead investigator, his most elusive target, Rudolf.

I also wrote a blog for the Waterstones website

Teaching about the Holocaust in the 'Post-Survivor Era'

Here is something I wrote to Huffington Post today:

Who is going to educate young people about the Holocaust when the survivors are no longer with us?

That is the question I keep asking myself in the days leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2014. Because the further we get from the end of the Second World War, the fewer survivors we have to share their powerful stories.

During a recent book tour in the USA I was hosted by a Holocaust educator in each city, and every one of them told me that they were worried that they would soon have no survivors to help them with their work.

And they have good reason to worry.

To have a Holocaust survivor talk to a group of young people is a precious thing. It makes the tragedy real, visceral. It has impact.

I have seen this frequently. The room goes quiet. The survivor tells his or her story. The kids are changed.

I observed this at one of my book events. I had been speaking for over an hour, people were growing restless, one man even asked if it was time for lunch. Then a survivor stood up, the room hushed. With a microphone to her trembling lips she said that when she had left Auschwitz she had weighed fifty-eight pounds. In those few words she said so much more than I ever could in an hour. It was terrible. She had survived. And she was brave enough to tell the tale.

When I spoke to an expert at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington DC, she said that they are well aware of the issue, they even have a name for it, the 'post survivor era.'

A lady who works at one of the leading Holocaust research centres in England told me that they are carrying out a 'strategic review' on the subject.

But most people I ask tell me not to worry so much. 'We have thousands of hours of interviews with survivors,' they say, 'We have books and graphic novels. We have artefacts, memorials and exhibits.'

All of which I know, and is good, but it is not quite the same. And I do worry, especially about the teaching materials.

When I ask which books teachers are using I am told, "Well, there is the Diary of Anne Frank". It has sold millions of copies, it has been translated into scores of languages, it's true and it's powerful. Fair enough.

What else? I ask. "Well," they say, now wincing, each and every one of them - from Brooklyn to Birmingham, from North West Washington DC to North West London - "teachers are increasingly using the Boy with the Striped Pyjamas." They add, it's an easy teach: it's about children, it's very well written, there's even a movie the kids can watch.

For those who don't know, the Boy with the Striped Pyjamas is about the son of a concentration camp kommandant who befriends a Jewish boy prisoner. While fictional, it is clear that the story is largely based on the family of Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz.

Now I know a little about Rudolf Höss' family. In 2009, I travelled to Auschwitz with Rudolf Höss' daughter-in-law and grandson, and then a couple of years later, I interviewed Brigitte, the Kommandant's eighty-year-old daughter, who now lives outside of Washington DC.

And I can tell you, having spent time with the Höss family, with a great degree of confidence, that the Kommandant's children never played with Jewish kids, let alone befriended them. To the contrary, the Höss children pinned triangles and stars to their shirts and pretended to be prisoners, like Cowboys and Indians.

So we have a second problem, a fictional holocaust is increasingly being taught to kids.

This week I gave the annual Merlyn-Rees Lecture for the Holocaust Education Trust at the Houses of Parliament in London. The room was packed, with over three hundred people: camps survivors, Members of Parliament, journalists and students. The audience was alert, committed, and eager to learn.

Afterwards at dinner, I sat next to Holocaust survivor, Ben Heflgott. He told me that when he was nine-years-old he had been forced into a ghetto in Poland, a few years later he was sent to Buchenwald and then Theresienstadt. With the exception of one sister, his entire family was murdered by the Nazis. Now, almost seventy years later, I asked him what he thinks about holocaust education in the so-called 'post-survivor era'.

He put down his fork, turned to me and said, "it's simple, the next generation will have to do it. And they will be even better."

That is the answer to my question. We will just have to do it. Better. It is that simple.

On 25 February, Thomas Harding will be talking about his book 'Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz' as part of Jewish Book Week

 

 

Follow Thomas Harding on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ThomasHarding

 

Israeli publisher launches Hanns and Rudolf

In January 2014, Israeli publisher, Keter, launched Hanns and Rudolf. The link to their site is here

 

Key information:

Translated from  : English 

Translation  : Cilla Elazar 

Editor  : Dana Eleazar Halevi 

Year  : 2013 

Number of Pages  : 344 

Dankod  : 10-540343 

ISBN  : 978-965-07-2209-8 

Price:  98.00   NIS 


Hanns and Rudolf ... Summary of best book of the year reviews

It's been quite a run with the end of the year reviews for Hanns and Rudolf. Here is a summary:

 

Shortlisted for the Costa Book Award for Biography

 

'A chilling portrait of the banality of evil'. - Ben Macintyre, The Times Books of the Year

 

‘[an] extraordinary story…The tale of how he then doggedly tracked down Rudolf Hőss, the merciless commandant of Auschwitz is stunning – not just because it is so gripping, but because Harding interweaves Hann’s life story fascinatingly with Hőss’s…A compelling, remarkable picture of war and its aftermath.’   - The Sunday Times Books of the Year

 

‘Harding sketches the parallel lives of the SS officer with notable skill. The book is a moving reminder of what an extraordinary amount Britain gained by the Jewish flight from Europe in the 1930s.’  - Max Hastings, Guardian Books of the Year

 

‘Hanns and Rudolf tells the mesmeric tale of his uncle’s hunt for an arch perpetrator of the Jewish Holocaust.’  - John le Carré, The Telegraph Books of the Year

 

'This superlative look at two men - one, Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz; the other, Hanns Alexander, the man who arrested him - makes for uncomfortable, but essential reading.' - Stuart Evers, Netgalley Books of the Year

 

'The detective story approach worked well in Thomas Harding's Hanns and Rudolf'. - Ben Shephard, Observer History Books of the Year

 

'An unexpected delight … It is amazingly well researched, resists judgement, and above all is an utterly compelling read.'  - David Shrigley, New Statesman books of the year

 

'As gripping as a Le Carré thriller, this is the remarkable story of two Germans who took radically different paths in life that converged when one tracked the other down as part of the British War Crimes Investigation Team.' - Metro Newspaper,

 

“Hanns and Rudolf” by Thomas Harding (Simon & Schuster, $26) was the standout book of the year for its ability to wring a series of emotions from the reader: shock, disgust, despair, excitement and relief. The true story of how a British Jewish soldier tracked down and caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz is at one point a sobering account of the darkest chapter of the 20th century and then, once the chase is on, an electrifying thriller that has us cheering for the hero. Victim becomes victor in a book with an ending that offers the ultimate in cathartic release.' - Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune, books of the year

US and Canada book tour comes to an end

Wow! That was quite  journey.

17 Days away from home. Nine cities. Eleven events. Eight interviews (some of which I have posted to the Video and Audio page). A lot of travelling, many miles traversed. All in all, a very rewarding experience. 

It was so interesting getting to hear from people in cities from Detroit to Atlanta, Brooklyn to Montreal, Shepherstown West Virginia to London Ontario. There is something both humbling and exciting to hear directly from audiences. Humbling, because many of those who spoke were holocaust survivors, generously sharing their personal stories. Exciting, to hear people's thoughts on the book, the themes that it raises, the greater issues surrounding the human experience which can be quickly jumped to from the story and the characters involved. Most of all it was thrilling to see people caught up in the story itself. Tapping away at my computer all those years I never imagined such a thing. 

 

A mighty 'thank you', therefore, to all those who hosted me, organised the events, arranged the intricate logistics (trains, taxis, planes, hotels, meals, lifts from private individuals, even a Greyhound bus). It was a blast, a brilliant experience. I learned so much, enjoyed many terrific conversations, was privileged to meet some incredible people, a true honour. 

 

And while I am headed home and, believe me, I am looking forward to it, I am looking forward to another book tour in the not too distant future. 

 

 

Audio book now available

Audiobook Hanns and Rudolf

Audiobook Hanns and Rudolf

Product Information

Author: Thomas Harding

Reader: Mark Meadows

Running Time: 8hrs 51min

Publisher: AudioGO Ltd

Number of CDs: 0

Release Date: 05/09/2013

D/L ISBN: 9781471361722

In Berlin during launch week of Hanns and Rudolf

It has been a very intense week.

 As the book has been released in the UK, and the reviews start to come out, I have been in Berlin visiting the childhood home of Hanns Alexander. 

I went back to the Alexander home on Kaiserallee (now Bundesallee), saw the Zoo, the Neue synagogue and the Reichstag.

Most exciting/ emotional was paying a visit to Groß Glienicke, the small village to the west of the city where my family had a weekend home.

 Today I rowed across the lake with my wife, saw the clouds rolls by, the ducks floats in the gentle waters, I drank a beer at the restaurant at the end of the lake. This is the first time in 77 years that a family members has been on the lake. It was beautiful and calm. It made me understand why my great-grandfather, his wife and kids loved this place so much. 

Here is a little Vine video of our trip

 

Groß Glienicke See, Berlin

Groß Glienicke See, Berlin

Sunday Times publishes extract of Hanns And Rudolf

It look's amazing! 

It is not an easy task to compress over 90,000 words (from my book) to less than 3,000 for the extract in the paper. The team at the Sunday Times did a fabulous job with this, maintaining the sense of the two interweaving stories and keeping the tension.

Kudos to them!

And the photographic department did a terrific job with the images, and I also love the timeline at the end of the piece.  

 

 

Sunday Times.jpg
Sunday Times timeline.jpg

Seven days to go

So after seven years of research, the day is finally approaching. The book will be available via Kindle on August 19,  in UK stores on August 22, and US and Canadian stores on September 3.

 The Italians plan to released their books around the same time. I will post the publication dates of the countries as soon as they are announce.d 

As the launch day near I've been writing feature articles and op-ed pieces. I spent this week writing a magazine story for the Washington Post (pub date Sep 8), a blog for the Daily Beast, and an op-ed piece for the Huffington Post. The Sunday Times plans to run an extract of the book on Aug 18. The Guardian Family plans to run a feature at the end of August.

 It's been really interesting seeing how the media in various countries have reacted to the book. 

As soon as the articles are published I will post to this site for easy access. 

Watching the Book Being Printed

In advance of the book’s September publication, author Thomas Harding and his editor, Tom Avery, took a trip to Clays in Bungay to watch the book roll off the presses.

It was a fascinating day out. Clays told us they print over 3 million books each week.

Thomas checks out the blocks

Thomas checks out the blocks

 While we were there we saw some of the world's top authors printed. We promised not to tell anyone what we saw (though the presses did seem to be very busy with JK Rowling's new book!). 

Most exciting, of course, was seeing my book being printed. By the time we arrived the plates had already been made. the pages printed and formed into blocks. We were able to see the cases being put onto the blocks  , the cover folded around the case and then the belly band being added. 

 

Tom checks final book

Tom checks final book

Tom and Thomas.JPG

Click here to see Windmill Books page on Tom and Thomas's visit to the printing process. 

 

How to Pronounce 'Hanns'

So there has been much discussion about the correct pronunciation of my great-uncle's name.   Most English speakers say 'Hanns' rhyming with 'pans' or 'tans'. This is not how Hanns said his name, nor how the members of the family called him. 

Instead, we say 'Hanns', like Hantz. It should be said quickly, the same way that 'once' is almost snipped at the end, in contrast 'pans' runs on a bit.

So all together now, H-U-N-N-S

Listen to the audio clip below of how Hanns' daughter Annette says father's name:

Book sent to printer

All very exciting.

Final text file complete. Sent to printer. Photo montage at the start and end of the book (the 'end papers') are receiving finishing touches. Off to printer on July 16 to see the book come off the press, can't wait.  

 

 

Hanns and Rudolf to be published in Germany

DTV.jpg

I am very excited to announce that the German publisher DTV will be publishing Hanns and Rudolf.  

This is the same publishing house that currently puts out Rudolf Höss' autobiography in Germany.

Authors published by DTV include Martin Amis, Stephen Hawking, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth.

 

New Hannah Arendt movie released explores 'banality of evil'

A movie has been released on Hannah Arendt's coverage of the Eichmann trial that took place in 1961 in Israel. 

Hannah_Arendt_Film_Poster.jpg

Arendt was the writer who coined the term 'banality of evil', in a discussion of what caused men to oversee and execute the mass murder that was the Holocaust. 

She was sent to cover the trial by the New Yorker. Her series of articles became the basis of the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

t the end of the movie the Arendt character gives a seven minute monologue on the role of thinking and thought in preventing evil choices. This concludes with the following words: "This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which had never been seen before. The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down.”

The Paris Review focused on this end monologue, saying that 'the full speech is likely the greatest articulation of the importance of thinking that will ever be presented in a film.'

The New York Times described this same speech: 'matches some of the great courtroom scenes in cinema and provides a stirring reminder that the labor of figuring out the world is necessary, difficult and sometimes genuinely heroic.'

Here are some further reviews gathered by Film Forum:

“Brought to life by a mesmerizing Barbara Sukowa. William Shawn (is played by) a droll Nicolas Woodeson… Director von Trotta, in a 30-year creative partnership with Sukowa, adds smart, grown-up girl talk about men, marriage, and careers with Arendt’s loyal friend Mary McCarthy (a zingy Janet McTeer).” – Marsha McCreadie, Village Voice

“Barbara Sukowa is magnetic as the great writer and philosopher.  Seems like an impossible subject for film, yet even viewers who have never read a word of her books will be stirred by her intellectual and emotional courage in Sukowa’s award-worthy performance.” – Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter

“The best movie this critic has ever seen about the life and times of a writer. German titan Margarethe von Trotta’s magnificent meditation on the German-Jewish political theorist.”   – Brandon Harris, Filmmaker Magazine

“Sukowa proves a brilliant choice for the philosopher; she ‘does’ stillness about as well as any actress in cinema today, and her mobile face and flashing eyes suggest a powerful intelligence under the surface… The question of the nature of human evil, central to Arendt’s later work, is still with us, and the passage of time and free flow of innocent blood … suggests that Arendt was not wrong.” – George Robinson, The Jewish Week

“An outstanding cinematic portrait. Extremely vivid, thrilling in its every minute, deeply moving in its seriousness and suitably unsettling.” – Elke Schmitter, Der Spiegel

/