Every family has some dirty laundry but not like this: A woman in Virginia is now revealing that her father was the Kommandant of Auschwitz. Brigette Höss (which is her maiden name; she is keeping her married name secret out of fear for her own safety) had kept the story from even her grandkids. But now 80 and recently diagnosed with cancer, she agreed to an interview after writer Thomas Harding found her while researching a book about the hunt for and capture of (by Harding's own great-uncle, no less) her father, Rudolf Höss. The Washington Post has her story. Brigette Höss spent ages 7 to 11 living among cooks, nannies, and drivers at Auschwitz, which her father designed and helped realize after stints at Dachau and Sachsenhausen. As the war neared its end the family separated; she went with her mother and her father hid on a farm disguised as a laborer. But, she says, British soldiers beat her brother until her mother gave his location up.
He was arrested and eventually executed, while the rest of the family were treated as outcasts. Höss moved to Spain in the 1950s, where she met and married an American engineer, moving to the US in 1972. Remarkably, one person in her new life who did know her story was the owner of a store she worked in. The owner was a Jew who had fled Nazi Germany, but continued to employ her for 35 years. Höss says she acknowledges that atrocities took place under her father's watch, but does not believe that millions were killed, and thinks her father only confessed to killing so many because he was tortured. "He was the nicest man in the world," she says. "He was very good to us." (In related news, Hitler's bodyguard died last week.)