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RSS FeedsHis grandfather was the monster behind Auschwitz. Rainer Hoess is making sure no one ever forgets
(The Star Toronto Raptors)


6 november 2019 15:55:11

His grandfather was the monster behind Auschwitz. Rainer Hoess is making sure no one ever forgets
(The Star Toronto Raptors)

When the Hoess children would reach for strawberries from the lush garden of the family’s luxurious villa, just a hundred metres from a large chimney, their mother would always caution them.“Wash the strawberries and the vegetables before you eat them,” she would say. “They’re full of ashes.”The chimney was connected to a crematorium at the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, in Nazi-occupied Poland. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered there, many in the gas chambers, during the Second World War.It’s a chilling anecdote that Rainer Hoess — the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the infamous commander of Auschwitz — shares with Toronto secondary students, who listen with rapt attention during a school assembly. On a giant screen, Rainer shows family photos taken at the villa during the 1940s, where his father spent part of his childhood. In one image, children frolic in a pool built by Auschwitz prisoners and in another his father wears a green wool jacket, which Rainer says his grandmother ordered confiscated off a Jewish boy as he arrived from Hungary — the boy’s fate is unknown, but that jacket was handed down through the generations and Rainer himself wore it as a child.“Take a stand for something,” he told students at Northern Secondary School on Monday, urging them to speak out against intolerance — a message he’ll repeat Wednesday when he is at Riverdale Collegiate and Etobicoke Collegiate. “Be a voice, not an echo.”Rainer, 54, has dedicated his life to combating the horrific legacy of his grandfather, in part through his organization called Footsteps, which is aimed at educating students on the horrors of the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime and its collaborators. Amongst his extended family — there are about 85 Hoess relatives — he is the only one who denounces his grandfather, ...

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