The Longer Read

I met the family who lived next door to Auschwitz – the horrors of The Zone of Interest isn’t the full story

The Oscar winning film by Jonathan Glazer tells the chilling story of Rudolf Höss who by day oversees the gassing of 10,000 people and by night goes home to his villa next door for dinner with his wife and children. Author Thomas Harding met Höss’s daughter and discovered the terrifying truth about what really happened in that family home...

Monday 11 March 2024 09:39 GMT
Höss’s children play in the pool at their villa
Höss’s children play in the pool at their villa (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München/Rainer Höss)

It was a chilly night in October 2023 when I took my seat for a preview screening of The Zone of Interest – the film about Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz who lived next to the camp with his family. It was a subject I knew a fair bit about.

As an author and biographer, I’ve spent many years researching the Höss family. I was the first person to interview the commandant’s daughter and visited Auschwitz with members of his family: his daughter-in-law and grandson.

I had unearthed dozens of archives and read scores of witness statements and memoirs. The result was a bestselling book Hanns and Rudolf published 10 years ago, which won the Wingate Prize literary award.

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