(1900-1947) German commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp 1940–43. Under his control, more than 2.5 million people were exterminated. Arrested by Allied military police in 1946, he was handed over to the Polish authorities, who tried and executed him in 1947.
Hoess was adjutant of Sachsenhausen concentration camp 1939 until his appointment to the newly-built camp at Auschwitz early 1940. Originally run simply as a forced labor camp, when he received orders to convert it into an extermination camp he installed four gas chambers and crematoria. Hoess found that gassing by carbon monoxide, the recommended method, was inefficient and introduced the cyanide gas Zyklon B, which improved his execution rate to 6,000 per day. In late 1943 he was appointed chief inspector of concentration camps and worked hard to improve the “efficiency” of the other extermination centers. Arrested and arraigned at Nuremberg, he appeared to be more upset about being thought inefficient than being thought callous. He was handed over to a Polish court, sentenced to death, and hanged at Auschwitz.