Throughout the majority of World War II, Josef Paczynski cut the hair of Rudolf Hoess, the Auschwitz commandant responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of innocent people to Nazi death camps and gas chambers. As the Associated Press communicates, Hoess was in fact “one of the most cold-blooded and sadistic mass murderers in Adolf Hitler’s regime.”
Then a prisoner, Polish-born Paczynski was taken to Hoess’ accommodations on the edge of Auschwitz every seven to 10 days where he was expected to trim the ruthless killer’s hair using provided scissors and razors. Not a word was ever uttered from the mouth of Hoess to the young man who he summoned each week to groom him.
Josef Paczynski joined two other Auschwitz survivors and a number of Americans in southern Poland in “telling his story after recent commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.”
The question from many who heard the story of Paczynski’s time while imprisoned at Auschwitz is why he never took matters into his own hands by slitting the throat of the murderer who brought so much suffering and loss to so many.
AP relays the response that Paczynski offered, when he shared that, “it would have done no good: he and many others would have been killed in retribution while the exterminations at Auschwitz would have continued under another commander.”
The lively 95-year-old did admit that the thought was one that crossed his mind and also recounted the terror he felt upon the first summoning of his services at the residence of Hoess.
“I thought about it, [b]ut when I realized what the consequences would be I simply could not do it. Hoess’ wife let me in the house. My voice was shaking, my hands were shaking and my legs were shaking. His wife led me to the first floor and into a bathroom. There was a mirror and a chair and within a moment Hoess arrived. He didn’t speak a word to me. But I said ‘bitte schoen’ to him and he sat down and I cut his hair.”
Paczynski, who now lives in Krakow, had been imprisoned at Auschwitz in June, 1940, for attempting to flee Poland to join the Polish army in France. Josef was assigned prisoner number 121 after being arrested when he crossed into Slovakia, at which point he was taken by “first transport to Auschwitz.”
Josef communicated that he felt Hoess was pleased with the hair cuts and in having Paczynski stop by weekly but added that Hoess was a man of very few words and never offered verbal praise.
Josef also made mention of the commandant’s family life stating that he appeared to be “an ideal father and an ideal husband.” The New York Post revealed back in 2013 that Hoess’ own daughter is DC fashionista Brigitte Hoess, now in her 80s. The former haute couture model divulged details to the Washington Post at the same time but asked her married identity to be kept secretive.
Although Paczynski never saw Hoess strike a prisoner or act brutally toward anybody, the horrible role the commandant played during the five years that Josef was imprisoned, by sending millions to their deaths in the gas chambers and arranging the execution of so many, can never be forgotten.
Josef Paczynski was released from Auschwitz in January, 1945, when the Germans led the prisoners out. Hoess was tried by Polish authorities after the war, and he was sentenced to death by hanging in 1947. The sentence was carried out at Auschwitz next to a crematorium.
As The Times Of Israel notes, “After Paczynski’s talk, the two other survivors exchanged memories with him and posed for photos together, pulling up their sleeves to reveal the prison numbers tattooed on their forearms.”
Survivors of the brutal Hitler regime continue to tell their stories to fascinated crowds while their strength still allows them.
[Feature image via NY Daily Mail ]