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Nazi chief grandson in Swedish election film

Published: 19 May 2014 11:44 GMT+02:00

Entitled "Never Forget. To Vote", the campaign launched by the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League (SSU) ahead of the May 22-25 vote sees the ballot box as the best defence against resurgent far-right extremism.

The film features Rainer Höss, who was 12-years-old when he learned he was the grandson of a man who oversaw the murder of a million people as commandant of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

"For a 12-year-old boy it's huge information," he said to AFP.

Now aged 48, Höss has turned his family burden into the driving force of a full-time commitment to fighting right-wing extremism and the SSU film is part of this cause. Höss visited Sweden recently to promote the campaign against the rise of neo-Nazi movements across Europe.

"Right-wing extremists are not stupid," he said. "They are growing, gaining ground, very slowly but very effectively."

While the SSU film is formally part of the party's EU election campaign it carries a broader message regarding the importance of voting and in defence of human rights.

"To have Rainer at the front of this initiative is a way to show that he can never forget and we should never either," SSU head Gabriel Wikström said. Growing up in post-war Germany, Höss failed to understand why his school gardener -- a Holocaust survivor -- was consistently harsh towards to him, until a teacher revealed the terrible truth.

Rudolf Höss was the longest-serving commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in occupied Poland that became an enduring symbol of Nazi Germany's genocide of European Jews.

One million Jews were killed at Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945 along with more than 100,000 non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals and anti-Nazi partisans before the camp was liberated on January 27th, 1945.

Rudolf Höss experimented with different methods of mass killing, eventually settling on the use of the pesticide Zyklon B to gas his victims.

He went into hiding after World War II but was captured by the Allies in 1946 and hanged the year after near the infamous Auschwitz crematorium.

"He brings a lot of pain in our family, not only for his children but over decades," his grandson told AFP.

"Generation after generation we bear the same cross he put on our shoulders."

Through his own research, Rainer Höss has met many Holocaust survivors, even travelling to Israel to take part in a documentary -- a delicate undertaking, he admits.

"It was a little bit tricky, as the grandchild of a mass murderer to go to Israel."

While there he was asked by a group of Jewish students what he would have done if he had met his grandfather.

His impulsive reply -- which he now thinks overly emotional: "I would have shot him."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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