How did a shoemaker from Northampton capture Rudolf Höss? Through his knowledge of the German language, learned during his stay in Germany where he had moved for work. This is the story of Victor Cross, who worked in the family business, the British Chrome Tanning Company in Northampton. It was he who led the investigation and got Höss’s wife to confess to the whereabouts of her husband, the SS officer who created the Auschwitz concentration camp and directed it for the first 2 years.
Reconstructing the story of Victor Cross (pictured, left) is the BBC documentary “Rise of the Nazis: The Manhunt”. Cross was in charge of purchasing the hides used by the family business to produce high-quality women’s shoes. His father sent him to Germany to hone his skills, and here Victor learned to speak fluent German. When World War II broke out in 1939, Cross enlisted in the British Army. He then switched to the Secret Service, which recruited people who could speak German.
After the war
At the end of the war, Captain Cross was sent to Germany with the task of capturing former Nazis on the run. The list they handed him included the name of Rudolf Höss (pictured, right). In an official army report dated March 15, 1946, Captain Cross describes the capture of the German criminal. First, he arrested his wife, who during interrogations at first claimed her husband was dead. But after six days the woman broke down and gave the address where her husband was staying. On March 11, 1946, at a farm near Flensburg, “Höss was caught in his pajamas”. The former Nazi commander lived and worked under the false name of Franz Lang. “But he admitted his true identity within 10 minutes of his arrest”, Captain Cross wrote.
“Most puzzling of all was the cold estimate that two and a half million Jews were gassed at Auschwitz alone”, Cross wrote at the end of his report. The British captain returned to civilian life and continued to work in the family business until his retirement. He died at the age of 75 in 1988.