One of the daughter’s of Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss once capitalized on her beauty to walk the runway as a model for dress maker Balenciaga, then, in the U.S., worked for a Jewish shop owner in Washington D.C. for 35 years, The Washington Post reports.
Brigitte Höss, 80, who refused to allow her married name to be published, has spent much of her life trying to forget her family history.
“It was a long time ago,” she told the Post. “I didn’t do what was done. I never talk about it — it is something within me. It stays with me.”
Rudolf Höss, her father, designed and lorded over Auschwitz, where 1.1 million Jews were killed, along with 20,000 gypsies and tens of thousands of Polish and Russian political prisoners. He was later captured and handed over to the Polish, who executed him.
Brigitte managed to leave Germany and make a new life for herself in Spain in the years following the war, working for Balenciaga for three years. There she met an Irish American engineer working for a Washington-based communications company.
In 1972 they moved to Washington. While working for a small boutique she was approached by a Jewish lady, who, enamored with her style, asked her to come and work in her fashion salon.
Soon after she was hired, Brigitte got drunk with her manager and confessed that her father was Rudolf Höss. The manager told the store’s owner, but the owner told Brigitte that she could stay, as she had not committed any crime herself. This, despite the fact that the store owner and her husband were Jewish and had fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Brigitte worked at the store for 35 years. The son of the owners of the store told the Post that his parents had employed Brigitte out of a sense of “humanity.”
“She was not responsible for her father,” he said.
Reflecting on his parents’ decision, he says, “I am proud to be their son.”
Though Brigitte’s son knew of the family’s past, and her daughter is no longer alive, she has not disclosed the family history to her grandchildren. She doesn’t want to “upset them,” she told the Post, and she worries that the information becoming public could put them at risk. “I am still scared here in Washington,” she says. “There are a lot Jewish people, and they still hate the Germans. It never ends.”
But Brigitte isn’t entirely a victim, her remorse at times tendentious. She questions the extend of her father’s crimes, doubting the number of Jews killed at Auschwitz. “How can there be so many survivors if so many had been killed?” she asks.
When confronted with the fact that her father confessed to being responsible for the death of more than a million Jews, she says the British “took it out of him with torture.”