AMON LEOPOLD GOETH
Born Vienna 11 February, Austria 1908- Died Krakow 13 September 1946
The SS officer Amon Goeth (pronounced Gert) commanded the Plaszow labor camp. He
had orchestrated the final "liquidation" of the Krakow ghetto as well as the
ghettoes in several provincial towns, including nearby Tarnow. Goeth had
additional experience at three death camps in eastern Poland, Belzec, Sobibor,
Amon Goeth was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1908, Goeth came from a family
well-established in the printing industry, and he hailed from that nation which
supplied an inordinately large number of Nazi criminals to the destruction
process. The long list includes Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who organized the
deportation of Jews from all of Europe to the death camps in Poland (and who was
executed by the Israelis in 1962 after being captured and smuggled out of
"I knew Goeth," said Anna Duklauer Perl, a Jewish survivor. "One day he hung a
friend of mine just because he had once been rich. He was the devil."
Pankiewicz observed Goeth at work in the Krakow ghetto: "Tall, handsome, heavy
set with thin legs, head in proportion, and eyes of blue, he was about forty
years old. He was dressed in a black leather coat, held a riding crop in one
hand and a short automatic rifle in the other; close to him were two huge dogs."
"When you saw Goeth, you saw death," said Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the
As a Nazi, Goeth was both typical yet unusual. Sadists abounded in Nazi-occupied
Poland, but they could not have done their work without the countless and
faceless "desk-bound murderers" who enjoyed the warmth of an office in Berlin
(and elsewhere), had emotionally stable family lives, and never set foot into a
The bureaucrats, comprising every branch of the German civil service, arranged
for the expropriation of Jewish property. They scheduled the trains taking the
Jews to the death camps, as though they were a trainload of vacationing Germans
bound for Italy or the Greek islands. They arranged for the delivery of the
Jewish property to bombed-out German civilians, including bloodstained clothing.
They took orders. They issued decrees.
Organized murder on so vast a scale as implemented by the Nazis required
teamwork. The bureaucrats were team players, as integral to the murder of Jews
as Goeth himself. The majority of the government bureaucrats in Nazi Germany had
been at their jobs long before the Nazis seized power in 1933. Indeed,
relatively few were members of the Nazi Party.
The impassive bureaucrats share responsibility for the Holocaust. For the
victims, there was no difference between Goeth and his administrative
The sadist murders with his hands, the bureaucrat with his pen.
Initially, the Schindlerjuden were allowed to live in a sub-camp at Schindler's
factory. In August 1944 they were forced to move to the Plaszow labor camp.
According to Keneally, Schindler befriended Goeth for the purpose of protecting
his workers and keeping his profits rolling in. After all, the murder of the
Jews meant the end of his thriving business. The exact nature of the
Schindler-Goeth relationship is unknown, but it is not implausible that
Schindler and Goeth were friends. Schindler enjoyed friendly relations with the
top SS and Gestapo people in Krakow. He spent virtually all of his time in the
company of murderers.
After the war, when Schindler was visiting some of the Schindlerjuden in Israel,
a journalist asked, "How do you explain the fact that you knew all the senior SS
men in the Krakow region and had regular dealings with them?" Schindler answered
evasively with characteristic wit : "At that stage in history, it was rather
difficult to discuss the fate of Jews with the chief rabbi of Jerusalem."
A great many of the Nazis were susceptible to bribery, Goeth among them.
Feathering his nest, Schindler plied Goeth with money and the usual variety of
black market goods. The SS arrested Goeth in September 1944, charging him with
theft of Jewish property (which 'belonged to' the Reich and should have been
forwarded to Berlin). After the war, on September 13, 1945, Goeth was hung by
Polish authorities at the site of the former camp at Plaszow. He died
In a 1994 interview, Helen Rosenzweig, a Jewish woman whom Goeth chose as one of
his personal servants, remembered Schindler as a frequent guest at Goeth's villa
overlooking Plaszow. "He was a jolly, kind man and he liked to drink. Many times
he would come into the kitchen and with a smile on his face he would pat my hair
and say, 'Don't worry. I will take care of you. You will be free. You will get
rid of this hell.' He called me 'kindchen,' which in German means 'little child.'
I couldn't make him out."
In July 1943, the Nazis declared the region of Selisia in southern Poland to be
"Judenfrei" or "Free of Jews." In fact, a remanent of Polish Jewry survived in a
handful of labor camps, Plaszow among them.
As the Soviet armies advanced from the east towards Poland, Hitler ordered the
extermination of the hitherto protected "essential worker." In effect, Hitler
decided that it was more important for the Jews to be destroyed than it was for
the essential war factories to continue operating. The war against the Jews took
precedent over that against the Allies.
In the summer of 1944, trains deporting the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz received
right-of-way over war transports to the Russian front. Indeed, Auschwitz's most
lethal period was during the last months of the war when the German army was
retreating on all fronts and Allied bombs were daily falling on the Reich.
Once the tide had changed, the Nazis tried to destroy the evidence of their
killing. At death camps like Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor, the Nazis ordered
commandos of Jewish slaves to unearth the thousands upon thousands of bodies
that been buried. The bodies were burned in huge bonfires (as depicted in the
film). Pine forests were planted where the gas chambers had stood, and a
Ukrainian guard was stationed in the vicinity to prevent local Poles and
Ukrainians from uprooting the remains in search of the fabled "Jewish gold."
In the effort to destroy the evidence of their work, the Nazis were the first
Holocaust-deniers. In an October 1943 speech, the SS leader Heinrich Himmler
acknowledged that the German people themselves would not understand the murder
of millions of Jews.
On September 4, 1944, as the Eastern Front crumbled and the Soviet Red Army
approached Krakow, the Nazis closed the Jewish camp at Schindler's factory. The
Schindlerjuden were sent to Plaszow. On October 15, 1944, Plaszow itself was "liquidated."
It was at this point that Schindler established his "list." Hitherto,
Schindler's actions on behalf of Jews had been subtle and the result of
self-interest. In the autumn of 1944, that changed.
Determined to save his Jewish workers from extermination, Schindler bribed Goeth
to send the Schindlerjuden to a new factory that Schindler planned to establish
at Brunnlitz in Czechoslovakia, near his hometown of Zwittau. The site was
directly over the Sudeten mountains from Auschwitz-Birkenau.
To strengthen his argument, Schindler insisted that his Schindlerjuden were
needed to build the "secret weapons" that Hitler had promised would win the war.
It was a clever argument; many Germans held out the hope that the Fuehrer would
produce yet another miracle.
Schindler's "list" comprised the names of the Jewish workers who were ostensibly
needed to operate Schindler's "war essential" factory. It was, in essence, a
list of those who would live and, by exclusion, those who would not. The Nazis
reduced life to a brutal equation: I want to live; hence, you must die.
The Schindlerjuden were transported by train from Krakow to the new factory in
Czechoslovakia, but three hundred Jewish women were mistakenly routed to the
death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The rescue of these Jewish women has never
been satisfactorily explained. After the war, in 1949, Schindler and Stern told
a journalist that the women had been sent to Gross-Rosen, a concentration camp
in eastern Germany. In his book, Keneally acknowledges that the entire affair is
clouded with uncertainty.
To effect the rescue, Schindler had resorted to bribery. It is not unreasonable
to suspect that Schindler dealt with Nazi officials who, recognizing that the
war was coming to an end, were determined to fatten their wallets prior to
escaping to South America. The Nazi criminals who were so efficient at killing
an unarmed people were also remarkably efficient in making good their post-war
escape, an escape financed by the wealth of those they had murdered.
In any event, Schindler did rescue these women from a Nazi camp, a fact to which
many of the women have testified. That "was something nobody else did," said
Johnathan Dresner, a Tel Aviv dentist, whose mother was among the rescued.
The Jews who arrived at Schindler's new factory at Brunnlitz numbered over a
thousand. Schindler also rescued an estimated 85 Jews who had been sent from
Auschwitz-Birkenau to a nearby Nazi labor camp at Golleschau. The Jews were put
to work at the factory producing munitions, but it is said that Schindler
sabotaged the production line so that little of any value ever left the factory.
The main problem at Brunnlitz was food. The neighboring German community was not
in the least bit interested in a Jewish labor camp in the vicinity and were
loath to share what little food was available with the despised Jews.
It is in Brunnlitz that the role of Emilie Schindler became paramount. "It was
so little that they [the Nazis] gave the people to eat," Emilie Schindler said
in a 1993 interview. "To everyone, not just the Jews. No matter who they were.
For everyone it was very little." Emilie recalled that within ten days the Jews
had consumed their monthly allotment of food. For the next twenty days, they had
nothing to eat but "air."
Emilie Schindler worked indefatigably to secure food for the Brunnlitz camp.
Emilie insists that there was much more to Oskar Schindler than the altruist
depicted in the book and movie. She says that Oskar Schindler, who abandoned her
after the war, procured no food for the camp. "I don't recognize it when he
lies. You know, when he says that he brought the food? No, nothing did he bring!
All the food, I brought! . . . All the food that the Jews ate, that the Germans
ate, that the SS ate, I brought. Not him. He brought nothing."
END OF THE WAR
On May 8, 1945, the war in Europe ended. Schindler gathered his Jews before him.
One of them, Murray Pantirer, recalled the words of Herr Direktor: "He said, 'Mein
kinder (my children), you are saved. Germany has lost the war."
A day later, the 1,200 Schindlerjuden were liberated by a lone Russian officer
on horseback, the vanguard of the Soviet Red Army. The officer, who was Jewish,
said, "I don't know where you ought to go. Don't go east --that much I can tell
you. But don't go west either. They don't like us anywhere."
Two thirds of European Jewry had been exterminated, and the few words spoken by
a Russian officer summarized the Jewish lesson of the Second World War. Upon
those words the nation of Israel was founded.
Before he and Emilie fled west in the direction of American forces (dressed in
prison garb, under the "protection" of eight Schindlerjuden, and with a letter
in Hebrew testifying to his lifesaving actions), Schindler received a gift from
his grateful Jews: A ring made from gold fillings extracted from one of the
grateful Jews. The ring was inscribed with the Talmudic verse: "He who saves one
life, it is as if he saved the entire world."
The fate of the gold ring symbolized Schindler's frailties and contradictions
that rendered his heroism even more perplexing. Several years after the war, a
Schindlerjuden asked him what he had done with the gold ring? "Schnapps,"
Schindler replied, referring to the liquor which he had gotten in exchange for
the gold ring.
GÖTH, Amon Leopold
(1908 - 1946)
Born: 11. Feb. 1908 in Wien.
Hanged: 13. Sep. 1946 in Krakow.
NSDAP-Nr.: 510 764/SS-Nr.: 43 673 (Joined, 1930)
SS-HStuf.: 20. Apr. 1944;
Kommandant of Arbeitslager (later KL-) Plaszow, near Krakow: Feb. 1943-Sep.
Assigned to Stab, SS- und Polizeiführer "Lublin" (SS-Brigf. Globocnik);
transferred to Krakow: 1942.
Arrested by SS for corruption, Sep. 1944. Accused of embezzlement; war ended
before he could be tried.
Directed the liquidation of the Krakow (Feb./Mar. 1943), Tarnow (1943), and
Assigned to Poland, late 1939. Active in illegal Austrian Nazi movement during
early 1930's. Fled to Germany, early 1933, then smuggled money, weapons, and
information to Austria. Played a part in the failed Nazi Putsch in Vienna, Jul.
1934, and arrested thereafter, but escaped and settled in Munich, where he
attempted to build a publishing company. Married/soon divorced. Returned to
Vienna, Oct. 1938, and remarried (daughter born, Jul. 1939/died after 7 months;
2 more children born later).
First joined Nazi youth movement in 1925.
Arrested by U.S. troops at SS sanatorium, Bad Tölz, Bayern. Extradited to Poland,
he was tried in Krakow; sentenced to death, 5. Sep. 1946.
Decorations & Awards:
AFTER THE WAR
Goeth's mistress, Ruth-Irene Kalder, remained loyal to him and kept a photograph
of Amon on her night table until the day she died. In an interview in 1983, she
described Goeth as a charming man with impeccable table manners. She said that
she never regretted, for one second, her relationship with Amon. Kalder
committed suicide the day after her interview with the British journalist, who
was making an 82-minute documentary about Oskar Schindler.