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, and Treblinka.

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 Argentina).
"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 Schindlerjuden.
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 concentration camp.
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 accomplices.
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 unrepentant.
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."
 
source: USHMM


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)

SS-Hauptsturmführer:
Born: 11. Feb. 1908 in Wien.
Hanged: 13. Sep. 1946 in Krakow.
NSDAP-Nr.: 510 764/SS-Nr.: 43 673 (Joined, 1930)
Promotions:
SS-HStuf.: 20. Apr. 1944;
Assignments:
Kommandant of Arbeitslager (later KL-) Plaszow, near Krakow: Feb. 1943-Sep. 1944.
Assigned to Stab, SS- und Polizeiführer "Lublin" (SS-Brigf. Globocnik); transferred to Krakow: 1942.
Notes:
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 Bochnia Ghettoes.
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.
Postwar Prosecution:
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.
 

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