Amon Leopold Goeth was born on December 11, 1908, in Vienna. He was married and divorced twice in 1934 and 1944and had two children. He studied agriculture in Vienna until 1928. From 1928 until 1939 he was employed by Verlag fur Militar und Fachliteratur, a company in Vienna. In 1930 Goeth joined the NSDAP, and from 1932 he was a member of the SS. On March 5, 1940, he was called up by the Wehrmacht with the rank of Unterfeldwebel. He was promoted in succession to SS-Obersturmfuhrer (1940), Untersturmfuhrer with the letter 'F' [professional officer in war time], (1941), and Hauptsturmfuhrer (1944) and was the holder of the Cross of Merit with swords.
Goeth joined the staff of SS General Odilo Globocnik as an inspector of concentrations camps. He saw service in Cieszyn, Katowic,e and Lublin. In February 1943 he left Lublin after conflict with SS Major Hermann Höfle and was transferred to Krakow with the rank of SS-Unterscharfuhrer, as the Commandant of Plaszow labor camp. Goeth's duty in Krakow was February 11, 1943 until September 13, 1944. It was clear that Goeth had come with a brief to destroy the remaining Jews of Krakow. In order to wipe out the Jews of Krakow, the Nazis chose a most symbolic site - the new Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of the city, in the suburbs of Plaszow. Huts were constructed there in desecration of the freshly-dug graves and a fraudulent sign was hung up, reading Arbeitslager (Labor Camp).
When the Jews from all the ghettos within the area fell into the grasp of the SS, the true nature of the sign was revealed: Concentration Camp. In the beginning, the sparsely wooded camp did not awaken any special misgivings. The first residential huts, the kitchen, bakery, latrines. and workshops geared to local needs did not give rise to any great panic. Fears, however, very quickly returned. It was actually a prototype of a concentration camp, with all the infamous facilities meeting the exact requirements necessary for the mass extermination of the enslaved population. The camp led off from the cemetery, where the road was paved with the tombstones from the desecrated graves. A special detachment of prisoners ground the magnificent tombstones into pebbles and gravel, and a second group of prisoners pressed the pieces into the earth of the cemetery with the aid of sledge hammers and hand rollers.
Slowly, and in stages, the camp began to occupy more and more space; it expanded, swallowing up huge chunks of land, homes, and plots until finally its perimeter stretched for about two kilometrs. The camp was built to hold about 10,000 Jews who were destined to be the raw material for the new factories at nearby Auschwitz. Towards the end of 1943, the number of prisoners in Plaszow grew to more than 25,000.
SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Goeth, is described here by Joseph Bau (69084):
A hideous and terrible monster who reached the height of more than two meters. He set the fear of death in people, terrified masses and accounted for much chattering of teeth. He ran the camp through extremes of cruelty that are beyond the comprehension of a compassionate mind, employing tortures which dispatched his victims to hell.
For even the slightest infraction of the rules he would rain blow after blow upon the face of the helpless offender, and would observe, with satisfaction born of sadism, how the cheek of his victim would swell and turn blue, how the teeth would fall out and the eyes would fill with tears.
Anyone who was being whipped by him was forced to count in a loud voice, each stroke of the whip and if he made a mistake was forced to start counting over again. During interrogations, which were conducted in his office, he would set the dog on the accused, who was strung by his legs from a specially placed hook in the ceiling. In the event of an escape from the camp, he would order the entire group from which the escapee had come to form a row, would give the order to count ten, and would, himself, kill every tenth person. At one morning parade, in the presence of all the prisoners he shot a Jew because, as he complained, the man was too tall. Then, as the man lay dying, he urinated on him. Once he caught a boy who was sick with diarrhoea and was unable to restrain himself. Goeth forced him to eat all the excrement and then shot him.
Women prisoners were not exempted, as Gena Turgel describes:
My sister Hela was in a group of women sitting, breaking tombstones into tiny pieces for building roads. Another older woman was working with Hela, when Goeth appeared and told the older woman she was not doing it right. Goeth showed her how to do it. When the older woman returned to her work, Goeth shot her.
The first thing in the morning was that Goeth would walk over to the men's side. It was so quiet; you could have heard a fly buzzing. The atmosphere was tense and full of fear. I could hear the echo of Goeth's shouting, and the growling of dogs. Goeth would appear with his body-guard. Goeth walked slowly staring at each man in turn. He would say, You haven't shaved today and shoot the man down. Or to another, you look too clever and shoot him down.
To emphasise the brutality of Goeth many of the incidents that formed the basis of the indictments against him when he was finally arraigned before the military court in Krakow shortly after the war are outlined below. The record also shows his complicity within the corruption of Plaszow Camp. The archive material on Goeth is substantial, and the selection is based on record cards which contain factual accounts of incidents relating to Goeth while he was Commandant of the Plaszow Concentration Camp. All the incidents are supported by evidence obtained during the course of Goeth's interrogationfirst, by the SS during the war, and second, by post-war investigations into his conduct. This evidence formed the basis of the indictments against Goeth in the Polish Courts after the war:
Viktor Dortheimer observes:
It was May 1943; there were about 50 of us in the painters' barracks in Plaszow. Goeth arrived and asked how many prisoners were present. Ferber replied 50 or 51. Goeth shouted, 'Are there 50 or 51?' Kapo Ferber said that maybe one had gone to the toilet. Goeth pulled his pistol and shot Ferber in front of me, he was dead before he hit the ground.
Viktor Dortheimer 1945
At the rear of the women's barracks was the death pit a vast open grave measuring 20 meters long, six meters wide, and three meters deep. All those executed by the SS or who died by other means were dumped unceremoniously into the pit and left to rot. Those prisoners brought to the pit by the SS for execution were shot at the edge of the pit and, with the momentum of a bullet in the nape of the neck, would tumble in, to be covered by a shovel full of lime.
Schindler and Goeth
Schindler met Amon Goeth at the newly constructed Commandant's villa, Rotes Haus (the Red Villa), occupied by Goeth and his mistress, Ruth Kalder. This informal dinner party was attended by all the bosses from the establishment, the armaments and supply factories, security and police chiefs - the establishment of the New Order. Schindler was there because of his persona and reputation for giving charitable gifts. He was also there doing his duty for Canaris.
Emilie Schindler remembers meeting Goeth for the first time:-
He was the most despicable person I ever met, a schizophrenic: one side was that of a refined Viennese gentleman, and the other was dedicated to terrorizing the Jews under his jurisdiction. He was two meters tall, with feminine hips, dark hair, and fleshy lips. I remember him as being thin, not overweight as in the film. Whilst we ate, Goeth drank incessantly and Oskar began to follow the rhythm. Before knowing the Nazi society, he hardly drank (contrary to all the evidence), but now I was afraid he would become an alcoholic. During the day he [Goeth] would kill for the sake of killing. In the evening he could criticize the pitch of any one note in a piece of classical music.
In early January 1943, Schindler astutely read the situation that the Jews were destined for disaster. Many of his workers had been taken to Plaszow labor camp, which entailed a daily march from the camp to the Emalia works, escorted by the Ukrainian guards. Schindler bought a plot of land adjacent to his factory from a young Polish couple. Through his contacts with the Armaments Inspectorate, he acquired the necessary permission to build barracks within the Emalia complex. He then applied to the SS offices at 2, Pomorska Street, Krakow for planning permission to construct the barracks, in accordance with the known regulations. Site meetings were called and final approval came from the SS bureaucracy and from Amon Goeth for the release of the Plaszow prisoners to the Schindler factory barracks. A distinct advantage to the SS was that they would no longer have to supply daily escorts for the prisoners who were travelling some three kilometers daily from Plaszow camp. Instead, the Jewish labor force would be within 50 meters of Schindler's armament production factory. Goeth supported Schindler's plans and facilitated the project by supplying experts from Plaszow camp to work on the construction of the barracks. Adam Guard (69515), a young engineer, was transferred by Goeth from Plaszow to the new building project at the Schindler works. In the new Schindler barracks kitchens, a laundry and even showers were installed. These new facilities were questioned by the SS, but Schindler just mentioned the control of typhus and lice to end any argument.
It cannot be repeated too often that his factory became a haven for Jews, in which Schindler sheltered many who were old and weak, and therefore inefficient workers. It is important to keep this fact in mind when one hears the charge that Schindler's self-interest was most important when he built his sub-camp. Without doubt there is some truth in this. By saving his workers from daily harassment and torture, he increased their efficiency and thereby the output of his factory and profits. But it is equally evident that his compassion often outweighed his profit motive. Schindler took advantage of the rivalries between the Armaments Inspectorate, the Gestapo, and the SS, since he knew the Armaments Inspectorate was likely to support any scheme that would add to the difficulties of the SS. It is not difficult to imagine the pleasure and sense of power he got from playing various Nazi institutions and officials against each other. Schindler made good use of his contacts within the Armaments Inspectorate throughout the war, thereby acquiring the reputation of an industrialist interested in producing weapons required by the army. The result of this reputation was that he was able to increase the leeway he needed to pursue other purposes, and the more invaluable his reputation made him, the more help and protection he could offer his workers and other Jews outside the camp as well.
This episode did not come cheaply to Schindler. Emilie Schindler recalled:
My husband built the barracks under SS supervision. Goeth, of course, arranged the transfer of labor from Plaszow, but it was all based on my husband paying him. That was done with diamonds, presents, and other things, as money had no value
From a report Schindler wrote in July 1945, to Dr Ball-Kaduri, we are able to grasp the turmoil confronting him:
Because of the persecution of the Jews in the whole of Poland, the elimination of their earning capacity, the liquidation of the ghettos, and the opening of concentration camps in 1942, I had to make a decision. Either do without my Jewish workforce or leave them to their fate, as did 99 per cent of Krakow businesses who employed Jews, or to build a private, respectable company facility and encamp all my Jewish workers there. My attitude towards the Jewish workforce helped me to overcome the threatening difficulties that confronted me. In only a few days we were able to erect and build our new camp. This saved hundreds of Jews from deportation. I, myself, resided near the camp. Jews came from neighbouring camps, i.e. NKF, a cooling and air parts factory called Hodermann, the Krakow Crate company Renst Kuhnpast, and the barracks of the Army garrison administration, Krakow, also the Engineering works, Chmielvski. Thus, I saved another 450 Jews from deportation. I am proud to say, that it was through my initiative that these Jews remained in my work camp. With no fear on my behalf, I conducted all the negotiations regarding the Jews directly with the governing body of the SS. The establishment of my work camp had to be financed entirely out of my own funds. It was enough for the SS if their safety regulations were adhered to.
At one time I was dubious about the credibility of his statements. I am becoming persuaded that they must receive due credit as the Schindler story has now unfolded. Corroboration of his activities are coming from independent sources, by Estera Pincas (76399) and Leopold Dagen (69434), whose accounts on the new barracks were reported to the French Military Police on their flight after the war to the Allies. Affidavits from these two witnesses plus a number of others are in the archives at Yad Vashem. Estera Pincas (the wife of Richard Rechin) was interviewed in Haifa in 1995. The Dagen affidavit not only corroborates Pincas but refers to Schindler offering the same protection to his 600 free Polish workers who were in constant danger of labor transports. Dagen refers to Schindler having to go to the SS to rescue his Polish workers who had been seized off the streets. This is significant when assessing the motives of Schindler.
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