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May 27, 2010

“Inheritance,” a documentary about Monika Hertwig, the daughter of Amon Goeth

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 3:36 pm

Still photo of Monika Hertwig from the film Inheritance

Monika Hertwig, the daughter of Amon Goeth, is the subject of the 2008 PBS documentary film entitled Inheritance.  James Moll, the film maker, deliberately used bad lighting to make Monika look like a scary monster when she is actually a beautiful woman, just like her mother Ruth Irene Kalder, a movie actress who was the mistress of Amon Goeth while he was the Commandant of Plaszow, the camp that is shown in the movie Schindler’s List.

Still shot from Inheritance shows the balcony where Amon Goeth allegedly shot prisoners in the Plaszow camp

The most famous scenes in the movie Schindler’s List show Commandant Amon Goeth shooting prisoners in the camp from the balcony of his villa. In the photo above, note the patio doors underneath the balcony. The photo below shows the real life Amon Goeth standing on the patio, not the balcony.

Amon Goeth shown on the patio of his house at the Plaszow camp

Pictures don’t lie.  The photo above shows Amon Goeth, caught red-handed, with a rifle in his hand, but he is not standing on a balcony. Note the patio doors in the background.

Did the Commandant of Plaszow really shoot prisoners at random, from his balcony, just for the fun of it?  Not unless he had some special kind of rifle that could shoot bullets over a hill.

Ruth Irene Kalder, standing on the patio of the house where she lived with Amon Goeth

Monika’s mother was Ruth Irene Kalder who was Oskar Schindler’s secretary before she became the mistress of Amon Goeth; she was a former movie actress.

The front of Amon Goeth’s house at Plaszow, 1998

In the fall of 1998, I visited the site of the former Plaszow camp and my tour guide took me to see Amon Goeth’s house, which is shown in the photo above.  I asked the guide where the camp was located and she said, “You can’t see the camp from here because it is behind a hill.” The guide told me that the house next door, shown in the photo below, was actually used in the film “Schindler’s List” because it was nicer than Goeth’s real house.

House that was used as Goeth’s villa in movie Schindler’s List

The photo below is a still photo from the movie “Schindler’s List.” In the movie, the balcony of Goeth’s house is only a few yards from the camp. Visitors to Goeth’s villa today can see that the house was actually behind a hill and the camp was not visible from the balcony.

Still shot from “Schindler’s List” shows Amon Goeth shooting prisoners from his balcony

The quarry where “Schindler’s List” was filmed was not the actual location of the camp

In the film Schindler’s List, which is a fictional story based on a novel entitled Schindler’s Ark, the villa where Amon Goeth lived is shown being right next to the Plaszow camp when it was actually far away from the camp. The camp was located in a quarry, but not the quarry where Steven Spielberg filmed the movie.

Thomas Keneally, the author of the book Schindler’s Ark, explained in his novel that Amon Goeth was not arrested for shooting prisoners from his balcony because Plaszow was a labor camp at that time and it was not yet under the jurisdiction of the SS Economic Administrative Main Office in Oranienburg, which controlled the concentration camps.  A Commandant of a concentration camp was not allowed to shoot prisoners without permission from the Oranienburg office.

Tourists are told that Amon Goeth shot prisoners from the balcony of this house

The house shown in the photo above was the last of three houses where Amon Goeth lived at the Plaszow camp. He did not live in this house when, according to the novel Schindler’s Ark, he shot prisoners from the balcony.

Of course, this is not mentioned in the documentary entitled Inheritance.

In the documentary Inheritance, Monika is shown at the site of the Plaszow camp as she meets Helen Jonas, who was one of the two women prisoners who worked for Amon Goeth in his home.

Helen Jonas on the left talks with Monika Goeth at the former Plaszow camp

Commandant Amon Goeth had two Jewish housemaids who lived in the basement of his villa: Helen Hirsch and Helen Sternlicht. Helen Hirsch is now Helen Horowitz and Helen Sternlicht, who is shown in the photo above, is now Helen Jonas, formerly Helen Rosenzweig. According to a book, entitled Oscar Schinlder, written by David Crowe, Goeth differentiated between the two Helens by calling Helen Hirsch by the nickname Lena and renaming Helen Sternlicht with the name Susanna. In the movie, the two Helens are a composite of the two real life Helens, although both Helens appear together briefly in one scene.

Helen Hirsch moved to Israel after World War II ended, and became part of the close-knit circle of the “Schindler Jews” in Israel who provided the information that became the basis for Thomas Keneally’s novel Schindler’s Ark and Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List.

According to author David Crowe, Helen Hirsch was the older of the two Jewish maids who worked for Goeth. She had originally worked in the camp’s Jewish kitchen and was chosen by her superior, Leon Myer, to work for Goeth. Myer took several weeks to acquaint her with the commandant’s personal likes and dislikes. Initially, Helen lived in a special barracks for Jewish workers, but eventually moved into the maid’s quarters in the cold, damp cellar of Goeth’s villa. Living with Goeth, she said after the war, “was almost like living under the gallows twenty-four hours a day.”

David Crowe wrote that Helen Hirsch Horowitz told Martin Gosch and Howard Koch in 1964 that “insofar as she was concerned, he (Goeth) had made some attempts physically and sexually upon her.” Gosch and Koch decided not to put this in the film script because “she might be accused even today of having acceded to his physical demands in order to preserve her life, and this does not happen to be true.”

The story that is told in the movie about how Amon Goeth chose his housemaid is actually closer to the story of how Helen Sternlicht Jonas was selected by Goeth.

According to David Crowe’s book, the true story is as follows:

When the Germans began the construction of Plaszow in late 1942, Helen Sternlicht’s mother, Lola, and one of her older sisters, Sydel (Sydonia), were sent there to work. As the Krakow ghetto was being liquidated, Helen Sternlicht decided to try to sneak into Plaszow because she did not have the blue Kennkarte which was necessary for identification. Helen had already learned about the death trains to Belzec and was desperate to join her sister and mother at Plaszow. She hid in a milk wagon going to Plaszow but was discovered by the driver just before he arrived at the camp. She managed to escape his grasp and made it into the camp, where she was given a job cleaning barracks. One day while she was cleaning windows, Amon Goeth walked in and said, “I want this girl in my house. If she is smart enough to clean windows in the sunshine, I want her.”

Of course, the documentary does not tell you that Helen Sternlicht Jonas actually sneaked into the Plaszow camp.

When Plaszow was being closed in the fall of 1944, Oskar Schindler requested that Helen Sternlicht and her sister, Anna, be put on the female “Schindler’s List.”

In his book Oskar Schindler, David Crowe wrote that Helen Sternlicht Jonas never mentioned sexual advances toward her from Goeth. The sex scenes in the movie Schindler’s List involved Helen Hirsch.

The following quote is from the book Oskar Schindler, by David Crowe:

Mietek Pemper told me that Goeth, who had liver and kidney problems, was not attracted to women. In fact, he found the idea that Goeth was somehow sexually attracted to Helen Hirsch Horowitz pure “baloney.” She was not, he added, “Miss Krakow or Miss Poland.” Helen Rosenzweig added that Goeth was also a diabetic who drank heavily. He believed firmly in Nazi racial laws and would not have had relations with a Jew. This does not contradict Helen Hirsch’s claim that Goeth tried to sexually abuse her when he was drunk. However, the idea, as depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film, that Goeth was somehow infatuated with Helen Hirsch and even toyed with the idea of kissing her is totally fictitious.

In February 2009, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum did a series of interviews with Holocaust survivors called Voices on Antisemitism. As part of this project, Helen Sternlicht Jonas was interviewed by Aleisa Fishman.

The following quote is the words of Helen Sternlicht Jonas in her interview with Aleisa Fishman:

When I arrived in Camp Plaszow, I was assigned to clean barracks. At the third day, a tall SS walked in the room, and he was Amon Goeth. At the time, I didn’t know who he was. But he looked around and he said to the woman that was in charge of us to send me to his house. And I really didn’t know what a brutal man he is, but he was a madman. He was a madman. He always, from the balcony he watched the camp, and he’s standing with the little machine gun through the window. He said, “You see those dumb heads? They’re standing, doing nothing.” He says, “I’m going to shoot.” And you could hear shooting like hell. And I could hear him whistling a happy tune, like he did so well. And this face with such satisfaction! I can’t forget that. The dreams after so many years he’s chasing me, I’m hiding. Because I lived in constant fear, constant fear, just looking at him. He was barbaric.

So there you have it — actual eye-witness testimony that Amon Goeth shot prisoners, who were behind a hill, from a house in which he didn’t live at that time.

Amon Goeth’s mug shot taken after he was arrested, August 29, 1945

In 1943, SS Judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen of the Haupt Amt Gericht (SS-HAG) was given an assignment to investigate and prosecute corruption and unauthorized murder at the Buchenwald concentration camp. His next assignment was to investigate the Plaszow camp. As a result of his investigation, which involved interviewing the prisoners, Amon Goeth was arrested by the Central Office of the SS Judiciary and imprisoned. Goeth was charged with stealing from the warehouses and factories at Plaszow, but not with shooting prisoners from the balcony of his home. There is no evidence whatsoever that Amon Goeth shot prisoners from his balcony, which was not even possible in real life.

After World War II ended, the American military turned Amon Goeth over to the Polish government for prosecution as a war criminal. He was brought before the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland in Krakow. His trial took place between August 27, 1946 and September 5, 1946.

Goeth was charged with being a member of the Nazi party and a member of the Waffen-SS, Hitler’s elite army, both of which had been designated as criminal organizations by the Allies after the war. His crime was that he had taken part in the activities of these two criminal organizations. The crime of being a Nazi applied only to Nazi officials, and Goeth had never held a job as a Nazi official. In fact, at the time of Goeth’s conviction by the Polish court, the judgment against the SS and the Nazi party as criminal organizations had not yet been made by the Nuremberg IMT.

At Goeth’s trial, the Nazi party was characterized as “an organization which, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, through aggressive wars, violence and other crimes, aimed at world domination and establishment of the National-Socialist regime.” Amon Goeth was accused of personally issuing orders to deprive people of freedom, to ill-treat and exterminate individuals and whole groups of people. His crimes, including the newly created crime of genocide, came under a new law of the Allies, called Crimes against Humanity.

The charges against Amon Goeth were as follows:

(1) The accused as commandant of the forced labour camp at Plaszow (Cracow) from 11th February, 1943, till 13th September, 1944, caused the death of about 8,000 inmates by ordering a large number of them to be exterminated.

(2) As a SS-Sturmführer the accused carried out on behalf of SS-Sturmbannführer Willi Haase the final closing down of the Cracow ghetto. This liquidation action which began on 13th March, 1943, deprived of freedom about 10,000 people who had been interned in the camp of Plaszow, and caused the death of about 2,000.

(3) As a SS-Hauptsturmführer the accused carried out on 3rd September, 1943, the closing down of the Tarnow ghetto. As a result of this action an unknown number of people perished, having been killed on the spot in Tarnow; others died through asphyxiation during transport by rail or were exterminated in other camps, in particular at Auschwitz.

(4) Between September, 1943, and 3rd February, 1944, the accused closed down the forced labour camp at Szebnie near Jaslo by ordering the inmates to be murdered on the spot or deported to other camps, thus causing the death of several thousand persons.

(5) Simultaneously with the activities described under (1) to (4) the accused deprived the inmates of valuables, gold and money deposited by them, and appropriated those things. He also stole clothing, furniture and other movable property belonging to displaced or interned people, and sent them to Germany. The value of stolen goods and in particular of valuables reached many million zlotys at the rate of exchange in force at the time.

The last charge, as stated in number (5) above, was the crime for which he had been arrested by the Gestapo on September 13, 1944, after an investigation by Waffen-SS officer Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen.  Note that he was not charged with shooting prisoners from his balcony.

At his trial, Goeth’s defense was that he was a Waffen-SS soldier who had to follow the orders of his superiors. He denied killing anyone except when ordered to carry out an execution.  He called Helen Hirsch as a defense witness on his behalf.

The photograph below shows Amon Goeth as he was escorted from the courtroom after being sentenced to death. At 6 foot 4 inches tall, Goeth towered over his Polish guards.

Amon Goeth leaves courthouse after being sentenced to death

Amon Goeth was found guilty on all counts. He was hanged in Krakow on September 13, 1946, exactly two years to the day that he left the Plaszow camp after being arrested. The scene of his hanging was filmed and the film clip is included in the documentary “Inheritance.” Goeth’s body was cremated and his ashes were thrown into the Weichsel river.

Holocaust denial is punishable by five years in prison in many European countries.   But what about Holocaust exaggeration?  For that, you get recognition, millions of dollars, and an Academy Award.

Prisoners at Dachau taunted by signs…

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:01 am

The first thing that visitors to Dachau are told by their tour guides is that the prisoners were taunted by a sign over the gate which said “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which is translated literally as Work makes Free.  Today I read a blog written by Corrine, a visitor who said that her tour guide told her that the “no smoking sign” in the administration building, which is now the Museum, was “put there as a taunt to the prisoners who were not allowed cigarettes.”  You can read Corrine’s blog here.

"Smoking Forbidden" sign in Dachau Museum

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