Amon Goeth was the Commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp; he was shown in the movie Schindler’s List as an evil monster who heartlessly shot innocent Jews from the balcony of his home. In the movie, Goeth also beat his maid and committed many other atrocities. So why would anyone think that Amon Goeth, the epitome of evil, saved Jews during the Holocaust?
After World War II ended, Amon Goeth was put on trial in Poland, but he was not charged with shooting prisoners from his balcony, nor with beating his maid. He was charged with “liquidating” the Krakow ghetto, the Tarnow ghetto and the labor camp at Szebnie near Jaslo. During these liquidations, prisoners who tried to escape were shot and Amon Goeth was responsible for their deaths, although he didn’t personally shoot anyone.
When the ghettos were liquidated, some of the Jews were sent to forced labor camps, such as the Plaszow camp that is shown in Schindler’s List, but others were sent to the death camps at Belzec or Auschwitz. Amon Goeth took bribes from some of the Jews in the ghettos and then sent them to a labor camp instead of sending them to a death camp. Goeth was arrested by the Nazis themselves on September 13, 1944 and charged by SS judge Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen with taking bribes from the Jews in exchange for not sending them to a death camp. The movie Schindler’s List did not mention Goeth’s arrest and his absence in the camp was never explained.
How many Jews did Amon Goeth save from certain death in the death camps? No one knows, but he was amassing a fortune from the bribes that he took, and this attracted the attention of the SS Criminal Police; he was investigated for six months before he was finally arrested.
Goeth’s first job, after he joined the Waffen-SS, had been to liquidate several ghettos in the Lublin area. In exchange for money or other valuables such as furs and furniture, Goeth had sent Jews to labor camps instead of sending them to the death camp at Belzec. In the eyes of the Nazis, this was a crime because all possessions taken from the Jews belonged to the Third Reich, not to SS officers like Goeth.
According to Thomas Keneally’s novel, Schindler’s Ark, Amon Goeth was “selling a percentage of the prison rations on the open market in Cracow through an agent of his, a Jewish prisoner named Wilek Chilowicz, who had contacts with factory managements, merchants and even restaurants in Cracow.” Thomas Keneally explained that Chilowicz was allegedly killed by Goeth because he was a potential witness to Goeth’s crime of stealing the prisoner’s food. (The movie Schindler’s List was based on the novel Schindler’s Ark.)
So Amon Goeth, whose name is synonymous with evil for a whole generation of Americans, was actually working with the Jews to become rich during World War II. However, it is doubtful that Goeth was stealing food from the Plaszow camp when there was a jewelry factory there as well as a furniture factory and a custom tailor shop. The Jews who made it onto Schindler’s List stole diamonds from the jewelry factory and used them to bribe Marcel Goldman, the Jew who made up Schindler’s List.
After Goeth was arrested by the Nazis on September 13, 1944, Oskar Schindler was arrested a few days later and interrogated by the SS as part of the Goeth investigation, according to David Crowe’s book entitled Oskar Schindler.
David Crowe wrote that Schindler
“did move a lot of the former Plaszow commandant’s war booty to Brünnlitz. Göth, who still seemed to consider Schindler his friend, visited Brünnlitz several times during the latter months of the war while on parole.”
Goeth had been kept in prison in Breslau until he was released on parole on October 22, 1944 because he was suffering from diabetes. He was recuperating in an SS sanitarium in Bad Tölz near Munich when he was arrested by General Patton’s troops in 1945. His mistress, Ruth Irene Kalder, was with him at Bad Tölz and their daughter, Monika, was born there in November 1945.
Mietek Pemper, a prisoner at Plaszow who worked as Goeth’s stenographer and was privy to secret SS documents, was the main witness against Amon Goeth when he was put on trial in Poland after the war. Pemper told author David Crowe that:
“the basis of Chilowicz’s wealth came from the goods that Göth had collected from Krakow’s Jews after the closing of the (Podgorze) ghetto. Though Göth was supposed to send these valuables to the Reichsbank, he told Chilowicz to keep most of it for his (Göth’s) own expenses. These goods became the basis of Göth’s black market empire at Plaszow. Chilowicz, who handled Göth’s black market deals, always managed to skim something off the top for himself.”
According to David Crowe’s book, Wilek Chilowicz was the head of the OD, the Jewish police at Plaszow. He wrote that “Göth sought permission to murder Chilowicz and several other prominent OD men in the camp on false charges.” In all the Nazi concentration camps, the staff had to get permission from headquarters in Oranienburg to punish a prisoner, but punishment did not include murder.
Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen was a Waffen-SS officer and attorney whom Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had put in charge of investigating murder, corruption and mistreatment of prisoners in all the Nazi concentration camps in 1943. Dr. Morgen’s first investigation had resulted in the arrest of Karl Otto Koch, the Commandant of Buchenwald, and his later execution by the Nazis. When Goeth realized that he was being investigated by Dr. Morgen, he sought permission from Wilhelm Koppe in the central office in Oranienburg to execute Wilek Chilowicz, who could have testified against him.
Wait a minute! Amon Goeth, the man who shot prisoners at random from his balcony, “sought permission” to execute the Jew that he was working with to steal goods when the ghettos were liquidated? That doesn’t make any sense at all.
According to David Crowe’s book, Goeth asked one of his SS officers, Josef Sowinski, to prepare a detailed, false report about a potential camp rebellion led by Chilowicz and other OD men. Based on this report, Koppe sent a secret letter to Goeth giving him the authority to carry out the execution of Chilowicz and several other OD men. The execution took place on August 13, 1944; Goeth was arrested exactly a month later and charged by Dr. Morgen with corruption and brutality, including the murder of Wilek Chilowicz and several others. The office in Oranienburg did not have the authority to give an execution order; an execution could only be authorized by the Gestapo in Berlin.
Oskar Schindler had a lot in common with Amon Goeth, including the fact that both were Catholic and both were arrested by the Nazis for engaging in black market activities. Both were out to get rich from the war-time economy in Poland. Both were born in the same year, 1908; both were hard drinkers and both had a “massive physique.” Goeth was Austrian, as were his fellow Nazi criminals Adolph Eichmann, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and Adolph Hitler. Schindler was an ethnic German living in what is now the state of Moravia in the Czech Republic.
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.
Goeth was also charged with the following crime:
(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 against Goeth, as stated above, was the crime for which he had been arrested on September 13, 1944, after an investigation by Waffen-SS officer Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen.
So how did Goeth manage to “deprive the inmates of valuables, gold and money” in connection with the liquidation of the ghettos, as stated in the charges against him by the Polish government? This is probably a reference to the bribes that Amon Goeth took to save some of the Jews from being sent to the death camps when the ghettos were liquidated.
Oskar Schinlder saved 1,200 Jews by putting them on a List of prisoners to be taken to his factory in what is now the Czech Republic. Amon Goeth was in charge of liquidating at least 6 ghettos. If he saved as many as 200 Jews from being sent to Belzec or Auschwitz from each of these ghettos, then his total of saved Jews would be comparable to the number on Schindler’s List.
Maybe Steven Spielberg should make a sequel in which he would show Amon Goeth taking bribes and sending Jews to labor camps instead of sending them to certain death. It could be entitled “Goeth’s List” as a reference to the list of Jews from whom Goeth accepted bribes to save their lives.