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March 3, 2015

Did Amon Goeth have the authority to order executions?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:20 am
Amon Goeth's mugshot after he was arrested by the Germans

Amon Goeth’s mugshot after he was arrested by the Germans

In my blog post today, I am answering a comment made by one of my readers. The comment is quoted below:

“So he [Amon Goeth] didn’t shoot from the balcony. That excuses the thousands upon thousans whose deaths he ordered? Where did you study convoluted logic and denial at? You ought to have a master’s degree.”

Here is my answer to this question:

Several years ago, I went to visit the spot where the Plaszow camp was formerly located. I also visited a small museum in Krakow, where I copied Goeth’s mugshot photo at the top  of this page. Goeth had been arrested by the Germans for stealing from the warehouses of the Plaszow camp.

I read several books about Amon Goeth where I studied “convoluted logic and denial.”  In all my study of this subject, I never learned that Amon Goeth had had the authority to order thousands of deaths.

Amon Goeth, the commander of the Plaszow camp

Amon Goeth, the commander of the Plaszow camp

As the commandant of the Plaszow camp, Goeth had been ordered to carry out the executions that were ordered by others. These executions took place at the Plaszow camp. The people who were executed were not prisoners in  the Plaszow camp.

According to David Crowe’s book, entitled Oscar Schindler,  Wilek Chilowicz was a Jewish prisoner, who was the head of the OD, the Jewish police at Plaszow. Crowe 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.

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.

Due to the fact that Germany was losing the war and the SS now had bigger problems, Goeth was never put on trial in Dr. Morgen’s court and this was the last investigation done by the SS.

After the war, Dr. Morgen was arrested as a “war criminal,” and imprisoned in the bunker at the Dachau concentration camp, which had been converted into “War Crimes Enclosure No. 1” by the American military. 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.

Amon Goeth leaves the courtroom in Poland after he was convicted of war crimes

Amon Goeth leaves the courtroom in Poland after he was convicted of war crimes

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 crimes included the charges 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 said to be “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.

Plateau at Plaszow camp where 8,000 people were executed

Plateau at Plaszow camp where 8,000 people were executed

(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.

 

June 1, 2010

Did Oskar Schindler save 1,200 Jews from “certain death?”

I’ve been reading about 80-year-old Leon Leyson, who is the youngest survivor of the Jews saved by Oskar Schindler during World War II.  Leyson was only 13 years old when his name was put on Schindler’s List.  Here is a quote about the famous Schindler’s List from the Ottowa Citizen newspaper web site:

“Leyson owns the distinction of being the youngest on Schindler’s List — the famed roll containing the names of approximately 1,200 Polish Jews Schindler saved from certain death by employing them in his factory.”

It is generally accepted that the Jews on the famous Schindler’s List would have been sent straight to the gas chambers at Auschwitz if they hadn’t been saved by Oskar Schindler. But is this really true?

The 1993 movie Schindler’s List was based on a novel written by Thomas Kennealy; the book was originally entitled Schindler’s Ark.  The novel was renamed Shindler’s List after the movie came out.  In the fictional story in the novel, Kennealy wrote that the women and children were “accidentially” sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and they would have been gassed if Oskar Schindler hadn’t saved them.

One of the most dramatic scenes in the movie shows Oskar Schindler at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp where he has gone to personally rescue the women and children on his List who, according to the movie, were mistakenly sent to the death camp.

Scene from the movie “Schindler’s List”

Schindler did not personally make up the List of Jews for his factory, as it was portrayed in the movie. David Crowe wrote a book entitled Oskar Schindler, in which he revealed that the movie scene, shown in the photo above, is pure fiction.

According to Crowe, Oskar Schindler had no role in preparing the famous list, other than giving SS-Hauptscharführer Franz Josef Müller some general guidelines for the type of workers he wanted on the list. Amon Göth had been arrested by the SS on September 13, 1944 and was in prison in Breslau when the list was prepared, but this is not mentioned in the movie.  Göth just disappears in the movie and no one notices that he is gone. (Amon Göth was the Commandant of the Plaszow camp who shot prisoners from his balcony in the movie.)

David Crowe wrote that the person responsible for the preparation of Schindler’s List was Marcel Goldberg, a corrupt Jewish prisoner, who was a member of the Ordnungdienst, the Jewish police force in the camp. Goldberg was the assistant of SS-Hauptscharführer Franz Josef Müller, the SS man responsible for the transport lists. Only about one third of the Jews on the list had previously worked in Schindler’s factory in Krakow. The novel, Schindler’s Ark tells about how Goldberg accepted bribes from the prisoners who wanted to get on the list.

In his book Oskar Schindler, David Crowe wrote:

“… watch how Steven Spielberg traces the story of Marcel Goldberg, the real author of Schindler’s List, in his film. He begins in the early part of the film with Goldberg sitting near Leopold “Poldek” Page and other Jewish black marketeers in Krakow’s Marjacki Bazylika (church) as Oskar Schindler tries to interest them in doing business with a German. What follows throughout the rest of the film is the subtle tale of Goldberg’s gradual moral degeneration. Schindler, for example, gives Itzhak Stern first a lighter, then a cigarette case, and finally a watch to bribe Goldberg to send more Jews to his factory from Plaszow.”

Here is the true story of what actually happened:

After Germany conquered Poland in 1939,  Oskar Schindler purchased a factory in the city of Krakow, where he employed Jews from the Krakow ghetto.  When the Krakow ghetto was closed, all the Jews were sent to the nearby Plaszow labor camp which was just outside the city of Krakow.  Schindler got permission to turn his factory into a sub-camp of the Plaszow camp so that he could continue to employ Jews; he built barracks at his factory for the Jews who were then transferred from the Plaszow camp to his sub-camp. After the Plaszow labor camp became a concentration camp, Schindler’s  factory sub-camp was then under the authority of the WVHA, the economic office of the Nazi concentration camp system.

Oskar Schindler was making a fortune during the occupation of Poland during World War II.  Schindler was hiring Jews in his factory and paying lower wages than what he would have had to pay Polish workers.

By 1944, the Nazis were only allowing munitions factories to become sub-camps in their concentration camp system.  Schindler’s factory in Krakow had two parts; one part of his factory made enamel pots and pans for the German army, but he was also producing munitions for the German military.  The Nazis did not want to open a munitions factory that would be a sub-camp of Gross Rosen, so Schindler had to bribe them to allow him to open a munitions factory near his home town of Brünnlitz in what is now the Czech Republic.

When the Plaszow camp was closed in 1944, all the men were sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp, including the Jews on Schindler’s List.  All the women had to go to Auschwitz temporarily because Gross Rosen was a men’s camp that had no barracks for women. After the barracks were built at Schindler’s new sub-camp, the Jews on his List were sent there, including the women who had been temporarily staying at Auschwitz.  In real life, Schindler sent his secretary to Auschwitz to make sure that his Jews got on the right train, but he didn’t go himself.

What if Schindler had just closed his munitions factory in Krakow and not bribed the Nazis to allow him to move it to Brunnlitz?  What would have happened to the prisoners on his famous list?  Would they have been sent immediately to the gas chambers?  No.  The men would have been sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp which did not have gas chambers.  The women and children would have been sent to Auschwitz which was only 37 miles from Krakow, but they would not necessarily have been gassed.  There were numerous survivors of Auschwitz, including old women and little children.

Old women in the barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Old women walking out of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Children leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau after it was liberated

The food for the prisoners in Oskar Schindler’s sub-camp was provided by the Nazis, but Schindler spent his own money to buy extra food and medicine for them.  His workers had a better chance of survival than they would have had in any other camp, but even then, some of his workers died of disease.  The Plaszow prisoners who did not get on Schindler’s List were not condemned to “certain death.”