Amon Goeth, Plaszow Commandant

Amon Goeth, Commandant of Plaszow

The photo above shows the Commandant of the Plaszow camp, Amon Leopold Goeth (Göth), after he was arrested by the SS Criminal Police for "corruption and brutality" on September 13, 1944 and imprisoned at Breslau.

Amon Leopold Goeth, the villain of the movie Schindler's List, was born in 1908 in Vienna, Austria. At the age of 24, he joined the Nazi party. In 1940, Amon Goeth became a member of the Waffen-SS. He was assigned to the SS headquarters for Operation Reinhard in Lublin in German-occupied Poland in 1942. Operation Reinhard was the plan to evacuate the Jews from the Ghettos in Poland to three death camps: Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, all of which were in eastern Poland. Goeth's first task was supervise the liquidation of several of the small ghettos in Lublin.

The Jewish ghettos in Lublin were the first to be liquidated and some of the Jews from Lublin were the first to be sent to the Belzec extermination camp during Operation Reinhard, which marked the beginning of the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe." Goeth accepted bribes from some of the Lublin ghetto Jews during the selection process, and put them on the list to be sent to a labor camp, rather than to the Belzec death camp.

Amon Goeth in his SS uniform

The photo above shows Amon Goeth before his health deteriorated. After he was arrested and imprisoned by the SS, he was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes and sent to an SS sanitarium at Bad Tölz in Germany.

In February 1943, Goeth received a promotion and became the third SS officer to hold the job of Commandant of the Plaszow labor camp. While he was the Commandant of Plaszow, Goeth was assigned to supervise the liquidation of the Podgorze ghetto on March 13, 1943, and later the labor camp at Szebnie. The liquidation of the Podgorze ghetto in Krakow is shown in the movie, Schindler's List. The ghetto scenes in the movie were filmed in Kazimierz, another ghetto in Krakow.

On September 3, 1943, Goeth supervised the liquidation of the Tarnow ghetto. During the liquidation of these ghettos, Goeth took advantage of the situation by stealing some of the property that was confiscated from the Jews, including furs and furniture. He stored some of this property in an apartment in Vienna, where his wife lived with his two children.

In January 1944, the forced labor camp at Plaszow was converted into a concentration camp under the jurisdiction of WVHA, the SS Office of Economics and Administration in Oranienburg, near Berlin. The two sub-camps at Prokocim and Biezanow were incorporated into the main camp at Plaszow and living conditions were improved. The Polish prisoners and a few German criminals were now in the same camp as the Jews, as was typical in other Nazi concentration camps. Only a few prisoners were now required to work in the quarry as punishment. There were factories set up for the production of Wehrmacht (regular Germany army) uniforms and for upholstered furniture. There was also a custom tailoring shop, a jewelry shop and a cable factory in the camp.

As the Commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp, Amon Goeth now had to report to the WVHA headquarters office in Oranienburg.

The following quote is from the novel Schindler's List:

"The chiefs in Oranienburg did not permit summary execution. The days when slow potato-peelers could be expunged on the spot were gone. They could now be destroyed only by due process. There had to be a hearing, a record sent in triplicate to Oranienburg. The sentence had to be confirmed not only by General Glueck's office but also by General Pohl's Department W (Economic Enterprises)."

After Goeth was arrested 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." 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."

David Crowe wrote that Amon Goeth had been arrested after a 6-month investigation of Goeth's tenure as Plaszow's Commandant. Goeth was 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. Goeth's second wife had divorced him in 1944.

Ruth-Irene Kalder on the balcony of Goeth's villa at Plaszow camp

According to the 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." Actually, this was only a small part of the corruption discovered by the SS during their investigation of Amon Goeth.

In his novel entitled "Schindler's Ark," 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 prisoners didn't starve however, because they brought stolen food into the camp with them when they came back from work parties, according to the author of Schindler's Ark. The movie shows a scene where Goeth is trying to find out which prisoner brought a stolen chicken into the camp.

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 executiion 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.

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 to "War Crimes Enclosure No. 1" by the American military.

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.

Like Commandant Karl Otto Koch of Buchenwald and Majdanek, who was also arrested by the SS for murder and embezzlement, Goeth considered himself to be a cultured man and a man of letters, a poet even. Goeth's parents owned a publishing firm in Vienna and they wanted their son to take over the business some day, but Goeth wasn't interested. Goeth's first marriage, arranged by his parents, ended in divorce in 1934.

According to the Pharmacy Museum guidebook, which I purchased in the former Podgorze ghetto in Krakow, there was a total of 35,000 prisoners in the Plaszow camp during the two and a half years of its operation. The novel, Schindler's Ark, mentions that the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland estimated that 150,000 prisoners passed through Plaszow and 80,000 of them died as a result of mass executions or epidemics. According to David Crowe's book, Plaszow served as a transit camp for prisoners who were being sent to Auschwitz, which might account for the number of 150,000 prisoners passing through the camp.

It was determined by the Highest National Tribunal of Poland, after hearing witness testimony from survivors, that about 8,000 people had died in the Plaszow camp, most of whom were executed. It was the custom for the Nazis to bring condemned prisoners to the closest concentration camp for execution.

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.

The pictures below, taken on August 8, 1945, show Goeth's prison mug shots; he had lost weight because he was suffering from diabetes.

Amon Goeth's prison mug shots

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.

(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.

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. You can read the full text of the transcript of the trial of Amon Leopold Goeth here.

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. His body was cremated and his ashes were thrown into the Weichsel river. His name will forever be associated with the total disregard for human life, as exemplified by the fictional scenes in Schindler's List when Goeth shoots Jewish prisoners at random from the balcony of his home.

Amon Goeth's house

Amon Goeth's daughter Monika


This page was last updated on July 17, 2012