Jewish Journal

Evening in memoriam Mieczyslaw Pemper 1920-2011, Poland

Katarzyna Odrzywołek, Poland

December 6, 2011 | 2:51 am

Mieczyslaw Pempers nice.

“What matters is only what we do for others and everything else is unimportant”

On November 23rd Oskar Schindler`s Enamel Factory ,the branch of the Krakow Historical Museum held a special evening dedicated to Mietek Pemper. The event was conducted by prof. Aleksander Skotnicki. The meeting enjoyed a considerable interest, both from the history enthusiasts, and students of Cracow secondary and high schools. Besides, there were many distinguished guests - Mieczyslaw Pemper family from Germany, the chairman of the Jewish Community in Cracow Mr Tadeusz Jakubowicz. The curator of the Museum Beata Łabno took care of the whole event. The meeting began with a 10 minute presentaion of a television interview, that Mieczyslaw Pemper gave a few years ago. In this way he was present between us the whole evening.

Mieczyslaw Pemper was born in 1920 in a Jewish family in Podgorze. From an early age he learned to play the violin, he also had a keen interest in history and language learning. He used to spend his free time reading the books.  He studied law at the Jagiellonian University and economics at the University of Economics. During the occupation twenty years old Mieczyslaw spoke fluent German, he worked as a clerk in the Jewish Council and after the liquidation of the ghetto he was sent to a camp in Plaszow, where for 540 days he worked as secretary and stenographer of the camp commandant Amon Goeth. During this period he observed the everyday realityt of the camp as well as personality and behavior of his commander (hanged for war crimes in 1946). Mieczyslaw was subjected to daily attacks of fury Goeth, who prosecuted the prisoners mentally and physically, daily sending a few of them for death. They used to say : “Whoever saw Goeth he saw the death”. From the forthcoming correspondence he learnt about threats to Jews and about the detailed plans headquarters prepared for them. In a short time he began to cooperate with Oskar Schindler, a German entrepreneur who often appeared in Plaszow. Pemper spoke about him, ” we, the Jews would never survive but for Schindler’s help. Oscar gave me the courage to resist the violence and all the time he was a support for me. “

Thanks to Schindler’s orders Plaszow camp workshops became essential to the war, which meant not only the production of military uniforms and clothing, but above all military equipment. It was due to contacts with Schindler that Pemper with the whole family got on the famous list and was taken to the factory Brünnlitz in Moravia. Thousand Jews owes their miraculously saved lives also to Pemper.

After World War II Pemper took part as a witness in the process against Goeth. In 1958 he finally left Poland and moved to Augsburg where he spent the rest of his life. Being an honorary citizen of this city till the end of his days he was giving testimony returning twenty five years in time taking an active part in meetings with young people. He was often asked questions about Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” in which he was a consultant. His death at the age of 91 was received all over the world and many flags were put down the masts in Augsburg as a sign of mourning. The newspapers such as New York Times and the German Franfurkter Allegemeine Zeitung wrote a lot abot him and his life.

During the meeting Mieczyslaw Pemper`s niece said : “I often met my uncle often, and he did not say much about Schindler, what`s more he was convinced that the movie will not be a success - and he was wrong! The fact that the archives after 1989 were revealed and wrote a book ” The true story of Oskar Schindler.”

Aleksander Skotnicki strongly urged all participants to remember the words often quoted by Mieczyslaw Pemper ” in vain lives who never helps anyone ...” I think that it was a real history lesson,especially for the young people which will remain in their memory for a long time .

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