Jewish Journal

Profile of Amon Goeth – the Commandant of the Płaszów Camp.

Michał Zajda

July 25, 2012 | 12:48 pm

SS-Hauptsturmführer, SS No. – 43673.

Amon Leopold Goeth, like many Nazi criminals, was born in Vienna, on December 11,1908. Before the war he was a modest clerk, with a passion for literature. He was a ticking time bomb. Unfulfilled murderers, domestic sadists – nice and likeable on the surface, of whom a neighbour, upon hearing that by noon they killed half a kindergarten, would say “impossible, he was such a nice and well-mannered man”.

Such people grow in strength during a war. Their second self, or maybe even their whole self, can shoot at helpless people in the glory of law and patriotism. Degenerated rascal and scoundrel, death-man! He dealt punishment out by himself. He beat and encouraged beating. He set dogs on people. He tormented anything that was alive, just another Goethe lover! If he wasn’t hung in Poland, the German justice administration would have leaned over his heavy war experience and discontinued the case due to lack of sufficient evidence of guilt.

The day of February 13th, 1942 engraved with blood in the annuals of the Krakow history. It was then that Amon Goeth became the commandant of the camp. Previously, he was an administration officer controlling the death camps in Bełżec, Sobibor and Treblinka. He was authorised in person, which was a rare thing, by another “great Austrian” – Odilo Globocnik. The head of “Reinhard operation”, the man responsible for murdering millions of people. It should be stated that the new function was absolutely a promotion for Goeth who was to make use of the experience gained in the death camps for reinforcing the one thousand years old Reich. Goeth, as the commandant of the Płaszów camp, was the superior of all other minor camps, the so called Arbeitskommandos, located in Krakow. Just as on the previous post with Globocnik, Goeth had the right to enter every camp, which he often did. He participated actively in the liquidation of the ghettos in Krakow, Rzeszów and Przemyśl, and the liquidation of the Tarnów ghetto was controlled by him personally. He had enormous power and prestige among criminals like him who described the Płaszów camp as “Lager Goeth”. Goeth also had his private camp jail – leaving barely anyone alive. The death sentences were usually performed by the Jewish Ghetto Police but the Commandant very often could not deny himself the pleasure of killing and often reached for the gun, becoming a passionate and loyal arm of the Nazi justice.

Amon Goeth, however, was not a Nazi philanthropist blindly following his principal Heinrich Himmler. He liked gold and money. The valuables taken from the prisoners were stored in a camp unit with a catchy name: Effektenkammer. During initial sorting of the robbed jewelery, the first to be awarded were all the kinds of helpers who the Commandant made use of in his criminal business. Next, the more valuable items were presented, surely by mistake and as a result of Jewish conspiracy, to the surprise of anything Goeth. Everything that left was sent to the warehouse of post-Jewish property. From there the valuables and foreign currency were transported to the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt [SS Main Economic and Administrative Department] in Berlin. The next stage was the Reich’s Treasury and then probably Switzerland or Argentina, where people like Goeth – “those who only obeyed orders” – lived and laughed in the face of what honest people call justice! Goeth, however, by robbing the Jewish prisoners of all earthly goods and appropriating them, robbed at the same time the unbreakable Reich. And that was something they did not tolerate. Many people devoted and similar to him, probably not generously presented by their benefactor, informed the top. He was arrested on September 13th, 1944 and later brought before the SS court. It was then that somebody realized that abusing the prisoners, as well as stealing and misusing the power given with Führer’s grace was not right. He plead guilty!

At the end of the war, Goeth managed to escape from a Nazi prison, or as he claimed, he was released. He got into American hands who immediately gave him away to Poland where on August 27th, 1946 he appeared before the Polish Supreme National Tribunal. The trial revealed the true face of Amon Goeth who wallowed in luxury in the Płaszów camp. He lived in a beautifully equipped villa with a swimming pool in the garden and employed prisoners as servants – mainly women. Heoften threw lavish parties where the “first fiddle” was played by a friend of his – Majola. Goeth fed his dogs with meat earmarked for the prisoners, his beloved dog Rolf arousing fear just like his owner. During his walks, he specialised in various murders. The idea of dying by his hand was enough to not show disrespect to the commandment.

Władysław Kopystecki, a Pole lying curbstones at the camp, testified: “When he [Amon Goeth] came to the camp with his dog, in a white shirt, in high boots, he found her at the back eating a potato. He shot at her head. She fell at the cauldron. Then he called two Jews who worked in the stable and ordered to throw her to the other cauldron with boiling water. [...] The Jews threw her inside, she still lived, and she moved her legs splashing that boiling water. So he ordered to cover her and walked away.” He also murdered children. Once, an incident like this happened: A six-year-old boy, after being dropped from a truck, began to run away. Goeth called then: “Komm, komm, hab keine Angst!” [Come, come, don’t be afraid!] Suddenly, the boy stopped. He took a mirror and some toys out of his pocket, trying maybe subconsciously to avoid death. With a forgiving smile, Goeth took everything from him only to shoot the boy with his own hands.

Once he shot his housemaid. When he returned home, completely drunk, he met her at the stairs and shook hands with her. She, surprised with the gesture, said she was Jewish. When he sobered up the next day and recalled that incident, he called the woman and shot her down. He also shot his batman because he prepared the wrong horse for a ride.

On September 5th, 1946, Amon Goeth heard the sentence: capital punishment, loss of civil rights and honorary civil rights for ever, and confiscation of property. The law of mercy was not used. On September 13th, 1946 the sentence was performed. By hanging.

That was the end of one of the greatest criminals the Earth has ever known. A man devoid of any feelings. A mere bandit lacking ideals who fell into disgrace of people similar to him. He was not even able to hide himself after the war and as we know, many of his fellows managed to do that. Practically, he did not defend in the court, probably realizing that the only thing available for him in Poland, was death.

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