Amon Göth’s granddaughter, Jennifer Teege, wrote a book titled, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me. I don’t think that would be the case. I think Jennifer would not even have been conceived if her grandfather would have been alive.
Göth was relatively unknown until Stephen Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. His brutality was unhinged.
I wrote about Göth before. In this post, I want to focus on his evil nature—he was nearly too evil for the Nazis. Amon Göth was born on 11 December 1908 in Vienna and raised as a Roman Catholic. His grandfather and his father had a printing company that printed and bound books on military and economic history.
In 1940, Göth joined the Schutzstaffel with the number 43673. His career as a professional killer began. Until 30 May 1942, Göth was employed as an SS-Untersturmführer at the “Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle” in Katowice, Poland. On 12 June 1942, he was assigned to the staff of Odilo Globocnik, the Austrian-born SS- und Polizeiführer at Lublin. He was deployed there at the field of action of the Judenumsiedlung [resettlement of the Jews] a euphemism for the deportation and mass killings in the context of Aktion Reinhard.
Aktion Reinhard was the code name for the Nazi operation with the aim of destroying more than two million Jews in five districts of the Generalgouvernement—Warsaw, Lublin, Radom, Krakow and the city of Lvov. This operation was named after Reinhard Heydrich, who, until his death on 4 June 1942, had been the main organizer of the Holocaust. Goeth was involved in the clearing of several smaller ghettos. After a conflict with SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, chief of staff of Aktion Reinhard and another Austrian, he was transferred to Krakow. Goeth had been accused of corruption by Höfle. This warning, however, was not an incentive for Goeth to stop his corrupt activities.
However, by 1943, he had been promoted to Hauptsturmführer (similar to an army captain), and he had also become the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów Concentration Camp.
Now populated with prisoners, Płaszów started out as a slave labour camp before eventually being upgraded to full concentration camp status when it grew in size. Daily life at the camp was even more horrendous than in the other Nazi-established camps, due mainly to the activities of its commandant. Göth enjoyed humiliating, torturing and murdering people. He established rules for his little fiefdom. They were among some of the harshest ever imposed within the Nazi concentration camp system.
Prisoners could be executed for a whole wealth of reasons, ranging from being found with extra food hidden in their clothes to being related to a prisoner who had attempted to escape. Göth believed in collective punishment and wouldn’t hesitate to execute or severely beat prisoners who hadn’t done anything wrong. Executions took place on a daily basis on a large hill close to the camp known as Hujowa Górka. Trenches were dug on the hillside and prisoners were forced to stand naked in lines in the trenches where they were shot one after the other in the back of the head. Göth ordered that all prisoners of the camp had to watch these mass executions, including the children who lived in the camp. These children were eventually rounded-up and sent off to Auschwitz to be gassed when Göth needed room for incoming prisoners.
It wasn’t just the strict rules Göth imposed on the camp that left prisoners living in a permanent state of fear. The commandant’s psychotic behaviour made life in Płaszów almost unbearable. Prisoners who survived the war describe a huge, foul-tempered and often drunken man who liked to shoot at least one person dead, every day before he’d had his breakfast. One prisoner, Poldek Pfefferberg said, “When you saw Goeth, you saw Death.”
Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, a young woman forced to work as Göth’s maid witnessed firsthand his appalling sadism. “As a survivor, I can tell you that we are all traumatized people, never would I, never, believe that any human being would be capable of such horror—of such atrocities.”
Then there were Göth’s dogs. Rolf and Ralf, were personally trained by Göth to attack prisoners on command. The dogs would tear their victims’ limb from limb as their screams rang out across the camp. Even the men who looked after Rolf and Ralf were safe. When Göth began to suspect the dogs preferred one of their handlers over their master, he had the man brought before him and shot.
Goeth personally murdered some of the Jewish victims himself, including approximately 90 women and children at Tarnów.
Göth’s corrupt life was the reason for the SS to arrest him on 13 September 1944. A higher-ranking SS officer, Eckert, investigated the corrupt ways of Göth. Evidence was found in his villa, a sum of around 80,000 Reichsmark. He had no explanation as to how he came about this sum. As well as the cash, a million cigarettes were found in the same villa. His apartment in Vienna looked more like a warehouse than a place to live due to the stockpile of stolen goods there. Göth was charged with black marketing and corruption but never faced a trial. There was no time because the war rapidly came to its conclusion. Suffering from diabetes, he was released in January 1945 and transported to a sanatorium in Bavarian Bad Tölz. In the meantime, the prisoners in Plaszow were transferred to other camps and evidence of the mass killings had been destroyed. The bodies in the mass graves around Plaszow were dug up and were subsequently burnt. The last 2,000 prisoners were deported to Auschwitz on 14 January 1945.
Göth was arrested in Bad Tölz in Bavaria in 1945 by US troops. At the time of his capture, he was wearing a German Army uniform and not immediately identified as an SS officer. However, survivors of Płaszów were able to identified him. He was tried and found guilty of imprisoning, torturing and killing thousands of people.
Amon Göth was sentenced to death for his crimes. He was hanged in the Montelupich Prison in Kraków on 13 September 1945, a short distance from the site of the notorious concentration camp where his disrespect, sadism and utter lack of humanity had caused so much human suffering in the history of Nazi tyranny.
Hanged on 13 September 1945, his final words were, “Heil Hitler