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Amon Goth.


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Plaszˇw Labour Camp
Commandant
Plaszˇw Labour Camp Commandant.

Amon Leopold Goth (or Goeth; November 12, 1908 - September 13, 1946) was a Hauptsturmfuhrer of the SS and was the commandant of the Nazi concentration camp at Plaszˇw, Poland.

Early life and career

Goth was born in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a family in the printing industry. At the age of 22, Goth became a member of the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party. In 1930 he was assigned the Party Number 510764. Goth simultaneously joined the Austrian SS and was appointed an SS-Mann with the SS Number 43673.

Goth's early SS activities are little known, largely due to the fact that the Austrian SS was an illegal and underground organization until the Anschluss of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938. Between 1932 and 1936, Goth was a member of an Allgemeine-SS company in Vienna and, by 1937, had risen to the rank of SS-Oberscharfuhrer. Between 1938 and 1941, he was a member of SS-Standarte (Regiment) 11 operating from Vienna and was commissioned an SS-Untersturmfuhrer on July 14, 1941.

Plaszˇw

In August 1942, Goth left Vienna to join the staff of the SS and Police Leader of Krakˇw. He was appointed as a regular SS officer of the Concentration Camp service, and on February 11, 1943 was assigned to construct and command a forced labor camp at Plaszˇw. The camp took one month to construct via slave labor and, on March 13, 1943, the Jewish ghetto of Krakˇw was closed down with the surviving inhabitants imprisoned in the new labor camp. Approximately 2,000 people died during the evacuation, many of whom Goth personally executed.

Amon Goth riding on horseback through Plaszˇw Labor Camp in the summer of 1943
Amon Goth riding on horseback through Plaszˇw Labor Camp in the summer of 1943.

On September 3, 1943, Goth was further tasked to close down the ghetto at Tarnow, where an unknown number of people were killed on the spot. On February 3, 1944, Goth shut down the concentration camp at Szebnie by ordering the inmates to be murdered on the spot or deported to other camps, again killing several thousand people. On April 20, 1944, Goth was promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer, having received a double promotion and thus skipping the rank of SS-Obersturmfuhrer. He was also appointed a regular officer of the Waffen-SS. His assignment as Commandant of the Plaszˇw Labor Camp continued, now under the direct authority of the SS Economics and Administration Office.

In Plaszˇw, Goth tortured and murdered prisoners on a daily basis. During his time at Plaszˇw, Goth allegedly shot over 500 Jews himself; Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindler Jews, famously said, "When you saw Goth, you saw death." Goth spared the life of a Jewish prisoner Natalia Hubler, later famous as Natalia Karp, after hearing her play a Nocturne by Chopin on the piano the day after she arrived at the Plaszˇw camp.

Later military career

On September 13, 1944, Goth was relieved of his position as Commandant of Plaszˇw and was assigned to the SS Office of Economics and Administration. Shortly thereafter, in November 1944, Goth was charged with theft of Jewish property (which, according to Nazi legislation, belonged to the Reich), and was arrested by the Gestapo. He was scheduled for an appearance before SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen, but due to the progress of the Second World War, and Germany's looming defeat, a tribunal was never assembled and the charges against him were summarily dismissed.

He was next assigned to Bad Tolz, Germany, where he was quickly diagnosed by SS doctors as suffering from mental illness and diabetes. He was committed to a sanitarium where he was arrested by American troops in May 1945. At the time of his arrest, Goth claimed to have been recently promoted to SS-Sturmbannfuhrer and, during later interrogations, several documents list him as "SS-Major Goth". Rudolf Hoß was also of the opinion that Goth had been promoted and, when called to give testimony at Goth's trial, indicated that Goth was an SS-Major in the Concentration Camp service.

Goth's service record, however, does not support the claim of a late war promotion and he is listed in most texts as having held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer.

Execution

After the war, the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland at Krakˇw found Goth guilty of murdering tens of thousands of people. He was hanged on September 13, 1946, aged 37, not far from the former site of the Plaszˇw camp. At his execution, Goth's hands were tied behind his back. The executioner twice miscalculated the length of rope necessary to hang Goth, and it was only on the third attempt that the execution was successful.

In 2002, an interview book with Goth's daughter, Monika, was published in Germany under the name Ich muß doch meinen Vater lieben, oder? (But I must love my father, must I not?). For the first time, Goth's daughter spoke of her mother, who unconditionally glorified her father until faced with his role in the Holocaust, and had committed suicide after giving an interview in the 1980s, leaving Monika to bear her father's legacy alone.

Depiction in Schindler's List

Actor Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goth in Schindler's List
Actor Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goth in Schindler's List.

Goth's career at Plaszˇw Labor Camp became internationally known through his depiction by Ralph Fiennes in the movie Schindler's List; Fiennes earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and his portrayal ranked 15 on AFI's list of the top 50 film villains of all time. This grim portrayal showed only a subset of Goth's crimes. When a real Schindler's list survivor was introduced to Fiennes on the set of the film he began to shake uncontrollably, as Fiennes looked so like the real Goeth. In the end of the movie, he is hanged, smoothing his hair back and stating "Heil Hitler" with almost no apparent emotion just before a Russian soldier kicks the chair out from under him.


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