Amon Leopold Göth
Amon Leopold Göth; alternative spelling Goeth; 11 December 1908 – 13 September 1946; was an Austrian SS-Hauptsturmführer(captain) and the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Płaszówin German-occupied Poland for most of the camp's existence during World War II.
He was tried as a war criminal after the war by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland at Kraków and was found guilty of personally ordering the imprisonment, torture, and extermination of individuals and groups of people.
He was also convicted of homicide, the first such conviction at a war crimes trial, for "personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people." He was executed by hanging not far from the former site of the Płaszów camp. The 1993 film Schindler's List, where Göth is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, depicts his running of the Płaszów concentration camp.
- Olga Janauschek (1934)
- Anny Geiger (m. 1938–1944)
Early life and career
Göth, an only child named after his father and grandfather, was born on 11 December 1908 in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a wealthy Catholic family in the book publishing industry. His mother was Berta Schwendt Göth and his father, Amon Franz Göth, owned Verlagsanstalt Amon Franz Göth (Amon Franz Göth Publishing House). Its offerings included religious literature, postcards, and military history books. He was raised mostly by his aunt, due to his father travelling for business and his mother frequently working at the publishing house. As a child he went by the nickname "Mony". He attended public school in Vienna and later studied agriculture in Waidhofen an der Thaya for a few semesters. He abandoned his studies when he was 17 to pursue his interest in radical right-wing ideas. Göth joined the local youth chapter of the Austrian Nazi Party in 1925 and, from 1927 to 1930, was a member of the Steirischer Heimatschutzverband Wien (de) (Styrian Home Protection Organization in Vienna), a radical and powerful faction of the antisemitic nationalist paramilitary group Heimwehr (Home Guard). He dropped his membership to join the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party and was assigned the party membership number 510,764 in September 1930. He was granted full party membership on 31 May 1931. His decision to join the party at this early stage meant that he was considered an Alter Kämpfer (Old Fighter), i.e., one who had joined the party before Hitler's rise to the position of Chancellor of Germany. Göth began working for the Party in the Ortsgruppe (local group) of the Margareten district in Vienna and soon moved to the Mariahilf Ortsgruppe, where he was a political leader in the Sturmabteilung (SA). Göth joined the Austrian SS in 1930, and was granted full membership in 1932 after the two-year candidacy period. He was appointed an SS-Mann with the SS number 43,673.
Göth served with the SS Truppe Deimel and Sturm Libardi in Vienna until January 1933, when he was promoted to serve as adjutant and Zugführer (platoon leader) of the 52nd SS-Standarte, a regimental-sized unit. He was soon promoted to SS-Scharführer (squad leader).He fled to Germany when his illegal activities, including obtaining explosives for the Nazi Party, made him a wanted man. The Austrian Nazi Party was declared illegal in Austria on 19 June 1933, so they set up operations in exile in Munich. From this base, Göth smuggled radios and weapons into Austria and acted as a courier for the SS. He was arrested in October 1933 by the Austrian authorities but was released for lack of evidence in December 1933. He was again detained after the assassination of Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfussin a failed Nazi coup attempt in July 1934. He escaped custody and fled to the SS training facility at Dachau, next to Dachau Concentration Camp. He temporarily quit the SS and Nazi party activities until 1937 because of issues with his Oberführer (commander) Alfred Bigler, and lived in Munich while trying to help his parents to develop their publishing business. He married on the recommendation of his parents, but was divorced after only a few months.
Göth returned to Vienna shortly after the Anschluss in 1938 and resumed his party activities. He married a woman he met at a motorcycle race, Anna Geiger, in an SS civil ceremony on 23 October 1938. Prior to the wedding, the couple had to pass a set of strict physical tests administered by the SS to determine the suitability of the marriage. The couple had three children: Peter, born in 1939, who died of diphtheria at age 7 months; Werner, born in 1940; and a daughter, Ingeborg, born in 1941.
The couple maintained a permanent home in Vienna throughout World War II. Initially assigned to 89th SS-Standarte, Göth was transferred to the 1st SS-Sturmbann of the 11th SS-Standarte at the start of the war and was promoted to SS-Oberscharführer (staff sergeant) in early 1941. On 5 March 1940 he was drafted into the Wehrmacht with the rank of Unterfeldwebel (Under Field Sergeant), but his continuous SS service record indicates he did not actively serve. From mid-1941 to late May 1942 he gained a reputation as a seasoned administrator in the Nazi efforts to isolate and relocate the Jewish population of Europe in his post as Einsatzführer (action leader) and financial officer in East Upper Silesia in the Kattowitz office of the Reichskommissariat für die Festigung deutschen Volkstums (Reichskommissariat for the Strengthening of German Nationhood; RKFDV). He was commissioned to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer (second lieutenant) on 14 July 1941. Göth also received a Dienstleistungszeugnis (Certificate of Service) from his commanding officer, praising his service as well as his physical and ideological traits.
He was transferred to Lublin in the summer of 1942, where he joined the staff of SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globočnik, the SS and Police Leader of the Kraków area, as part of Operation Reinhard, the code name given to the establishment of the three extermination camps at Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. Nothing is known of his activities in the six months he served with Operation Reinhard; participants were sworn to secrecy. But according to the transcripts of his later trial, Göth was responsible for rounding up and transporting victims to these camps to be murdered.
Trial and execution
After the war, Göth was extradited to Poland, where he was tried by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland in Kraków between 27 August and 5 September 1946. Göth was found guilty of membership in the Nazi Party (which had been declared a criminal organisation) and personally ordering the imprisonment, torture, and extermination of individuals and groups of people. He was also convicted of homicide, the first such conviction at a war crimes trial, for "personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people." He was sentenced to death and was hanged on 13 September 1946 at the Montelupich Prison in Kraków, not far from the site of the Płaszów camp. His remains were cremated and the ashes thrown in the Vistula River.
In addition to his two marriages, Göth had a two-year relationship with Ruth Irene Kalder, a beautician and aspiring actress originally from Breslau (or Gleiwitz; sources vary). Kalder first met Göth in 1942 or early 1943 when she worked as a secretary at Oskar Schindler's enamelware factory in Kraków. She met Göth when Schindler brought her to dinner at the villa at Płaszów; she said it was love at first sight. She soon moved in with Göth and the two had an affair, but she stated that she never visited the camp itself.Göth's second wife Anna, still living in Vienna with their two children, filed for divorce upon learning of Göth's affair with Kalder. Kalder left for Bad Tölz to be with her mother for the birth of her daughter, Monika Hertwig, on 7 November 1945. This was Göth's last child. Kalder was devastated by Göth’s execution in 1946, and she took Göth's name shortly after his death.
In 2002, Hertwig published her memoirs under the title Ich muß doch meinen Vater lieben, oder? ("I do have to love my father, don't I?"). Hertwig described the subsequent life of her mother who unconditionally glorified her fiancé until confronted with his role in the Holocaust. Kalder committed suicide in 1983 shortly after giving an interview in Jon Blair's documentary Schindler. Hertwig's experiences in dealing with her father's crimes are detailed in Inheritance, a 2006 documentary directed by James Moll. Appearing in the documentary is Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, one of Göth's former housemaids. The documentary details the meeting of the two women at the Płaszów memorial site in Poland. Hertwig had requested the meeting, but Jonas-Rosenzweig was hesitant because her memories of Göth and the concentration camp were so traumatic. She eventually agreed after Hertwig wrote to her, "We have to do it for the murdered people." Jonas felt touched by this sentiment and agreed to meet her.
In a subsequent interview, Jonas-Rosenzweig recalled:
It's hard for me to be with her because she reminds me a lot of, you know ... she's tall, she has certain features. And I hated him so. But she is a victim. And I think it's important because she is willing to tell the story in Germany. She told me people don't want to know, they want to go on with their lives. And I think it's very important because there's a lot of children of perpetrators, and I think she's a brave person to go on talking about it, because it's difficult. And I feel for Monika. I am a mother, I have children. And she is affected by the fact that her father was a perpetrator. But my children are also affected by it. And that's why we both came here. The world has to know, to prevent something like this from happening again.
Hertwig also appeared in a documentary called Hitler's Children (2011), directed and produced by Chanoch Zeevi, an Israeli documentary filmmaker. In the documentary, Hertwig and other close relatives of infamous Nazi leaders describe their feelings, relationships, and memories of their relatives.
Jennifer Teege, the daughter of Monika Hertwig and a Nigerian man, discovered that Göth was her grandfather through Hertwig's 2002 memoirs. Teege addressed her coming to terms with her origins in the book, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me (originally published as Amon. Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen in 2013).
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