Amon Leopold Göth pronounced (spelled in some English sources as Goeth) (11 December 1908 – 13 September 1946) was an Austrian SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Płaszów in 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 film Schindler’s List (1993) depicts his practice of shooting camp internees.Göth was born on 11 December 1908 in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a wealthy family in the book publishing industry.
Goeth joined a Nazi youth group at age 17 and was a member of the antisemitic nationalist paramilitary group Heimwehr (Home Guard) from 1927 to 1930. He dropped his membership to join the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party, being assigned the party membership number 510,764 in September 1930. Goeth joined the Austrian SS in 1930 and was appointed an SS-Mann with the SS number 43,673.
Goeth served with the SS Truppe Deimel and Sturm Libardi in Vienna until January 1933, when he was promoted to serve as adjutant and 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, Goeth 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 Dollfuss in a failed Nazi coup attempt in July 1934. He escaped custody and fled to the SS training facility at Dachau, next to the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp.
He temporarily quit the SS and Nazi party activities until 1937 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.
Goeth returned to Vienna shortly after the Anschluss in 1938 and resumed his party activities. He married Anny Geiger in a civil SS ceremony on 23 October 1938. 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, Goeth 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.
He soon gained a reputation as a seasoned administrator in the Nazi efforts to isolate and relocate the Jewish population of Europe as an Einsatzführer (action leader) and financial officer for 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.
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, Goeth was responsible for rounding up and transporting victims to these camps to be murdered.
In addition to his two marriages, Goeth had a two-year relationship with Ruth Irene Kalder, a beautician and aspiring actress originally from Breslau (or Gleiwitz; sources vary).
Kalder first met Goeth in 1942 or early 1943, when she worked as a secretary at Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory in Kraków. She soon moved in with Goeth and the two had an affair. She took Goeth’s name shortly after his death. Goeth’s last child was a daughter, Monika Hertwig, whom he had by Kalder. Monika was born in November 1945 in Bad Tölz.
In 2002, Hertwig published her memoirs under the title Ich muß doch meinen Vater lieben, oder? (“But I 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. Ruth 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 Goeth’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 Goeth 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 Goeth was her grandfather through Hertwig’s 2002 memoirs. She addressed her coming to terms with her origins in a 2013 book, Amon. Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen (published in English translation in 2015 as My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me).