Amon Goeth was born in Vienna, 1908 and he joined the Nazi party in 1932, progressing to the ranks of the Gestapo in 1940. He was originally sent to German occupied Lublin, east Poland, Goeth found a liking for slaughter during the liquidation of the Lublin Ghetto, and so impressed his seniors with his methods that he was promoted to camp commandant of the Płaszów camp in Kraków in 1943. In the same year he supervised the brutal clearing of the Kraków ghetto in Podgórze, as well as the ghetto found in Tarnów. Having found a fondness for accepting bribes during his stint in Lublin he used his position in charge of liquidising ghettos to steal property and valuables confiscated from Jews.
Goeth was often to be found parading around on a white horse and he was notorious for his corrupt nature, heavy drinking and bouts of extreme violence. Several scenes in Schindler’s List never actually occurred however – he never murdered his stable boy (who survived the war), nor was he able to take pot shots at prisoners from his balcony, seeing that his house backed directly onto a hill. Goeth did shoot them from a hill though. In the words of Poldek Pfefferberg, ‘when you saw Goeth, you saw death’. Collective punishment became frequent; torture and death were daily events. Groups passing one another on different work shifts reported the daily number killed. In 1943 on Yom Kippur, an important holiday of the Jewish year, Goeth and his SS-men took 50 Jews from the barracks and shot them. Often prisoners were publicly hung, with more than 15,000 inmates lined up on the ground.
In 1944 he was relieved of his position and charged with theft of Reich property, though Germany’s looming military collapse meant he was never brought to tribunal. Diagnosed with diabetes and mental illness by SS doctors he spent the remainder of the war in a hospital and was arrested by American troops in 1945. Charged with the murder of 2,000 Jews during the evacuation of the Podgórze ghetto, and 8,000 deaths during his time in Plaszów, he was sentenced to death and hanged in Kraków in 1946. Goeth’s mistress Ruth- Irene Kalder remained loyal to him in death, keeping a photograph of him by her bedside until she died. After giving an interview in 1983 she declared him a charming man before choosing to commit suicide the next day.