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Savage end for the Krakow ghetto Jews
13th March 1943: Notorious sadist Amon Göth heads a brutal massacre of men women and children unfit for work
Operation Reinhard, the Nazi programme to murder all the Jews in central Poland, had made startling progress towards its goal in 1942. Now the ghettoes were being emptied one by one. Final selections were being made, with those considered fit to work sent to labour camps and the remainder either sent by train to the killing centres of Sobibor, Treblinka and Belzec - or simply shot in the ghettoes themselves.
Amongst all the SS engaged in this work there were invariably a few individuals who stood out as particularly sadistic and cruel, with an unusual enthusiasm for their duties. Such a man was Amon Göth, sometimes spelt Goeth.
Samuel Stoeger was one of the survivors who gave evidence against Goeth in the post-war trials1. He was separated from his wife and children when the Krakow ghetto was closed and sent to the notorious Plaszow labour camp, where he waited to see if his family could have survived:
Witness -Samuel Stoeger (age 38, mill operator)
[O]n a Saturday, the 13th of March, the final liquidation of the ghetto commenced. The order to vacate the Ghetto was as follows, “All Jews in employment are to assemble at the exit of Wegierska Street, obviously only those who were in possession of the letter W- Z-R or markings, in addition to the Judenpass.”
All those not in employment were to proceed to the previously fenced off area of Ghetto “B,” from where they were told, they would be directed to work on the “Ostbahn” (German Railways in Poland) as from the next day. This was the order as issued from Obersturmbannfuhrer Scherner, who was then in overall command in Krakow.
All those in work assembled duly where directed, and in groups they were being marched out into the camp in Plaszow, under heavy escort of guards, SS men and Ukrainians in SS uniforms.
Some mothers with small children also assembled in these columns, placing the children in rucksacks or suitcases. Some held their children on their sides in the centre of the column, so as to conceal them that way. The accused roamed all around each column, tearing the children from their mother’s arms, beating mercilessly, with a whip across the eyes. Such an incident occurred right next to me.
The accused Goeth, tore our child from my wife’s arms. She, refusing to let the child go, left the column and followed the child, so she was severely beaten by him. I never saw my wife or my child again.
… they were bringing in huge heaps of dead, naked corpses. These heaps were in some cases very high, I tried to identify anyone, but this was in vain, as the corpses were massacred into an unrecognisable terrible state.
Three or four days later, the clothing of all those that were murdered was brought into the camp, among which I recognised my wife’s overcoat and the outfit our child wore on that day.
Even before the last column moved off towards the camp, I witnessed Police in navy blue uniforms [Trawniki-trained auxiliaries], probably Ukrainians bringing into the Ghetto, a friend of mine who’s name was Landsberg, his wife and their two children, they attempted to escape from the Ghetto through the sewers.
They were caught somewhere in the vicinity of the 3rd bridge, and brought back into the Ghetto onto the Wegierska Street and handed over to Goeth himself. He in turn immediately marched them off towards Jozefinska Street towards the vicinity of the Jewish baths, and ordered the Security Police to shoot them there in the street.
The accused was present as they proceeded to carry out the order. The husband was shot first, at this the children, a five and a two year old girl started to run off, they were shot at, and after the shooting they had their heads smashed, there in the street.
Chairman: Who did the shooting?
Witness: Goeth and the Security Policemen
Chairman: Did you see the accused shooting?
Witness: Certainly the accused was present, he held a revolver in his hand, as well as the Security men that were with him.
We were then marched off, under heavy escort of SS men and Ukrainians, in the direction of the camp. We were beaten with rifle butts all the way. Whoever, had a decent looking suitcase, had it duly taken from them by the Ukrainians. Anyone who was older, or could not keep the pace of the march, was severely beaten.
Having arrived at the camp, the next day, I awaited for the arrival of my wife and child, unfortunately without success. I stood by the main gate, as some people said there is a possibility they survived and maybe will appear. My wife had the right of entry into the camp, as she had the required letter “R” marking.
The firm she worked for by the name of “Madritsch” promised us that everyone employed by them, even with children, will be transferred into the camp in Plaszow. I hoped for miracles.
I stood there waiting a whole Sunday, but instead of seeing the arrival of living people, what I was seeing was the arrival of rubber covered platforms, they were bringing in huge heaps of dead, naked corpses. These heaps were in some cases very high, I tried to identify anyone, but this was in vain, as the corpses were massacred into an unrecognisable terrible state.
Amon Goeth was found guilty on all counts, he was hanged in Plaszow on the 13th of September 1946, two years to the day after he had left the camp.
See The Trial of Amon Goth at the Holocaust Research Project. Note: The court translation has been slightly amended in the version above to correct the use of English tenses.
On March 13-14, 1943, the SS and police carried out the operation, shooting some 2,000 Jews in the ghetto. The SS transferred another 2,000 Jews - those capable of work and the surviving members of the Jewish Council and the Jewish police force (Ordnungsdienst) - to the Plaszow forced-labor camp.
The rest of the Jews, approximately 3,000, were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in two transports, arriving on March 13 and March 16. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the camp authorities selected 549 persons from the two transports (499 men and 50 women) to be registered as prisoners. They murdered the others, approximately 2,450 people, in the gas chambers.