10 June 2011
Mieczyslaw (Mietek) Pemper, the man who typed up Oskar Schindler's famous list which helped save more than 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust, has died in Augsburg (in southern Germany) at the age of 91. Born in the city of Krakow to a Jewish family, Pemper was just 19 when the Nazis invaded Poland. Along with many other Jews from Krakow, he was sent to Plaszow concentration camp, where the Nazis selected him to act as personal typist to its commandant Amon Göth. He continued to do so for 18 months from March 1943, and the position gave him access to letters to Göth sent from his superiors in Berlin.
Pemper secretly read in Göth's mail that all factories that were not producing goods for the Nazi effort should be closed down. He convinced Oscar Schindler, an ethnic German from Czechoslovakia and a member of the Nazi party who first sought to profit from Germany's invasion of Poland, to abandon enamel production at his plant and make anti-tank grenade rifles instead. Then Pemper, at great risk to his own life, supplied Schindler with a typed list of the names of more than 1,000 fellow prisoners to be recruited for work. Schindler is credited with saving the lives of some 1,200 Jews through such work schemes as well as bribes paid to German officers. Pemper later testified against Göth and other war criminals in trials in Poland after the war. Göth was executed in 1946.
Schindler died in anonymity in Germany in 1974 at the age of 66, although he and Pemper remained close friends, but his story was later unearthed by Australian writer Thomas Keneally. US director Steven Spielberg adapted the book into the 1993 film "Schindler's List" which won seven Oscars. Pemper served as an advisor to Spielberg. In 2005, he published his memoirs under the title ‘The Road to Rescue: The Untold Story of Schindler's List’.
Pemper wrote in his book: "After being forced to work for Amon Göth and after having had the privilege to work for Oskar Schindler, I have often wondered what would have happened had there been no war and no Nazi ideology with its racist mania. Göth would probably not have been a mass murderer nor Schindler a saver of lives. It was only the extraordinary circumstances of war and the immense power granted to individual men that revealed the nature of these men to such an impressive and terrifying degree. Fate had placed me between the two of them and it was like having an angel on one side and a demon on the other."
Pemper moved with his father after his mother's death in 1958 to Augsburg, where his brother had settled immediately after the war. He became a German citizen and worked as a management consultant. Augsburg Mayor Kurt Gribl said Pemper had been a tireless advocate of intercultural understanding. "With Mietek Pemper, the city has lost an important builder of bridges between the Jewish and Christian religions and a contributor to reconciliation," Gribl said in a statement. Augsburg awarded Pemper made Pemper an honorary citizen in 2007.
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