Amon Goth played a huge role in forming the living conditions of the Plaszow concentration camp. He was the camp Commandant and exhibited such harsh treatment at the camp that he became a well-known war criminal post-Holocaust when he was put on trial in 1946. He helped construct the Plaszow labor camp in the summer of 1940, later to become a concentration camp on January 11, 1944, after Oberfuhrer Julian Scherner, the commander of the SS and SS Police, ordered Jews to be concentrated into the Plaszow camp (Jarkowska-Natkaniec 154). He and his team used Jewish gravestones as pavement for the roads because the camp was on the site of 2 Jewish cemeteries (n.d. 104). Before the Krakow ghetto was liquidated, the Plaszow camp had around 2,000 prisoners. After the liquidation, Plaszow had 12,000 prisoners, with a peak of 22,000 prisoners in 1944 after many Jews were sent to Plaszow after being deported from Hungary. Living in the Plaszow camp as a prisoner meant living in constant fear. Killings and torture were a daily occurrence, often involving “shooting, hanging, and savaging by dogs” (n.d. 105). On one occasion Goth ordered two female prisoners hanged for going back to the ghetto area without permission, and in another instance, he whipped and shot two prisoners for smuggling extra food into the camp (n.d. 105). True to Steven Spielberg’s depiction that will be later discussed, Amon Goth enjoyed shooting prisoners from the balcony of his house for sport (n.d. 106).
Sally Huppert hid for a year, was moved to the Krakow ghetto, and then had to stay at the Plaszow camp (Sally Huppert, VHA Interview). When Germany invaded Poland, soldiers took her sisters and “all the children” to the Gestapo headquarters to work (Sally Huppert, VHA Interview). Eventually, she arrived in the Krakow ghetto with one sister and some friends in 1942, where she worked in a factory. If you weren’t able to have a job in the ghetto, they would send you away to a concentration camp. There were frequent killings in the ghetto. Anyone who didn’t have papers to be in the ghetto was killed (Sally Huppert, VHA Interview). When the ghetto was liquidated the mothers had to leave their children to go to work, and SS raids killed all of the children. Sally was in the Plaszow camp before she was later moved to a camp called Amelia. While she was in Plaszow, she hid from soldiers in the barracks as much as she could. Whoever got sick in the camp would go to the hospital and be killed. They would eat soup and bread when they could get it. A typical day started at 8 am, sometimes they would have bread, work for 12hrs, and then return to their barracks. They never had news of the outside world. “We were living like animals”, she said (Sally Huppert, VHA Interview).
The Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp was organized by German SS soldiers but largely run by Jewish police and prisoners, in addition to SS soldiers (Jarkowska-Natkaniec 154). Jewish police worked in the block, kapo, and order-keeping. Their main duties involved supervising either the industrial or residential parts of the camp, maintain order in the barracks, workshops, and on the assembly ground, assign prisoners to various work teams, inspect and escort prisoners involved in camp construction and maintenance, keep clerical records of prisoners arriving to the camp, and engage in the work of forced laborers (Jarkowska-Natkaniec 154).