Memories of a hero

Memories of a hero

I knew Mietek Pemper (“Schindler’s List typist dies at 91,” June 23). I met him when, as a young boy, I worked in Amon Goeth’s office in Plaszow Concentration Camp. Older and more educated, Pemper was in the superior position as Goeth’s secretary. His proximity and relationship to Goeth did not result in ease and security. On the contrary, he lived in constant fear of the sociopath who killed people on the slightest whim. He was himself attacked by Goeth’s dogs when Goeth ordered him to run. Pemper bore the physical scars on his body for the rest of his life.

The emotional scars were less visible but they remained with Mr. Pemper for seventy years, until his death on June 7. Because his position allowed him knowledge of the camp and its vast lists of people in Plaszow and its environs, he was able to work with Itzhak Stern to create the famous list that has made Schindler a superhero. Mietek Pemper did not type the list but without his help, it is unlikely that the “who shall live” list would have been created. Mr. Pemper’s most important act was intercepting a letter sent from Berlin to Goeth saying that Goeth should liquidate the enamelware factory. Knowing this, Pemper spoke to Stern and Schindler and alerted them about the plan to close the facility. He strongly encouraged them to switch the work done in the factory from producing enamelware to ammunitions, which they did. As a result, the Jewish workers were saved.

Although Mr. Pemper testified against Goeth at his trial and spoke and wrote about him throughout the years, Pemper refused to be photographed or videotaped. I persisted in my efforts to interview and film him. Finally, he relented. We agreed to meet in Vienna in June 2005 and the resulting film remains a testimony to the enormous courage of a sensitive and intelligent man who saved more than a thousand Jews. A small section of the interview is available

Ed Mosberg

read more: