The Kraków, Poland, home of a Nazi concentration camp commander whose butchery of Jewish inmates was depicted in the historical drama “Schindler’s List” is about to be recast as a luxury villa.
SS captain Amon Goeth, who ran the Kraków-Plaszów camp in Poland, lived with his mistress in the single-family house, where he made sport of torturing Jewish prisoners and shooting them from his balcony. The site has long been a stop on Holocaust remembrance tours, but is now under renovation to become the private home for a wealthy Polish developer, much to the ire of Jewish groups.
On Wednesday, JRoots, a British Holocaust education organization, started a petition protesting the luxury conversion and asking Kraków’s city government to intervene.
“The world famous Nazi torture house portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ is being refurbished into a luxury family villa, destroying important history from one of the last remaining buildings of the Plaszów Concentration Camp,” reads the petition on Change.org, which garnered roughly 300 signatures in less than a day.
In 2015, a developer from Kraków, Artur Niemyski, bought the building through his company Dabster after the previous owner had tried in vain for years to sell the property to the city for use as a museum, Polish newspapers reported at the time.
Mr. Niemyski has said that he doesn’t want to offend the Jewish community by transforming the home, but argues that it has no historical value as Goeth’s residency was only for a few years.
“Everyone is terribly afraid of this building because of its history,” the buyer told local Kraków news outlet TVN24 in 2015. “My opinion is also that this house is not suitable for the function of the museum, tying it to (Goeth) is not right.”
Mr. Niemyski did not immediately return an email requesting comment.
Geoth was eventually captured and convicted of war crimes, including personally killing, maiming and torturing people, and was hung in 1946, at the age of 37.
Some local historians agreed that the home is not suitable for a museum, while others have suggested a plaque hung outside the home explaining its history would suffice, TVN24 reported.
But Holocaust remembrance tours have visited and entered the site for decades. JRoots has taken thousands of people to visit the house over the years, the organization said. And many of the petitioners wrote comments about their emotional trip to Goeth’s Krakow house.
“It is a place of extreme sadness and darkness. I have cried tears in that room. And all around me felt the same,” wrote Shlomo Farhi, of London, in the petition’s comments. “How can that be whitewashed. How can it be forgotten?”
Another petitioner, Esther Hoffner, of Manchester, England, also expressed outrage on Change.org. “The dark history of this evil place must never be forgotten,” she wrote.
Geoth, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in the harrowing Oscar-winning film in 1993, was known to play music or hum gleefully while he shot at prisoners through his window.
“He said, ‘You see those dumb heads? They’re standing, doing nothing.’ He says, ‘I’m going to shoot.’ And you could hear shooting like hell,” said Helena Jonas, a Jewish prisoner who worked in his home, in a recording with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum taped in 2009.
JRoots is specifically outraged at some of the proposed uses of the basement, where Goeth was said to have abused Jewish women. The owner has waterproofed it and intends to make it into a workshop and potentially a wine cellar.
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