Mietek Pemper

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Mietek Pemper

Mieczysław "Mietek" Pemper (24 March 1920 – 7 June 2011) was a Polish-born Jew and a Holocaust survivor. Pemper helped compile[1] and type Oskar Schindler's now-famous list, which saved 1,200 people from being killed in the Holocaust during World War II.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Pemper was born into a Jewish family in Kraków, Poland near the Vistula river on 24 March 1920.[2] Pemper's immediate family consisted of himself, his parents, Jakub and Regina Pemper, along with his younger brother, Stefan Pemper. In Polish, "Mietek" is short for "Mieczysław", and his family and closest friends referred to him as such. From early childhood, Pemper was bilingual in Polish and German.[3] He studied law at Jagiellonian University and business administration at the Academy of Economics simultaneously.[3]

Płaszów and Oskar Schindler[edit]

Pemper in 1938.

Pemper was 19 years old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939.[1] All Jews in Kraków, including Pemper and his family, were required to wear Star of David yellow badges by the Nazis.[1] Pemper stayed at home as much as possible in protest against the badges. While spending most of his time in his family's apartment, Pemper decided to teach himself German stenography, since he had already learned German shorthand. Shortly after, Pemper and his family were confined to the Kraków Ghetto, and he was soon appointed by Nazi officials as a clerk for the Judenrat, the Kraków Ghetto's Jewish administration.[3] Pemper also acted as a German-Polish interpreter for the Kraków Ghetto residents and typed up radio broadcasts from the BBC.[4]

The Kraków Ghetto had started deportations by the end of 1942; between March 13 and 15, 1943 it was fully liquidated. Pemper was deported from the ghetto to Płaszów concentration camp.[1] He was assigned as the personal secretary and stenographer to Amon Göth, Płaszów's notorious commandant, due to his previous work at the Kraków Ghetto's Judenrat.[1][2] Pemper's position as Göth's assistant gave him rare access to documents sent to Göth from Nazi authorities.[1] By working in Göth's office, Pemper also became an acquaintance of Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German businessman and industrialist with ties to the black market.[2] At first, Schindler wanted to profit from the German invasion of Poland and as the war ensued, Schindler decided to open an enamelware factory in Kraków using mostly Jewish labor.[1] Itzhak Stern, an accountant and Pemper's closest friend in Göth's office, persuaded Pemper that Schindler could be trusted.[4]

Pemper during the 1940s.

Pemper typed his first letter to Oskar Schindler in March 1943, without the knowledge that Schindler had sympathies for his Jewish workers.[3] Through his work in the office, Pemper discovered in 1944 that the Nazis intended to close all factories not directly tied to the war effort, including Schindler's enamelware facility.[1] The closures would likely mean that Płaszów's Jewish inmates would be deported to Auschwitz. Pemper personally alerted Schindler to the plans and persuaded him to switch production from enamelware to anti-tank grenades to save Schindler's workers.[1][3] Pemper provided Schindler with as little information as possible, for fear that Schindler could possibly implicate him in the sharing of classified Nazi secrets that were retained in the Płaszów concentration camp's administrative office.[4]

Pemper helped develop the now famous "Schindler's List" to save as many Jewish workers as possible. In collaboration with Schindler and others in the Płaszów concentration camp including Itzhak Stern, he compiled and typed the list of over 1,000 Jewish inmates deemed "decisive for the Nazi war effort." Many on the list worked for Schindler with additional names added just before the transport. Those on the list, including Pemper himself, were transferred to Schindler's new grenade factory located in Bruennlitz, Czechoslovakia, in October 1944. This transfer ultimately saved the lives of those who were on the list. Schindler also included Pemper's father, mother, and brother on the list. However, Pemper's mother Regina didn't make it to the new factory in Bruennlitz; because of illness, she was left behind in Auschwitz and later liberated when the war ended. At the end of the war, Oskar Schindler presented a speech to his Jewish factory workers, urging: "Don’t thank me for your survival... thank your valiant Stern and Pemper, who stared death in the face constantly."[4]

Pemper testified against Amon Göth at his September 1946 trial in Kraków, Poland, following the end of the war.[1]

Later life[edit]

Mietek Pemper moments before his interview with Gigatel Cyf (Ltd) June of 2005.

Pemper moved to the city of Augsburg, Bavaria, in 1958 and became a German citizen. He worked as a management consultant and an intercultural activist, specifically focusing on Jewish-Christian relations and reconciliation. He kept close contact with Oskar Schindler until the latter's death in 1974.[2][3]

He served as a consultant for Steven Spielberg's 1993 film, Schindler's List. The movie minimized Pemper's role in collaborating with Schindler during the war. Spielberg sought to simplify the film's storyline by creating a composite character, portrayed by actor Ben Kingsley, based on both Mietek Pemper and Itzhak Stern. However, Pemper dismissed his diminished role in the film, saying his accomplishment was not the list that was compiled and typed, but "the multifarious acts of resistance that, like tiny stones being placed into a mosaic one by one, had made the whole process possible," according to The Daily Telegraph. Spielberg paid tribute to both Pemper and Stern outside of the film, calling them heroes. Pemper was portrayed by actor Grzegorz Kwas in the film.[1][2][3]


In 2001, he was awarded with the Merit Cross 1st Class.[5] Pemper's adopted city of Augsburg awarded him a civic medal in 2003. They further named him as an honorary citizen in 2007.[2]

Pemper submitted to an in-depth television interview in Vienna in June 2005 by UK company Gigatel Cyf (Ltd). Pemper spoke at great length about his experience from childhood to the aftermath of the Shoah experience at the Płaszów concentration camp under the wrath of Płaszów's commandant Amon Leopold Göth. Pemper only agreed to the interview after relentless persuasion for over eighteen months by another Shoah survivor named Edward Mosberg, who was himself held captive at the Płaszów, Mauthausen and Linz camps. The contents of this unique interview have yet to be viewed by the general public and include testimony not included in Pemper's biography "The Road To Rescue". [4][6]

A 4 hours long interview of Pemper - in German - is also available online on the USC Shoah Foundation website. The interview, held on 13 September 1997, covers the period before and during his captivity, and reveals a lot of details on Amon Göth and Oskar Schindler.


Pemper died in Augsburg, Germany on June 7, 2011, at the age of 91. He never married and left no close survivors. He was buried in Augsburg's Jewish cemetery and municipal flags were lowered to half-staff in his honor. In tribute to Pemper, Augsburg's mayor Kurt Gribl said, "With Mietek Pemper, the city has lost an important builder of bridges between the Jewish and Christian religions and a contributor to reconciliation."[2][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Mietek Pemper". The Telegraph. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-06-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Oskar Schindler's collaborator, Mietek Pemper, has died". Agence France-Presse (The Gazette (Montreal)). 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-06-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Martin, Douglas (2011-06-18). "Mietek Pemper, 91, Camp Inmate Who Compiled Schindler’s List". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-26. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Pemper, Mietek (2005). The Road to Rescue. The Untold Story of Schindler's List.. Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, Hamburg. ISBN 978-1-59051-286-9. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Mietek Pemper ist tot
  6. ^ "Gigatel Cyf. (Ltd)". 

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