AUGUST 8, 2019 | The Jewish Home OCTOBER 29, 2015 | The Jewish Home
The Holocaust Survivor Who Captured Amon Goeth
Survivors being liberated from Auschwitz in January 1945
Levkovich was a teenage slave laborer when Amon Goeth, the villainous “Butcher of Plaszow” who murdered Jews for sadistic sport, pointed his gun at Josef’s head. “I was working at the Plaszow concentration camp, dismantling the remnants of a Jewish cemetery,” Josef told Aish.com from his home in the Arzei Habira neighborhood of Jerusalem. The cemetery’s wrought iron fence – all 150 tons – was needed to make weapons for the Nazi slaughter of millions across Europe. Josef was high atop the fence, removing some bricks, when Goeth rode up on his horse – flanked by two snarling dogs trained to tear inmates to death. “When I saw Goeth coming, I quivered with fear,” Josef says. “I’d been attacked by these dogs before.” In that attack, Josef protected his face with his hands; he bore the scars for a lifetime. “Up on the fence, my job was to carefully remove each brick, then toss it down to another prisoner,” Josef explains. “But when Goeth passed by, the other prisoner dropped the brick.”
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Goeth shot him on the spot. “Goeth shouted to me: ‘Throw down a brick!’” Josef vividly recalls. “I did, but Goeth let it fall to the ground.” Goeth ordered Josef off the fence. He quickly slid down, cutting himself badly in the process. “Goeth yelled at me, took out his gun, and pointed it at my eyes,” Josef says. “I knew my life was over. I said Shema Yisrael and blacked out.” Josef awoke a few days later in the infirmary, in pain and with bandages covering his entire body. Details of what transpired became known only later when Josef later met Wilek Chilowicz, head of the Jewish police who was always at Goeth’s side and was there at the time. “Chilowicz knew me because I’d volunteered to shine his shoes,” Josef says. “He told me: ‘I saved your life! Goeth wanted to shoot you, so I beat you up and told Goeth: ‘Save your bullet – he’s dead.’”
Nazi Hunting Fast forward seven years, postwar. Twenty-year-old Josef is a
community activist. He’s successfully rescued 600 Jewish orphans (details later), and was now ready for the challenge of hunting Nazi war criminals. Josef interviewed people and combed records, gathering every thread of information where Nazis might be hiding. One day, he was searching for clues at a POW camp near Vienna that held 30,000 German prisoners. “I asked a German officer if he recognizes all the soldiers in his group, and he told me: ‘There is one stranger we don’t know.’ “I approached what appeared to be a regular Wehrmacht soldier, and my blood began to boil. It was Amon Goeth hiding his identity!” Josef snuck up behind Goeth and years of pent-up frustration let loose. “I started screaming, spitting and beating him – rattling off the list of atrocities I’d seen him commit in the camp.” Goeth was arrested, put on trial in German court, and condemned to hanging. “He was happy to have it all over,” Josef says. But the Polish government insisted he be extradited and put on trial in Poland where
he’d committed his crimes. Josef says: “I was happy because this meant I could repeat my accusations against him, and his suffering would be prolonged. He deserved it.” In Poland, Goeth was sentenced to death and was hanged in the Plaszow camp, on the same spot where he’d sadistically murdered untold innocent Jews. The Holocaust film Schindler’s List would immortalize Goeth as the paradigm villain. During this time, Josef met Oskar Schindler in a DP camp. “He heard that I was looking for Nazi war criminals, and wanted me to know that he was one of the ‘good ones’,” Josef says.
Early Life Josef Levkovich was born in 1926 in the Polish village of Dzialoszyce (pronounced zoli-shitz), the oldest of four brothers in a well-known Polish family. A street named Levkovich (Lewkowa) encircles Krakow’s town square, and their ancestral home today serves as the local police station. “Before the war, we figured we were safe in Poland,” Josef says.
Five Towns Jewish Home - 8-8-19