Typist of Schindler's list dead in Germany at 91
The man who typed up Oskar Schindler's list which helped save more than 1,000 Jews from the Nazis, Mietek Pemper, has died in Germany aged 91, the Bavarian city where he lived said Thursday.
Pemper died Tuesday in Augsburg, southern Germany, and is to be buried in the city's Jewish cemetery Friday, when municipal authorities will order flags to be lowered to half-mast in his honour.
Born Mieczyslaw Pemper in 1920 in the Polish city of Krakow to a Jewish family, he was imprisoned at the Nazi concentration camp of Plaszow, where he worked as the personal typist for its feared commandant Amon Goeth from March 1943 to September 1944.
It was there that he linked up with German industrialist Schindler.
Pemper secretly read in Goeth's mail from Berlin that all factories that were not producing goods for the Nazi effort should be shuttered.
He convinced Schindler, an ethnic German from Czechoslovakia and a member of the Nazi party who first sought to profit from Germany's invasion of Poland, to abandon enamel production at his plant and make anti-tank grenade rifles.
Then Pemper, at great risk to his own life, supplied Schindler with a typed list of the names of more than 1,000 fellow prisoners to be recruited for work.
Schindler is credited with saving the lives of some 1,200 Jews through such work schemes as well as bribes paid to German officers.
Pemper later testified against Goeth and other war criminals in trials in Poland after the war. Goeth was hanged in 1946.
Schindler died in anonymity in Germany in 1974 at the age of 66, although he and Pemper remained close friends, but his story was later unearthed by Australian writer Thomas Keneally.
US director Steven Spielberg adapted the book into the 1993 film "Schindler's List" which won seven Oscars. Pemper served as an advisor on the picture.
In 2005, Pemper published his memoirs under the title "The Road to Rescue: The Untold Story of Schindler's List".
"After being forced to work for Amon Goeth and after having had the privilege to work for Oskar Schindler, I've often wondered what would have happened had there been no war and no Nazi ideology with its racist mania," he wrote.
"Goeth would probably not have been a mass murderer, nor Schindler a saver of lives. It was only the extraordinary circumstances of war and the immense power granted to individual men that revealed the nature of these men to such an impressive and terrifying degree.
"Fate had placed me between the two of them and it was like having an angel on one side and a demon on the other."
Pemper moved with his father after his mother's death in 1958 to Augsburg, where his brother had settled immediately after the war. He became a German citizen and worked as a management consultant.
Gernot Roemer, a longtime friend of Pemper's and the author of several books on Jewish life in Augsburg, described him as aN "unusually modest man" who broke his silence years after the war to relate his experiences to university, school and adult audiences.
"I am sure he never wanted to become famous or be celebrated," he wrote in the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper Thursday. "He never married and was a very lonely person."
Roemer noted that Pemper had years ago sought out Goeth's daughter, who he said never came to terms with the legacy of her sadistic father.
Augsburg Mayor Kurt Gribl said Pemper was a tireless advocate of intercultural understanding.
"With Mietek Pemper, the city has lost an important builder of bridges between the Jewish and Christian religions and a contributor to reconciliation," Gribl said in a statement.
Augsburg awarded Pemper a civic medal in 2003 and made him an honorary citizen in 2007.
© 2011 AFP