- Category : Politics-Nazi-party
- Type : ME
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Four Ways 1
Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a Sudeten German industrialist credited with saving almost 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust, by having them work in his enamelware and ammunitions factories located in Poland and what is now the Czech Republic.
He was the subject of the book Schindler's Ark, and the film based on it, Schindler's List.
Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 in Zwittau, then part of Moravia, Austria-Hungary (Zwittau is now known as Svitavy in the modern Czech Republic). Oskar Schindler's parents, Hans Schindler and his wife Franziska Luser, were Roman Catholic, but divorced when Oskar was 27. Oskar was very close to his elder sister, Elfriede. After school he worked as a commercial salesman. In the 1930s he changed jobs several times. He also tried starting various businesses, but soon went bankrupt because of the Great Depression. Though a citizen of Czechoslovakia, Schindler started to work for German military intelligence service (Abwehr). He was exposed and jailed in July 1938, but after the Munich Agreement he was set free as a political prisoner. In 1939 Schindler joined the Nazi Party. One source (based on Nazi documents and postwar investigation) contends that he also continued with work for Abwehr, paving the way for the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.
On 6 March 1928 Schindler married Emilie Pelzl (1907-2001) , daughter of Josef and Maria Pelzl. The marriage was childless.
World War II
An opportunistic businessman, he was one of many who sought to profit from the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Schindler gained ownership of a factory in Kraków from a Jewish industrialist named Nathan Wurzel, under Nazi Germany's Aryanization policies.
Schindler, on Wurzel's advice, renamed the factory Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik, or DEF, to manufacture enamelware. He obtained around 1,000 Jewish slave labourers to work there with the help of his Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. When Stern and Schindler were first introduced to each other, Schindler held out his hand. Stern declined to take it. When Schindler asked why, he explained that he was a Jew and it was forbidden for a Jew to shake a German's hand. Schindler answered with "Scheiße." Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money — hiding wealthy Jewish investors, for instance — but later he began shielding his workers without regard to cost. He would, for instance, claim that unskilled workers were essential to the factory. Harming his workers would result in complaints and demands for compensation from the government.
While witnessing a 1942 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at P?aszów, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him. He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden ("Schindler's Jews", as they came to be called). Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked at DEF, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations. Once, says author Eric Silver in The Book of the Just, "Two Gestapo men came to his office and demanded that he hand over a family of five who had bought forged Polish identity papers. 'Three hours after they walked in,' Schindler said, 'two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded'". Schindler also reportedly began to smuggle children out of the ghetto, delivering them to Polish nuns, who either hid them from the Nazis or claimed they were Christian orphans. He arranged with Amon Göth, the commandant of Plaszow, for 700 Jews to be transferred to an adjacent factory compound, where they would be relatively safe from the depredations of the German guards.
Schindler was arrested twice on suspicion of black market activities and complicity in embezzlement; the commandant Amon Göth and other SS-guards used Jewish property (such as money, jewellery, and works of art) for themselves although, according to law, it belonged to the Reich. Schindler mediated such sales on black market and also preserved many stolen items. He managed to avoid being jailed after each arrest. Schindler would typically bribe government officials to avoid investigation.
As the Red Army drew nearer to Auschwitz and the other easternmost concentration camps, the SS began evacuating the remaining prisoners westward. Schindler persuaded the SS officials to allow him to move his 1,100 Jewish workers to Brn?nec-Brünnlitz in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia (then in the Sudetenland province), thus sparing the Jews from certain death in the extermination camps. In Brn?nec, he gained another former Jewish factory, where he started to produce components for 37mm ammunition.
After the war
By the end of the war, Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers. Virtually destitute, he moved briefly to Regensburg, Germany and, later, Munich, but did not prosper in postwar Germany. In fact, he was reduced to receiving assistance from Jewish organizations. Eventually, Schindler emigrated to Argentina in 1948, where he went bankrupt. Returning to Germany in 1958, he had a series of unsuccessful business ventures. Schindler settled down in a little apartment at Am Hauptbahnhof Nr. 4 in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany and tried again – with help from a Jewish organization – to establish a cement factory. This, too, went bankrupt in 1961. His business partner cancelled their partnership. Oskar Schindler died in Frankfurt, Germany, on 9 October 1974, at the age of 66. He was buried at the Catholic cemetery at Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
No one really knows what Schindler's motives were. However, he was quoted as saying "I knew the people who worked for me... When you know people, you have to behave toward them like human beings."
The writer Herbert Steinhouse, who interviewed Schindler in 1948 at the behest of some of the surviving "Schindler's Jews", said
“ Oskar Schindler's exceptional deeds stemmed from just that elementary sense of decency and humanity that our sophisticated age seldom sincerely believes in. A repentant opportunist saw the light and rebelled against the sadism and vile criminality all around him. The inference may be disappointingly simple, especially for all amateur psychoanalysts who would prefer the deeper and more mysterious motive that may, it is true, still lie unprobed and unappreciated. But an hour with Oskar Schindler encourages belief in the simple answer. ”
In 1967, Schindler was honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, or "righteous Gentiles", an honor awarded by Israel to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust at great personal risk. Schindler was the only former member of the Nazi party to be so recognized by the planting of a tree in his name at the Yad Vashem Memorial.
Schindler's story, retold by Holocaust survivor Poldek Pfefferberg, was the basis for Tom Keneally's book Schindler's Ark (the novel was later renamed Schindler's List), which was adapted into the 1993 movie Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg. In the film, he is played by Liam Neeson, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal. The film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The prominence of Spielberg's film introduced Schindler into popular culture. As the film is the sole source of most people's knowledge of Schindler, he is generally perceived much as Spielberg's film depicts him: as a man who was instinctively driven by profit-driven amorality, but who at some point made a silent but conscious decision that preserving the lives of his Jewish employees was imperative, even if requiring massive payments to induce Nazis to turn a blind eye.
While Spielberg's film takes some cinematic liberties, the depiction of Schindler appears to be a rare example of an unromanticized historical protagonist. Schindler did in fact spend the majority of his wealth, and forever alienated himself from any political standing in his own country, to save the lives of his Jewish workers.
In the Autumn of 1999 a case was discovered in the attic of a house which had belonged to friends of Schindler, containing over 7,000 documents and photographs which had belonged to Oskar Schindler. The "Stuttgarter Zeitung" (the local newspaper) analysed the contents of the case; Emilie Schindler received copies, the originals (including the list of the names of those he had saved and the text of his speech before leaving 'his Jews' in 1945) ending up in the Holocaust Museum of Yad Vashem in Israel. Emilie was finally awarded €25,000, but not the case and the documents, from the paper.