Schindler has been described as a cynical, greedy exploiter of slave workers during
the Second World War, a black-marketeer, gambler, member of the Nazi party eternally
on the lookout for profit, alcoholic playboy and shameless womanizer of the worst
the beginning of the 1960s, this same Oscar Schindler was honored in Israel and
declared "Righteous" and invited to plant a tree in The Avenue of the
Righteous, which leads to the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. A memorial in the
Park of Heroes praises him as the Saviour of more than 1,200 Jews!
there are more than 6,000 descendants of Schindler`s Jews living in the USA and
Europe, and many in Israel. Before the Second World War, the Jewish population
of Poland was 3.5 million. Today there are between 3,000 and 4,000 left.
- and Saviour .....Who was this Oscar Schindler who started by earning millions
of German marks through a ruthless exploitation of slave workers and ended by
spending his last pfennig and risking his life to save"his" 1,200 Schindler
Schindler was born on April 28th, 1908, in Zwittau in Czechoslovakia in a home
imbued with his parents` deep piety. The nearest neighbours were a Jewish Rabbi
family, and the two sons became Oscar`s best friends. The family was one of the
richest and most prominent in Zwittau, but as a result of the deep economic depression
of the 1930s, the family firm became bankrupt.
without employment, Schindler joined the Nazi party, as did many others at that
time. It was opportune, when one remembers that the first German divisions invaded
Czechoslovakia in 1939. Maybe because he had seen possibilities which the war
brought in its wake, he followed on the heels of the SS when the Germans invaded
Schindler quickly got on good terms with the local Gestapo chiefs and rejoices
here over life in the beginning of the 1940s - he was a womanizer and heavy drinker,
but continually risked his life to save his Schindler Jews from the deathcamps.
was recruited by the German Intelligence Agency to collect information about Poles
and was highly esteemed for his efforts - a fact that was to play a decisive role
later in the war for Schindler, when he needed all his contacts.
left his wife Emilie in Zwittau and moved to Crakow, where he took over a Jewish
family`s apartment. Bribes in the shape of money and illegal black market
goods flowed copiously from Schindler and gave him control of a Jewish-owned enameled-goods
factory, Deutsch Emailwaren Fabrik, close to the Jewish ghetto, where he principally
employed Jewish workers. At this time presumably because they were the cheapest
slowly as the brutality of the Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror,
the seeds of their plan for the total extermination of the Jews dawned on Schindler
in all its horror - he came to see the Jews not only as cheap labour, but also
as mothers, fathers, and children, exposed to ruthless slaughter.
he decides to risk everything in desperate attempts to save "his" 1200
Schindler Jews from certain death in the hell of the death camps. Thanks to massive
bribery and his connections, he gets away with actively protecting his workers.
SS officer Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Plaszow labor camp, had
made the final liquidation of the Crakow ghetto and had experience at three death
camps in eastern Poland, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka ...
conditions of life at Plaszow were made dreadful by Goeth. A prisoner in Plaszow
was very lucky if he could survive in this camp more than four weeks. The camp
shown in Spielberg's film Schindler's List is the exact description of
Goeth passed his mornings by using his high-powered, scoped rifle to shoot at
children playing in the camp - he often would use it as an incentive to work harder.
For example, some young men hauling coal were moving too slow for his liking.
He shot one of them with his sniper rifle so the rest would hurry up.
Schindler outwitted Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Goeth. When Schindler requested that
those Jews who continued to work in his factory be moved into their own sub-camp
near the plant "to save time in getting to the job," Goeth complied.
From then on, Schindler found that he could have food and medicine smuggled into
the barracks with less danger. The guards, of course, were bribed, and Goeth never
was to discover it, though Oscar Schinder was arrested twice ...
the point when his ambitions have been realized and he could walk away from the
war a rich man while "his Jews" die in Plaszow and Auschwitz, Oscar
Schindler desperately spends every penny he has bribing and paying off Amon Goeth
and other Nazi officials to protect and save his Jews.
a symbolic reversal of his earlier purpose in life, he spends all the money he
made by exploiting the labour of Jews in buying the lives of Jews; whatever is
not spent in bribing Goeth and other Nazi officials is subsequently spent in feeding
and protecting his Jews.
his factory, situated
by the work camp of Plaszow, Nazi guards are instructed to stay on their side
of the fence and nobody is allowed inside the factory without permission from
Schindler himself. He spends every night in his office so he can intervene if
the Gestapo come.
he is arrested by the Gestapo - but is released, undoubtedly first and foremost
because of his many connections.
his factory, workers are only half as hungry as in other camps - meals at Schindler`s
have a calorie count of 2000 as against 900 in other places. When food supplies
are critical, Schindler spends great sums of money purchasing food supplies on
the black market.
his factory the old are registered as being 20 years younger, children are registered
as adults. Lawyers, doctors and artists are registered as metal workers and mechanics
- all so they can survive as essential for the war industry.
his factory, nobody is hit, nobody murdered, nobody sent to death camps like the
slave workers at Schindler`s factory in Plaszow
were protected and saved by Oscar Schindler. In those years, millions of Jews
died in Polish camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz, but Schindler`s Jews miraculously
survived, to their own surprise, in Plaszow right up to 1944. Schindler bribed
the Nazis to get food and better treatment for his Jews ring a time when one of
the most civilized nations of the world was capable of systematic mass-murder.
the Nazis were beaten back on the East Front, Plaszow and its satellite camps
were dissolved and closed. Schindler had no illusions as to what that would entail.
Desperately he exerted his influence on his contacts in the military and industrial
circles in Crakow and Warsaw and finally went to Berlin to save his Jews from
a certain death. With his life as the stakes, he employed all his powers of persuasion,
he bribed uninhibitedly, fought, begged ...
no-one would have believed it possible, Schindler succeeded. He was granted permission
to move the whole of his factory from Plaszow to Brunnlitz in occupied Czechoslovakia
and furthermore, unheard of before, take all his workers with him. In this way,
the 1,098 workers who had been written on Schindler`s list in connection with
the removal avoided sharing the fate of the other 25,000 men, women and children
of Plaszow who were sent without mercy to extermination in the gas chambers of
Auschwitz, only 60 kilometers from Plaszow.
Schindler during WW2
a mistake 300 Schindler-women were routed on a train to Auschwitz. Certain death
awaited. A Schindler survivor, Anna Duklauer Perl, later recalled:'I knew something
had gone terribly wrong .. they cut our hair real short and sent us to the shower.
Our only hope was Schindler would find us.'
weeks Anna and the other Schindler-women were being herded off toward the showers
again. They did not know whether this was going to be water or gas. Then they
heard a voice:'What are you doing with these people ? These are my people.'
Schindler! He had come to rescue them, bribing the Nazis to retrieve the women
on his list and bring them back.
women were released - the only shipment out of Auschwitz during WW2.
the women returned to Brunnlitz, weak, hungry, frostbitten, less than human, Schindler
met them in the courtyard. They never forgot the sight of Schindler standing in
the doorway. And they never forgot his raspy voice when he - surrounded by SS
guards - gave them an unforgettable guarantee:'Now you are finally with me,
you are safe now. Don't be afraid of anything. You don't have to worry anymore.'
horrors of Auschwitz
Auschwitz the children were generally killed upon arrival. Children born in the
camps were often killed on the spot, especially if the child was Jewish.
called camp doctors, especially the notorious Josef Mengele, would torture and
inflict incredible suffering on Jewish children, Gypsy children and many others.
"Patients" were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated,
frozen to death, and exposed to various other traumas. Often Mengele injected
chemicals into the eyes of children in an attempt to change their eye color.
terrors occurred in Block 10 of Auschwitz I. Josef Mengele was nicknamed "the
Angel of Death" for the inhuman experiments he conducted.
the end of the war, in order to cut expenses and save gas, "cost- accountant
considerations" led to an order to place living children directly into the
ovens or throw them into open burning pits.
Schindler knew. He toiled through the rough waters of the confusions of war and
surfaced from the chaos to save his Jews. Generations will remember him for what
he did ...
the liberation of spring, 1945, Oscar Schindler used all means at his disposal
to ensure the safety of his Schindler-Jews. He spent every pfennig he had, and
even Emilie Schindler`s jewels were sold, to buy food, clothes, and medicine.
He set up a secret sanatorium in the factory with medical equipment purchased
on the black market. Here Emilie Schindler looked after the sick. Those who did
not survive were given a fitting Jewish burial in a hidden graveyard - established
and paid for by Schindler.
accounts have revealed that Schindler spent something like 4 million German marks
keeping his Jews out of the death camps - an enormous sum of money for those times.
though the Schindlers had had a large mansion placed at their disposal close to
the factory, Oscar Schindler understood the fear which his Jews had of nocturnal
visits from the SS. As in Plaszow, Schindler did not spent one single night outside
the little office in the factory.
factory continued to produce shells for the German Wehrmacht for 7 months. In
all that time not one usable shell was produced! Not one shell passed the military
quality tests. Instead, false military travel passes and ration cards were produced,
just as Nazi uniforms, weapons, ammunition and hand-grenades were collected. But
still, a tireless Schindler succeeded in these months in persuading the Gestapo
to send a further 100 Belgian, Dutch and Hungarian Jews to his factory camp "with
regard to the continuing war industry production".
May, 1945, it was all over. The Russians moved into Brunnlitz. The previous evening,
Schindler gathered everyone together in the factory and took a deeply emotional
leave of them.
told them they were free, he was a fugitive."My children, you are saved.
Germany has lost the war." He asked that they didn't go into the neighboring
houses to rob and plunder. "Prove yourself worthy of the millions of victims
among you and refrain from any individual acts of revenge and terror". He
announced that three yards of fabric were to be given each prisoner from his warehouse
stores as well as a bottle of vodka - which brought a high price on the black
five after midnight - certain that his Jews finally were out of danger -
Oscar Schindler left the factory. "I must leave now", Schindler said,
Schindler - and 1200 Schindler-Jews along with him - had survived the horrors
of the Holocaust ....
in 1946, with Jews he saved
Americans captured Amon Goeth and turned him over to the Poles. Goeth was convicted
of the murders of tens of thousands of people. He was hanged for his crimes in
Crakow on September 13, 1946.During his trial Goeth displayed provocative indifference.
And even though he is being hanged, Amon Goeth still salutes his Fuhrer in one
final act of defiance ...
Pfefferberg, the Schindler Jew who helped Oscar Schindler procure black-market
items to bribe Nazi officers with during the war, later told he promised Schindler
to tell his story:"You protect us, you save us,
you feed us - we survived the Holocaust, the tragedy, the hardship, the sickness,
the beatings, the killings! We must tell your story ...."
Schindler with Emilie
life after the war was a long series of failures. He tried without success to
be a film producer and was deprived of his nationality immediately after the war.
Threats from former Nazis meant that he felt insecure in post-war Germany, and
he applied for an entry permit to the United States. This was refused as he had
been a member of the Nazi party.
After this he fled to Buenos Aires in Argentina with his wife Emilie and a dozen Schindler Jews. He settled down in 1949 as a farmer, supported financially by the Jewish organization Joint and thankful Jews, who never forgot him.