About Emilie Schindler (Pelzl)
Emilie Schindler (October 22, 1907 – October 5, 2001) was a humanitarian who, with her husband Oskar Schindler, helped to save the lives of 1,200[ to 1,700 Jews during World War II. Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten German industrialist, created the now famous list of Schindler's Jews by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, providing them immunity from the Nazis.
Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the victims of the Holocaust honored the Schindlers as Righteous Among the Nations for their efforts in saving hundreds of Jewish lives.
She was born in the village of Alt Moletein, 49°48′N 16°47′E (alternate spelling, Old Moletin, in Czech: Starý Moletín, today: Maletín) Austria-Hungary, (now in the Czech Republic), to farmers Josef and Marie Pelzl. She also had an older brother, Franz, with whom she was very close.
Schindler's early life in Alt Moletein was idyllic, and she was quite fond of nature and animals. She was also interested in the Gypsies, who would camp near the village for a few days at a time; their nomadic lifestyle, their music, and their stories fascinated her.
Marriage and life with Oskar Schindler
Emilie Pelzl first saw the handsome and outgoing Oskar Schindler in 1928, when he came to Alt Moletein to sell electric motors to her father. After dating for six weeks, the couple married on March 6, 1928, in an inn on the outskirts of Zwittau, Schindler's hometown.
In spite of his flaws, Oscar [sic] had a big heart and was always ready to help whoever was in need. He was affable, kind, extremely generous and charitable, but at the same time, not mature at all. He constantly lied and deceived me, and later returned feeling sorry, like a boy caught in mischief, asking to be forgiven one more time — and then we would start all over again...
Schindler's factory at Brněnec in 2004 In 1938, the unemployed Oskar Schindler joined the Nazi Party and moved to Kraków, leaving his wife in Zwittau. There he was given control of a Jewish-owned enameled-goods factory, Deutsche Emailwaren Fabrik, where he principally employed Jewish workers because they were the cheapest. However, he soon realized the true brutalities of the Nazis and the Schindlers started protecting his Jewish laborers. Initially, they saved the workers by bribing the SS guards; later, they listed their employees as essential factory workers, constructing uniforms and munitions for the Reich. When conditions worsened and they started running out of money, she sold her jewels to buy food, clothes and medicine. She looked after sick workers in a secret sanatorium in the factory with medical equipment purchased on the black market
One of the survivors, Maurice Markheim, later recalled: She got a whole truck of bread from somewhere on the black market. They called me to unload it. She was talking to the SS and because of the way she turned around and talked, I could slip a loaf under my shirt. I saw she did this on purpose. A loaf of bread at that point was gold... There is an old expression: Behind the man, there is the woman, and I believe she was the great human being.
The Schindlers saved more than 1,200 Jews from extermination camps. In May 1945, when Soviets moved into Brunnlitz, the Schindlers left the Jews in the factory and went into hiding, in fear of being caught because of Oskar's ties with the Nazi party.
Life after war
The Schindlers were deprived of their nationality immediately after the war. They lived under continuous threats from former Nazis, which meant that they were insecure in post-war Germany. They fled to Buenos Aires in Argentina, with Schindler's mistress and a dozen of Schindler Jews. In 1949, they settled there as farmers and were supported financially by a Jewish organization.
In 1957, a bankrupt Oskar Schindler abandoned his wife and returned to Germany, where he died in 1974. Although they never divorced, they never saw each other again. Thirty-seven years after he left, she visited his grave:
At last we meet again... I have received no answer, my dear, I do not know why you abandoned me... But what not even your death or my old age can change is that we are still married, this is how we are before God. I have forgiven you everything, everything..."
Emilie Schindler lived for many years in her small house in San Vicente, 40 kilometres south-west of Buenos Aires in Argentina with her pets. She received a small pension from Israel and Germany. Uniformed Argentinean police were posted 24 hours a day to protect her from anti-Semitic and extremist groups. Here she formed bonds with many of the soldiers.
In July 2001, during a visit to Berlin, Emilie Schindler told reporters that it was her "greatest and last wish" to spend her final years in Germany, adding that she had become increasingly homesick. She died from the effects of a stroke in Märkisch-Oderland Hospital, Berlin, on the night of October 5, 2001, at the age of 93 years. Her only relative was a niece in Bavaria. She is buried at the cemetery in Waldkraiburg, Germany, about an hour away from Munich. Her tombstone includes the words, Wer einen Menschen rettet, rettet die Ganze Welt ("Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.").
Emilie Schindler was honored by several Jewish organizations for her efforts during World War II. In May 1994, she received the Righteous Among the Nations award from Yad Vashem, along with Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank and her family in the Netherlands during the war. In 1995, she was decorated with the Order of May, the highest honor given to foreigners who are not heads of state in Argentina.
Her life inspired Erika Rosenberg's book Ich, Emilie Schindler, (Herbig, 2001 ISBN 377662230X).