About Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was an ethnic German industrialist born in Szitavy (German: Zwittau), Moravia. He is credited with saving almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them at great personal risk in his enamelware and ammunitions factories. He is the subject of the novel Schindler's Ark, and the Steven Spielberg movie Schindler's List
[Oskar Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 into an ethnic German family in Svitavy (German: Zwittau), Moravia, then part of Austria-Hungary, now in the Czech Republic. His parents, Hans Schindler and Franziska Luser, were divorced when Oskar was 27. Oskar was very close to his younger sister, Elfriede. Schindler was brought up in the Catholic faith but was not a religious man. After school he worked as a commercial salesman.
On 6 March 1928, Schindler married Emilie Pelzl (1907–2001), daughter of a wealthy ethnic German farmer from Alt Moletein (Moravia) and a pious Catholic, who received most of her education in a nearby Czech-German monastery.
In the 1930s he changed jobs several times. He also tried starting various businesses, but soon went bankrupt because of the Great Depression. He joined the separatist Sudeten German Party in 1935. Though officially a citizen of Czechoslovakia, ethnic German nationalist Schindler started to work for German military intelligence (the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris). He was exposed and jailed by the Czech government 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 to work for the Abwehr, allegedly paving the way for the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.
As an opportunistic businessman, Schindler was one of many who sought to profit from the German invasion of Poland in 1939. He gained ownership from a bankruptcy court of an idle enamelware factory Pierwsza Małopolska Fabryka Naczyń Emaliowanych i Wyrobów Blaszanych "Rekord" in Kraków,and renamed the factory Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik or DEF (location). With the help of his German-speaking Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, Schindler obtained around 1,000 Jewish forced labourers to work there.
Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest Nazi SS elite parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit. Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money — Jewish labour was less costly — but later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. He would, for instance, claim that certain unskilled workers were essential to the factory.
While witnessing a 1943 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at Płaszów, 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'".
The special status of his factory ("business essential to the war effort") became the decisive factor for Schindler's efforts to support his Jewish workers. Whenever "Schindler Jews" were threatened with deportation, he claimed exemptions for them. Wives, children, and even handicapped persons were shown to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers.
Schindler was arrested three times on suspicion of black market activities and complicity in embezzlement, as well as breaking the Nuremberg Laws by kissing a Jewish girl.
Amon Göth, the commandant of the Płaszów camp, and other SS guards used Jewish property (such as money, jewelry, and works of art) for themselves, although according to law, it belonged to the Reich. Schindler arranged the sale of such items on the black market. None of his arrests led to a trial, primarily because he bribed government officials to avoid further investigation.
As the Red Army drew nearer to Auschwitz concentration camp 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 Brněnec (German: Brünnlitz) in the German-speaking Sudetenland province (currently in the Czech Republic), thus sparing the Jews from certain death in the extermination camps.
In Brněnec, he gained another former Jewish factory, where he was supposed to produce shells and hand grenades for the war effort. However, during the months that this factory was running, not a single weapon produced could in fact be used. Hence Schindler made no money; rather, his previously earned fortune grew steadily smaller as he bribed officials and cared for his workers.
By the end of the war Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers.