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Oskar Schindler
Born 28 April 1908
Svitavy, Moravia (present-day Czech Republic)
Died 9 October 1974 (aged 66)
Hildesheim, West Germany
Occupation Industrialist
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Religion Catholic
Spouse(s) Emilie Schindler
Parents Hans Schindler
Franziska Luser

Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was an ethnic German industrialist born in Moravia. He is credited with saving almost 1,200[1][2] Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively.[3] He is the subject of the novel Schindler's Ark, and the film based on it, Schindler's List.[4]


Early life and career

Oskar Schindler was born 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, divorced when Oskar was 27. Oskar was very close to his younger sister, Elfriede. Schindler was brought up in the Catholic faith and remained a Roman Catholic throughout his life.[1] 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.[5] 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).[1] 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.[6]

World War II

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"[7] in Kraków,[3] and renamed the factory Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik or DEF.[8] With the help of his German-speaking Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern,[3] Schindler obtained around 1,000 Jewish forced labourers to work there.[1]

Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest at Nazi SS elite parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit.[8] Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money — Jewish labour was least 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.[3]

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.[8] 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.[8] 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'".[9] 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 the "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.[3] He arranged with Amon Göth, the commandant of Plaszow, for 1000 Jews to be transferred to an adjacent factory compound, where they would be relatively safe from the depredations of the German guards. 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.[citation needed]

Schindler's factory at Kraków in 2006
Schindler's factory at Brněnec in 2004

Schindler was arrested twice on suspicion of black market activities and complicity in embezzlement; Göth 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 such sales on black market. He managed to avoid being convicted after each arrest. Schindler typically bribed government officials to avoid further investigation.[1][3]

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 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 missiles and hand grenades for the war effort. However, during the months that this factory was running, not a single weapon produced could actually be fired. Hence Schindler made no money; rather, his previously earned fortune grew steadily smaller as he bribed officials and cared for his workers.[3]

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.[3] Eventually, Schindler emigrated to Argentina in 1948, where he went bankrupt. He left his wife Emilie in 1957 and returned to Germany in 1958, where he had a series of unsuccessful business ventures.[3] Schindler settled down in a small 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 partners cancelled their partnership. In 1968 he began receiving a small pension from the West German government. In 1971 Oskar Schindler moved to live with friends at Goettingstrasse Nr. 30 in Hildesheim, Germany. Due to a heart complaint he was taken to the Saint Bernward Hospital in Hildesheim on 12 September 1974, where he died on 9 October 1974, at the age of 66. At the time of his death, he was surrounded by friends and family.[10] The costs for his stay in the hospital were paid from social welfare of the city of Hildesheim.[11][12]

Commemorative plaque at Goettingstrasse 30, Hildesheim.
Oskar Schindler's grave

After a Requiem Mass, Schindler was buried at the Catholic Franciscans' cemetery[13] at Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way.[3] Schindler's grave is located near the Zion Gate, at 31°46′13″N 35°13′50″E / 31.770164°N 35.230423°E / 31.770164; 35.230423. Stones placed on top of the grave are a sign of gratitude from Jewish visitors, according to Jewish tradition, although Schindler himself was not Jewish. On his grave, the Hebrew inscription reads 'Righteous Gentile', and the German inscription reads 'The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews'.

No one 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."[14]

The writer Herbert Steinhouse, who interviewed Schindler in 1948 at the behest of some of the surviving Schindlerjuden (Schindler's Jews), wrote:

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.[3]


Commemorative plaque at Am Hauptbahnhof Nr. 4, Frankfurt am Main.

In 1963, Schindler was honoured at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, or "righteous Gentiles", an honour awarded by Israel to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust at great personal risk. Schindler was the first 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 was also honoured with the German Federal Cross of Merit and with the Papal Order of St. Sylvester during the 1960s.[11] The Order of St. Sylvester was personally awarded to him by Pope Paul VI in 1968.[13]

Schindler's story, retold by Holocaust survivor Poldek Pfefferberg, was the basis for Thomas Keneally's book Schindler's Ark (the novel was published in America as 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 seven Oscars, including 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.

In the autumn of 1999 a suitcase belonging to Schindler was discovered, containing over 7,000 photographs and documents, including the list of Schindler's Jewish workers. The document, on his enamelware factory's letterhead, had been provided to the SS stating that the named workers were "essential" employees. Friends of Schindler found the suitcase in the attic of a house in Hildesheim, Germany, where he had been staying at the time of his death. The friends took the suitcase to Stuttgart, where its discovery was reported by a newspaper, the Stuttgarter Zeitung. The contents of the suitcase, including the list of the names of those he had saved and the text of his farewell speech before leaving his Jewish workers in 1945, are now at the Holocaust museum of Yad Vashem in Israel.[15]

Oskar Schindler's enamel factory in 2009

In early April 2009, a second list was discovered at the State Library of New South Wales, Australia by workers combing through boxes of materials collected by the author Keneally. The 13-page document, yellow and fragile, was filed between research notes and original newspaper clippings. This list, given to Keneally in 1980 by Leopold Pfefferberg, who was listed as worker number 173, differs slightly from the other list, but is nonetheless considered to be genuine and authentic. It is believed that several lists were made during the war as the protected population changed. This particular list, dated 18 April 1945, was given to Keneally by Pfefferberg when he was persuading Keneally to write Schindler's story. In the last months of the war, German Nazi camps stepped up their extermination efforts. This list is believed to have saved the lives of 801 people from death in the gas chambers. It was this list, taken with the surrounding events of the time, that inspired Keneally to write his novel.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Oskar Schindler, Saved 1,200 Jews". The New York Times. 13 October 1974. Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  2. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Schindler list survivor recalls saviour. Other sources vary, placing the number at 1,098 according to the list, along with an additional 100 people according to a letter signed by Isaak Stern, former employee Pal. Office in Krakow, Dr. Hilfstein, Chaim Salpeter, Former President of the Zionist Executive in Krakow for Galicia and Silesia.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Herbert Steinhouse, "The Real Oskar Schindler", Saturday Night Magazine, April, 1994.
  4. ^ Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982 (ISBN 0-340-33501-7).
  5. ^ "Emilie Schindler, 93, Dies; Saved Jews in War". The New York Times. October 8, 2001. Retrieved 2009-01-20.  Schindler's wife Emilie was born on 22 October 1907, the daughter of Josef and Maria Pelzl, and died on 5 October 2001, at age 93 in a hospital near Berlin. They did not have children.
  6. ^ Jitka Gruntová, Legendy a fakta o Oskaru Schindlerovi. Naše vojsko, 2002 (ISBN 80-206-0607-6).
  7. ^ Brzoskwinia, Waldemar (19 June 2008). "Spacerownik. Zabłocie: chłodnia i fabryki". Gazeta Wyborcza (Kraków).,90719,5328861,Zablocie__chlodnia_i_fabryki.html. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Oskar Schindler: An Unlikely Hero". U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  9. ^ Eric Silver (1992). The book of the just – the silent heroes who saved Jews from Hitler. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. ISBN 0802113478. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "City of Hildesheim Archives (in German)". 2 October 1999. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  12. ^ Photos of house and plaque located at Göttingstr.30 in Hildesheim where Oskar Schindler lived from 1972 to his death in 1974. He was a guest of Dr. Staehr and his wife.
  13. ^ a b Deutsches Historisches Museum Article Oskar Schindler.
  14. ^ David M. Crowe, Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind The List. Philadelphia: Westview Press, 2004 (ISBN 0-8133-3375-X).
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Schingler", News (Yahoo!), 2009-04-06, 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Oskar Schindler (28 April 19089 October 1974) was a Sudeten German industrialist credited with saving almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, by having them work in his enamelware and ammunitions factories located in Poland and what is now the Czech Republic.


  • The persecution of Jews in occupied Poland meant that we could see horror emerging gradually in many ways. In 1939, they were forced to wear Jewish stars, and people were herded and shut up into ghettos. Then, in the years '41 and '42 there was plenty of public evidence of pure sadism. With people behaving like pigs, I felt the Jews were being destroyed. I had to help them. There was no choice.
    • 1964 interview[[1]]
  • I hated the brutality, the sadism, and the insanity of Nazism. I just couldn't stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That's all there is to it. Really, nothing more.
    • Oskar Schindler speaking about his take on the final solution(refers to the German Nazis' plan to engage in systematic genocide against the European Jewish population during World War II.)[[2]]
  • There was no choice. If you saw a dog going to be crushed under a car, wouldn't you help him?
    • Oskar Schindlers answer after Poldek Pfefferberg, another Schindlerjew asked him why he risked so much[[3]]
  • Now you are finally with me, you are safe now. Don't be afraid of anything. You don't have to worry anymore.
    • What Oskar Schindler said to the 300 women he saved on their return to his factory.[[4]]
  • What is there to say? They are my friends. I would do it again, over and over — for I hate cruelty and intolerance.
    • Oskar Schindler[[5]]
  • Beyond this day, no thinking person could fail to see what would happen. I was now resolved to do everything in my power to defeat the system.
    • After a day of Nazi "Aktion" roundups and executions of Jews in Krakow, as quoted in Schindler's List (1982) by Thomas Keneally, Ch. 15

About Oskar Schindler

  • He came to my house once, and I put a bottle of cognac in front of him, and he finished it in one sitting. When his eyes were flickering - he wasn't drunk - I said this is the time to ask him the question 'why' ? His answer was 'I was a Nazi, and I believed that the Germans were doing wrong ... when they started killing innocent people - and it didn't mean anything to me that they were Jewish, to me they were just human beings, menschen - I decided I am going to work against them and I am going to save as many as I can'. And I think that Oscar told the truth, because that's the way he worked.
    • Murray Pantirer, a Schindler survivor asked Schindler why he helped the Jews and he was given this answer.[[6]]
  • We gave up many times, but he always lifted our spirits ... Schindler tried to help people however he could. That is what we remember.
    • Helen Beck, a Schindler survivor recalling how he kept their spirits alive.[[7]]
  • He was a gambler, who loved living on the edge. He loved outsmarting the SS. I would not be alive today if it wasn't for Oscar Schindler. To us he was our God, our Father, our protector.
    • Rena Ferber also a Jew who was saved by Schindler remembers how important his actions were[[8]]
  • If he was a virtuous, honest guy, no one in a corrupt, greedy system like the SS would accept him .. In a weird world that celebrated death, he recognized the Jews as humans. Schindler used corrupt ways, creativity and ingenuity against the monster machine dedicated to death.
    • Zev Kedem who was saved by Schindler during world war 2[[9]]
  • There were SS guards but he would say 'Good morning' to you. He was a chain smoker and he´d throw the cigarette on the floor after only two puffs, because he knew the workers would pick it up after him. To me he was an angel. Because of him I was treated like a human being. And because of him I survived.
  • What people don't understand about Oscar is the power of the man, his strength, his determination. Everything he did he did to save the Jews. Can you imagine what power it took for him to pull out from Auschwitz 300 people ? At Auschwitz, there was only one way you got out, we used to say. Through the chimney! Understand ? Nobody ever got out of Auschwitz. But Schindler got out 300 ....!
    • Abraham Zuckerman, survivor of the Final Solution thanks to Schindler. He recalls how Schindler got 300 people out a Auschwitz as[[10]]
  • We do not forget the sorrows of Egypt, we do not forget Haman, we do not forget Hitler. Thus, among the unjust, we do not forget the just. Remember Oskar Schindler.
    • Preamble to an appeal launched by the Schindlerjuden in 1961 on Schindler's behalf. Cited from Thomas Keneally Schindler's Ark (London: Coronet, 1983) p. 396.

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Simple English

Oskar Schindler (April 28 1908October 9 1974) was a Sudeten German industrialist. He saved almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by making them work his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were in what is known today as Poland and the Czech Republic. He is the subject of the novel Schindler's Ark, and the film based on it, Schindler's List.

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