After Germany invaded
Poland, the German entrepreneurs swarmed
the cities, snapping up fortified Jewish firms as their Treuhanders or trustees. One of them was a young salesman called Oskar
Schindler, born April 28th, 1908, in the Sudenland. He applied for Nazi membership in early 1939. By then he was
an agent for the Germans Abwhr, intelligence.
He took over an idle enamelware
plant at 4 Lipowa Street in Kracow. A Jew had owned
the plant and it was renamed Deutsche Emailwaren Fabrik and turned out pots and pans for the military. He was to make a fortune
with Jewish slave labour.
By the end of 1942, he employed
370 workers, all from Kracow ghetto. Word quickly spread that the factory was a safe haven. With bribes, Schindler kept the
SS at bay. He lied so they could bring friends and relatives. Most of his skilled workers had no skills between them. Soon
1000 Jews would gain sanctuary at the DEF (named by the workers).
The ghetto was established
in March 1941 and there were about 15,000 Jews there. Then in March 13th 1943, Amon Goeth liquidated the camp.
Those who survived became inmates of the Kracow/Plaszow labour camp on the outskirts of the city, under Goeths bloodthirsty
For a few months the workers
walked to the factory, to return at the end of shift to Amons shell and the real possibility of ending up on Ghujowa Gorka
or execution hill. The translation is Prick Hill. Not only was it a place to die, it was a place for rapes etc.
One victim, dying from her
wounds was raped one by one by the guards. Amon shot one girl because he didnt like her nose. He regularly used Jews as target
practice. Daily life there became unbearable for some people and they either made sure they died or committed suicide.
Schindlers subcamp used the
workers from this hell but in August 1944 he was ordered to lose over 700. In September the subcamp was shut down. In October,
Schindler moved the whole operation to Brinnlitz Czechoslavakia, near his home town. A second list was drawn up, providing
the nuceus of one in circulation today. It contained the original 300 plus 700 replacements.
Before they got to Brinnlitz,
the men had to stop at a camp called Cross-Rosen and the women to Auschwitz. It is clear
he knew this would happen but not for so long. He had to bribe their way out. By the time they got to the factory, they had
been through hell and were shaven from head to toe.
The list ended up being as
much of a puzzle as was Schindlers motives. Was he an angel masquerading as an opportunist? Or an opportunist masquerading
as an angel? Did he intend to save 1100 Jews or were they helping his survival? Did he build the DEF to protect Jews or to
stop Amon Goeth from finding out and interfering in his blackmarket
One survivor says that in the
beginning it was a game, to outwit the SS, to make money, he hated killing. In the end he realized that if he didnt save the
Jews, no-one else would.
The bottom line for the survivors
was If I wasnt Schindler, Id be dead
He was a sybante, a sexual
man, wearing so much cologne, you could smell him before you saw him. And boy could he drink but was never drunk. The drink
caused complications which led to his death in 1974. He permitted Jews to observe holidays (secretly) and to bury their dead
traditionally. He never slept one night at his villa in Brinnlitz but at the factory because he knew the Jews feared the night
visits from the SS.
In the film, Schindler and
Itzhak Stein construct the list themselves, in fact Marcel Goldberg controlled the lists. He demanded payment directly from
those who wanted to be on the list.
What is difinate, is that Emalia
workers were sent to death camps. Some survived, this caused bitterness after the war.
When he left Brinnlitz, he
was accompanied by his wife Emilie, a mistress and 8 Jews. They left on May 8th
1945. Valuables were stuffed into door panels on his car, he also had a letter signed by his workers, explaining that he saved
Schindler helped American Investigators
gather evidence against Nazi War criminals, especially his old drinking partners.
By 1949, he was a lost soul.
He had no future at home, he couldnt live in Germany which he once loved. He tried living in Regensburg then Munich, depending
on care parcels. Polish Jews traced him and tried to give some assistance . The Jewish Joint Committee gave Schindler money
and set him up in Argentina at a ranch where they tried to raise Minklike animals. It failed. In 1957 he left Emile and went
back to Germany. But failed again at a cement plant.
He visited Israel in 1962 and
the Schindlerjuden welcomed him with open arms. From then on he never lacked support. When he died in 1974, he wanted to be
buried in Israel. He lies in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion.
He became a legend, willingly
or not. He did what no-one else wanted to do or could do. He also allowed men and women to answer part of the imponderable
question Why did I survive and 6 million die?
Answer Because of Oskar Schindler