Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler

Was a German industrialist, spy, and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1.200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He is the subject of the 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark, and the subsequent 1993 film Schindler’s List, which reflected his life as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity and dedication to save the lives of his Jewish employees.

Oskar Schindler was born in Zwittau, Moravia, Austro-Hungarian empire, today Svitavy, Czech Republic. His family owned a factory of agricultural machines. He had a younger sister.

Although he was a citizen of Czechoslovakia, Schindler became a spy for the Abwehr, the intelligence service of Nazi Germany, in 1936. He was assigned to Abwehrstelle II Commando VIII, based in Breslau. He later told the Czech police that he did it because he needed the money, By this time, Schindler had a drinking problem and was chronically in debt. His tasks for the Abwehr included collecting information on railways, military installations, and troop movements, as well as recruiting other spies within Czechoslovakia, in advance of a planned invasion of the country by Nazi Germany. He was arrested by the Czech government for espionage on 18 July 1938 and immediately imprisoned, but was released as a political prisoner under the terms of the München Agreement, the instrument under which the Czech Sudetenland was annexed into Germany on 1 October. Schindler applied for membership in the Nazi Party on 1 November and was accepted the following year.

In 1935, he has registered in the German Party of Sudetenland in order to continue his business. In 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, Oskar Schindler joined the National Socialist Party of German Workers (NSDAP) and moved to Krakow with the intention of profiting from the conflict between Germany on the one hand and Britain and France, on the other hand. He has befriended with Nazi officers who had established their headquarters in the Polish capital and obtained illegal cognac and cigars for them. Trying to get in touch with the Jewish businessmen from Krakow, he met Hebrew accountant Itzhak Stern and bought a factory in 1940. He managed to bribe the right people and to obtain contracts with the German army for the cookware that his factory was producing for them. He hired more than 1.000 Hebrews, but at the time of their hiring, the persecution of the Nazis have already started against them. In 1942, he managed to bring back in the factory the Jews that were sent to forced labor. In 1943, when the Nazis wanted to liquidate the ghetto of Krakow, a skillful Schindler proposed the establishment of a labor camp within his factory, continuing to hire workers from the nearest camp, Plaszow. In 1944, the Plaszow labor camp was transformed to a concentration camp and the prisoners were sent to Auschwitz.

Schindler’s factory was closed and once again he turned to his relationships and bribed the right people to move his factory in Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia, to supply the German army with missiles and grenades. Oskar was asked for a list of Jews who he wanted to take with him and he submitted 1.200 names. In freight wagons left only 800 people, others loaded with 300 women and children were diverted to the death camp, Auschwitz. He managed to save them and send them to Brunnlitz. Schindler didn’t produce anything for 7 months, thus losing money, spending his previously accumulated resources for the maintenance of his workers and bribing the SS officers.

At the end of the Second World War, Schindler and his wife fled to West Germany, trying to bypass the Russian troops from the east. Coincidentally or not, after a few days, the 1.200 Hebrews from the factory were released by a lone Russian officer.

In 1949, he moved to Argentina and bought a farm that went bankrupt. Until 1957, he survived by using a Hebrew charitable organization. In 1958 he returned to Germany and supported by all Hebrew, he opened a cement factory, but lost it in the same year. Until the end of his life, Oskar Schindler lived from a small pension awarded by the German Government and used the assistance of Hebrew organizations. He visited Israel 13 times, where he was well received by the survivors of the war, which were saved by him.

He died on 9 October 1974 in Hildesheim, Germany, and was buried in Israel, on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way. For his work during the war, in 1963 Schindler was named Righteous Among the Nations, an award bestowed by the State of Israel on non-Jews who took an active role to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. Other awards include the German Order of Merit, which he acquired in 1966.

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