Monday 20 January 2014

Schindler's List

"Whoever saves one life saves the entire world." 
(inscription inside ring given to Oskar Schindler)

Schindler's List courtesy

One man -- one list -- 1200 names.  "Schindler's List", made into a movie in 1993, is the story of Oskar Schindler who employed many Jews in his factories and whose lives he saved by bribing, cajoling and sweet-talking Nazi officials.  Here is his story.

Oskar Schindler was born into a wealthy business owning family in Zwittau, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic).  In the 1930's, he became a member of the Nazi Party.  He bought a factory in Krakow, Poland where enamelware was manufactured.  He employed many Jews as they were cheaper labour than Poles.  However, as the rights of Jews were taken away, he started to hide wealthy Jewish investors.

Krakow Factory courtesy

In 1942, Schindler witnessed a round up of Jews in the Krakow ghetto in an effort to ship them to a concentration camp in Plaszow.  He was appalled by the murder of many Jews who attempted to hide from the Nazis during the round up.  In the movie, director Steven Spielberg shows Schindler sitting atop a horse on a hill above the ghetto watching the horrific black and white scene, punctuated only by the red coat of a little girl.  

Schindler vowed to save as many Jews as he could, intending on transferring them to safety in his two factories.  Using the black market, he bribed Nazi officials.  In October 1944, a train carrying 700 Schindler Jewish men to Gross Rosen Concentration Camp was re-routed to Brunnlitz, the site of Schindler's factory, only after he sweet-talked officials.  Similarly a trainload of 300 Schindler Jewish women was sent to Auschwitz. After several weeks, Schindler managed to get them transported to Brunnlitz, thanks to his black market food and diamond bribes.

Oskar Schindler (center) at a dinner party in Krakow

Oskar Schindler (centre) schmoozing Nazi officials courtesy

In May of 1945, Schindler stood with his workers on the factory floor and listened to Churchill's speech announcing victory for the Allies.  The workers gave him a ring, made from the dental work of one of their own, inscribed with the verse:  "Whoever saves one life saves the entire world."  Then Schindler and his wife wife, considered spies by the enemy, escaped by car.  Their vehicle was confiscated by the Russians but they continued their flight by train and by foot to Switzerland.

Schindler saved 1200 Jews.  Although movie offers were discussed in the 1950's and 1960's nothing came of them.  In the 1980's, Australian author Thomas Kenneally wrote a book about the entrepreneur's life called Schindler's Ark, later published in the United States as Schindler's List.  Steven Spielberg acquired the rights to the story and the movie premiered in 1993.  

Schindler spent millions to help the Jews.  He died penniless, but a hero.

No comments:

Post a Comment