This Famous Person Game - January 2017
by Mike McLeod
Oscar Schindler was no saint—a heavy drinker, womanizer, war profiteer, and Nazi party member and spy. But it was these qualities that enabled him to save the lives of more than 1,200 Jews.1 His bribery of the Nazis and the SS, his binge drinking with them and giving them gifts, was how he kept his factories operating with Jewish laborers and kept them the workers from the death camps. When the Russian army began advancing toward his factory, Schindler used bribery and favors to get the whole operation moved to a safer location—and move the workers with him. This monumental feat accomplished with Nazi approval was beyond comprehension in those days of the iron hand of the SS. This literally saved the lives of his Jewish workers again; they would have all gone to death camps if left behind.
True, Schindler became rich at the beginning with his war profiteering, but all of his money was spent protecting and providing for the Schindler Jews, as they called themselves. He was a pauper after the war and hated by his own people for helping Jews.
Some say he used the Jews as slave labor, but he provided them with more food than others received in the death camps and with good medical treatment as well. More importantly, he kept them alive and out of the gas chambers. Schindler’s factories and the sub-concentration camps that he set up by the factories kept families together (which never happened in other concentration camps), and he even slept every night at one factory in case the SS showed up.
Louis Bülow has researched the Holocaust, the death camps and Oscar Schindler for many years and has created several websites publishing this information.2 On oskarschindler.com he writes: “When asked [why he did this], Schindler told that his metamorphosis during the war was sparked by the shocking immensity of the Final Solution. In his own words: ‘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.’”
Schindler was not Jewish; he was of the Catholic religion.
Doing the impossible during that time of insanity was Schindler’s talent. “Abraham Zuckerman recalled how Oscar Schindler got 300 Schindler-women released from the death camp Auschwitz during World War 2, the only shipment out of Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered 2-3 million people. ‘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!
“One day, the 300 Schindler-women were routed on a train to Auschwitz by a mistake. Certain death awaited. A Schindler survivor, Anna Duklauer Perl, later recalled: ‘I knew something had gone terribly wrong. They cut our hair real short and sent us to the shower. Our only hope was Schindler would find us.’
“The Schindler-women were being herded off toward the showers. They did not know whether this was going to be water or gas [showers]. Then they heard a voice: ‘What are you doing with these people? These are my people.’ Schindler! He had come to rescue them, bribing the Nazis to retrieve the women on his list and bring them back. And the women were released.
“When they returned to his factory, weak, hungry, frostbitten, less than human, Schindler met them in the courtyard. They never forgot the sight of Schindler standing in the doorway. And they never forgot his raspy voice when he—surrounded by SS guards—gave them an unforgettable guarantee: ‘Now you are finally with me, you are safe now. Don't be afraid of anything. You don't have to worry anymore.’”3
Abraham Zuckerman was interviewed in the New York Times in 1991 about the difference Schindler made in his life during that time. “Mr. Zuckerman, who lived in seven concentration camps during the war, had never heard of Schindler when he was assigned to work in Schindler's Emalia kitchenware factory in February 1943. But he understood his luck instantly. ‘The minute I came to the camp, life changed,’ he says. ‘There was food, mountains of potatoes. You were never hungry.’ Moreover, Mr. Zuckerman recalls, ‘We didn't do that much work.’ Schindler purposely slowed production to keep his workers with him as long as possible.”4
True stories abound of Oscar Schindler’ saving of Jewish lives. On the announcement that the war was over and Soviet troops were approaching the camp to free them, Schindler’s workers drafted a letter detailing how he had saved their lives. At the end they closed with: “This we declare today, on this day of the declaration of the end of the war, as we await our official liberation, and the opportunity to return to our destroyed families and homes. Here we are, a gathering of 1100 people, 800 men and 300 women.”5
In 1962, Oscar Schindler was awarded the title of “Righteous Among Nations” by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. His wife Emilie, who nursed the sick and worked with him to save lives, was awarded the same honor in 1993. The medals they received bear this inscription: “Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5).”6 More than 7,000 people alive today are descended from Schindler Jews.
Oscar Schindler survived the war, but the businesses he started failed. He was substantially supported for the rest of his life by those he saved and their descendants. He died on Oct. 9, 1974 at the age of 66. He is buried in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion.
Oscar Schindler was correctly identified by Ted Carlton of Utah.
1 Auschwitz.dk, “Schindler, Why Did He Do It?”
2 Some of those websites include: Oskarschindler.com, auschwitz.dk, deathcamps.info, emilieschindler.com, mengele.dk, shoah.dk and annefrank.dk.
3 Oskarschindler.com, “Why?”
4 New York Times, nyt.com, “Schindler Street, N.J.,” by Debra Galant, Sept. 21, 1997
5 Oskarchindler.com, “Survivors.”
6 Yadvashem.org, “An Entire Universe.”