Oskar Schindler-The German who saved 1200 of Jews from the Holocaust

Oskar Schindler is man who saved the lives of 1200 Jews during World War II. Instead of having the Nazi`s take them to concentration camps, Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, would hire them in his factories, and they were therefore spared.

At the time, any Jew who was healthy and able to work would be taken to a labor camp, those who were considered unhealthy and unfit to work would be sent to concentration or death camps where they would be exterminated or worked to death. Furthermore, any Jews who were engaged in `essential work` would be spared and this is how Oskar Schindler was able to negotiate with top German officers, thus ensuring that all the Jews working in his factory were spared. He had strong business acumen and he convinced the SS officers that his company was manufacturing shells for the German Army, and it was therefore essential to their cause.

Who was Oskar Schindler?

Oskar Schindler as photographed in Argentina after World War II [Via]

Oskar Schindler was born in 1908, in Zwittau, Moravia which is currently part of the Czech Republic. At the time, it was a German province and was a huge commercial centre with multiple industries. Schindler`s father (Hans Schindler) was a factory owner and was a very successful businessman. He had one sibling, a sister who was seven years younger than him, but despite the age difference they had a very cordial relationship.

As a young man, Schindler was very popular among young girls, which may be attributed to his father`s success. He was also very popular at school, due to his great interpersonal skills and two of his best friends were actually sons of a local rabbi.

After finishing high school, Schindler enrolled in a technical school but was suspended for a while, for forging a report card. However, he later graduated and started working in his father`s machinery company. On 6th March 1928 he married Emilie Pelzl  and they stayed in his father`s home, which had extra rooms where they could live comfortably. They lived here for the next seven years, until Oskar Schindler stopped working for his father and took on a job as a sales manager for a Moravian electric company.

When the war started

When the Nazis invaded Poland, Schindler, who was known for his strong business acumen, moved to Krakow, Poland. He developed close ties with top German Officials who were stationed there and purchased a bankrupt factory. He hired Jews to work for him, because they were reliable and also provided cheap labor.

At the time, Krakow was home to thousands of Jews, who resided in secluded Ghettos. In 1942, there was a directive that all the Jews in Krakow were to be transported to forced labor camps and among this lot were the Jews who were at the time working for Schindler. By the time Schindler learned of this, most of his workers were already at the train station waiting to be transported to the labor camps. He quickly rushed to the train station and talked to the Nazi officers in charge, but he had to bribe them to be able to save all the Jews that were working for him.

Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory in Kraków. [Via]

Later on in 1943, Schindler had to bribe an SS officer because the Krakow ghetto was being cleaned up and everyone present was to be taken to a concentration camp. Only those who were healthy would be taken to Plaszow labor camp. Schindler bribed the officer in charge and encouraged him to open a labor camp inside his factory.

In 1944, there were orders that Schindler`s factory had to be shut down and the Jews in the mini-labor camp would be sent to concentration camps. Schindler had discussions with a young Nazi officer who was in charge of the operation and told him about his plans to move the factory to Czechoslovakia. He convinced him about the vital role that the factory played in providing the German Army with essential supplies.

He was instructed to prepare a list of the workers he wanted to take with him to Brunnlitz town in Czechoslovakia and he drew up a list of over a thousand workers. He thus moved his factory to Brunnlitz alongside his workers and he was able to keep them safe until the end of the war, in May 8, 1945.

Schindler’s grave in Jerusalem. The Hebrew inscription reads: “Righteous Among the Nations”; the German inscription reads: “The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews”. [Via]

Oskar Schindler was the savior of thousands of Jews, and his story has inspired the book Schindler’s List which was later adopted into a movie and won seven Oscars. Oskar Schindler was loved and adored by the Jews and after he died in 1974 he was buried in Israel at the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Sidney Mucheru

Sidney Mucheru is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE