This Oscar Schindler has been described as a cynical, greedy exploiter of slave workers during the Second World War, a black-marketeer, gambler, member of the Nazi party eternally on the lookout for profit, alcoholic playboy and shameless womanizer of the worst sort.
In the beginning of the 1960s, this same Oscar Schindler was honoured in Israel and declared "Righteous" and invited to plant a tree in The Avenue of the Righteous, which leads to the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. A memorial in the Park of Heroes praises him as the Saviour of more than 1,200 Jews!
Today there are more than 6,000 descendants of Schindler`s Jews living in the USA and Europe, and many in Israel. Before the Second World War, the Jewish population of Poland was 3.5 million. Today there are between 3,000 and 4,000 left.
Rake - and Saviour. Who was this Oscar Schindler who started by earning millions of German marks through exploitation of slave workers and ended by spending his last pfennig and risking his life to save "his" 1,200 Schindler Jews from Hitler ґs death camps?
Oscar Schindler was born on April 28th, 1908, in Zwittau in Czechoslovakia in a home imbued with his parents` deep piety. The nearest neighbours were a Jewish Rabbi family, and the two sons became Oscar`s best friends. The family was one of the richest and most prominent in Zwittau, but as a result of the deep economic depression of the 1930s, the family firm became bankrupt.
Now without employment, Schindler joined the Nazi party, as did many others at that time. It was opportune, when one remembers that the first German divisions invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. Maybe because he had seen possibilities which the war brought in its wake, he followed on the heels of the SS when the Germans invaded Poland.
Oscar Schindler quickly got on good terms with the local Gestapo chiefs and rejoices here over life in the beginning of the 1940s - he was a womanisor and heavy drinker, but continually risked his life to save his Schindler Jews from the deathcamps.
Schindler was recruited by the German Intelligence Agency to collect information about Poles and was highly esteemed for his efforts - a fact that was to play a decisive role later in the war for Schindler, when he needed all his contacts.
He left his wife Emilie in Zwittau and moved to Crakow, where he took over a Jewish family`s apartment. Bribes in the shape of money and illegal black market goods flowed copiously from Schindler and gave him control of a Jewish-owned enameled-goods factory, Deutsch Emailwaren Fabrik, close to the Jewish ghetto, where he principally employed Jewish workers. At this time presumably because they were the cheapest labour.
But slowly as the brutality of the Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror, the seeds of their plan for the total extermination of the Jews dawned on Schindler in all its horror - he came to see the Jews not only as cheap labour, but also as mothers, fathers, and children, exposed to ruthless slaughter.
So he decides to risk everything in desperate attempts to save "his" 1200 Schindler Jews from certain death in the hell of the death camps. Thanks to massive bribery and his connections, he gets away with actively protecting his workers.
The SS officer Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Plaszow labor camp, had made the final liquidation of the Crakow ghetto and had experience at three death camps in eastern Poland, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.
T he conditions of life at Plaszow were made dreadful by Goeth. A prisoner in Plaszow was very lucky if he could survive in this camp more than four weeks. The camp shown in Spielberg's film Schindler's List is the exact description of Plaszow.
passed his mornings by using his high-powered, scoped rifle to shoot at children playing in the camp - he often would use it as an incentive to work harder. For example, some young men hauling coal were moving too slow for his liking. He shot one of them with his sniper rifle so the rest would hurry up.
Oscar Schindler outwitted Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Goeth. When Schindler requested that those Jews who continued to work in his factory be moved into their own sub-camp near the plant "to save time in getting to the job," Goeth complied. From then on, Schindler found that he could have food and medicine smuggled into the barracks with less danger. The guards, of course, were bribed, and Goeth never was to discover it, though Oscar Schinder was arrested twice.
At the point when his ambitions have been realized and he could walk away from the war a rich man while "his Jews" die in Plaszow and Auschwitz, Oscar Schindler desperately spends every penny he has bribing and paying off Amon Goeth and other Nazi officials to protect and save his Jews.
In a symbolic reversal of his earlier purpose in life, he spends all the money he made by exploiting the labour of Jews in buying the lives of Jews; whatever is not spent in bribing Goeth and other Nazi officials is subsequently spent in feeding and protecting his Jews.
At his factory. situated by the work camp of Plaszow, Nazi guards are instructed to stay on their side of the fence and nobody is allowed inside the factory without permission from Schindler himself. He spends every night in his office so he can intervene if the Gestapo come.
Twice he is arrested by the Gestapo - but is released, undoubtedly first and foremost because of his many connections.
At his factory, workers are only half as hungry as in other camps - meals at Schindler`s have a calorie count of 2000 as against 900 in other places. When food supplies are critical, Schindler spends great sums of money purchasing food supplies on the black market.
At his factory the old are registered as being 20 years younger, children are registered as adults. Lawyers, doctors and artists are registered as metal workers and mechanics - all so they can survive as essential for the war industry.
At his factory. nobody is hit, nobody murdered, nobody sent to death camps like the nearby Auschwitz.
Jewish slave workers at Schindler`s factory in Plaszow
They were protected and saved by Oscar Schindler. In those years, millions of Jews died in Nazi death camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz, but Schindler`s Jews miraculously survived, to their own surprise, in Plaszow right up to 1944. Schindler bribed the Nazis to get food and better treatment for his Jews during a time when one of the most civilized nations of the world was capable of systematic mass-murder.
When the Nazis were beaten back on the East Front, Plaszow and its satellite camps were dissolved and closed. Schindler had no illusions as to what that would entail. Desperately he exerted his influence on his contacts in the military and industrial circles in Crakow and Warsaw and finally went to Berlin to save his Jews from a certain death. With his life as the stakes, he employed all his powers of persuasion, he bribed uninhibitedly, fought, begged.
Where no-one would have believed it possible, Schindler succeeded. He was granted permission to move the whole of his factory from Plaszow to Brunnlitz in occupied Czechoslovakia and furthermore, unheard of before, take all his workers with him. In this way, the 1,098 workers who had been written on Schindler`s list in connection with the removal avoided sharing the fate of the other 25,000 men, women and children of Plaszow who were sent without mercy to extermination in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, only 60 kilometers from Plaszow.
Category: Personal Finance