Oskar Schindler was a German Industrialist who saved over 1100 Jews during the Holocaust. Many consider him a hero for his honorable deeds, and others a greedy exploiter. Oskar Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 in Zwittau, Austria-Hungary, which today is known as Zvitava, Czech Republic. His mother and father, Hans and Louisa, were deeply religious, which resulted in a solid Catholic childhood for Schindler and his younger sister Elfriede.
Schindler himself was a handsome man, a womanizer, who always had many women after him. The one who caught his eye was Emilie Pelzl, whom he married after just a six-week relationship. However, he wasn’t the best example of a husband, heavily abusing alcohol and having relationships with other women. In 1929 during the Great Depression, the family business went bankrupt. Schindler changed jobs several times and tried starting businesses but always went bankrupt. Due to the harsh effects of the Great Depression, Schindler joined the Sudeten German Party* in 1935. The party disbanded in 1938, and a year later, he joined the Nazi party.
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The first saving of Schindlerjuden** began on September 1, 1939, when the Germans had started invading Poland. Money-hungry Schindler arrived in Krakow*** within a week, seeking a way to make money. He took over a bankrupt enamelware factory, and with the help from his Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, he got in touch with the remaining wealthy Jews who invested in his factory. In return, they would be employed and perhaps be spared. A few years later, the Krakow ghetto was to be fully cleared, and the Jews would be deported to the Plazow labor camp.
Since Schindler had such good connections with key government and armies, he quickly convinced the ones responsible for Plazow to set up a part of the camp in his factory. Even the weak and unqualified were chosen to work. By doing this single action, he saved around 900 Jewish lives. By October 1944, the Russians approached parts of Poland, and the Nazis quickly had to complete the liquidation. Schindler negotiated with the SS and was allowed to move his factory and workers to Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia. He was asked to write a list of the workers he wanted to take with him. The list contained around 1100 names of Jews who Schindler was going to take with him. Once in Brunnlitz, Schindler spent an infinite amount of money to comfort his workers.
On May 8, 1945, the war ended, and Schindler gathered all his workers for one last time. He told them not to vow revenge for what the Nazis had done and then fled the country, leaving the factory behind. A few days later, the 1100 Schindlerjuden were freed by the Russians. Schindler moved to South America in 1949 but returned to West Germany without his wife. During the remaining years of his life, he travelled a lot to Israel, where he was honored to save his Schindlerjuden.
Because of liver problems, Schindler died in 1974. As he requested at the time he was alive, he was buried in Israel. His funeral was attended by about 500 Schindlerjuden who watched as his body was buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Because of Oskar Schindler, thousands of people remained alive to tell the story about Schindler’s list. But one question still remains a mystery: why did he do all this?