Oskar Schindler Biography - life, family, childhood, children, name, story, death, wife, school
Stern acts as Schindler's conscience. When Schindler and Stern's relationship is new and unfriendly, Schindler is at his least virtuous as a. Stern's the accountant and general manager in Schindler's factory. has to a real friend, even though they start out in a decidedly less-than-friendly relationship. Schindler's List was Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film about a heroic having developed solid relationships with several Nazis after utilizing their interests to In addition, Itzhak Stern, the list's transcriber in the movie, wasn't even.
Increasingly helpless before the frenetic Jew-haters and Jew-destroyers, Schindler found that he could no longer joke easily with the German officials who came on inspections. The double game was becoming more difficult. Incidents happened more and more often. On one occasion, three SS men walked onto the factory floor without warning, arguing among themselves. Then, taking out his pistol, he ordered the nearest Jewish worker to leave his machine and pick up some sweepings from the floor.
The shivering man choked down the mess. Even an animal would never do that. The head of the commission asked why the man was so sad, and it was explained to him that Lamus had lost his wife and only child a few weeks earlier during the evacuation of the ghetto. Deeply touched, the commander reacted by ordering his adjutant to shoot the Jew "so that he might be reunited with his family in heaven," then he guffawed and the commission moved on.
Schindler was left standing with Lamus and the adjutant. Dazed, the man did as he was told. The SS officer sneered.
Production for der Vaterland will be affected. The officer took out his gun.
Grinning, the officer put the gun away and strolled arm in arm with the shaken Schindler to the office to collect his bottle. And Lamus, trailing his pants along the ground, continued shuffling across the yard, waiting sickeningly for the bullet in his back that never came. The increasing frequency of such incidents in the factory and the evil his eyes had seen at the Pfaszow camp probably were responsible for moving Schindler into a more active antifascist role.
In the spring ofhe stopped worrying about the production of enamelware appliances for Wehrmacht barracks and began the conspiring, the string-pulling, the bribery, and the shrewd outguessing of Nazi officialdom that finally were to save so many lives. It is at this point that the real legend begins. For the next two years, Oskar Schindler's ever-present obsession was how to save the greatest number of Jews from the Auschwitz gas chamber only sixty kilometres from Cracow.
His first ambitious move was to attempt to help the starving, fearful prisoners at Plaszow. Other labour camps in Poland, such as Treblinka and Majdanek, had already been shut down and their inhabitants liquidated.
At that time they were being used only for the repair of uniforms. The general fell in with the idea and orders for wood and metal were given to the camp.
As a result, Plaszow was officially transformed into a war-essential "concentration camp. Temporarily at least, Auschwitz's fires were cheated of more fuel. The move also put Schindler in well with Plazow's commander, the Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Goeth, who, with the change, now found his status elevated to a new dignity. 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 be could have food and medicine smuggled into the barracks with little danger. The guards, of course, were bribed, and Goeth never was to discover the true motives in Schindler's request. Schindler began to take bigger risks. Interceding for Jews who were denounced for one "crime" or another was a dangerous habit in fascist eyes, but Schindler now started to do this almost regularly.
These things can always be settled later.
One August morning inSchindler played host to two surprise visitors who had been sent to him by the underground organization that the American Jewish welfare agency, the Joint Distribution Committee, then operated in occupied Europe. Satisfied that the men indeed had been sent by Dr.
Rudolph Kastner, head of the secret JDC apparatus, who was at the time leading a shadowy existence in Budapest with a sizable price on his head, Schindler called for Stern. You can rely on them. Sit down and write. Turning angrily to Schindler, he asked, "Schindler, tell me frankly, isn't this a provocation?
Itzhak Stern | Schindler's List
It is most suspicious. Stern had little choice. He wrote everything he could think of, mentioned names of those living and those dead, and penned the long letter that, years later, he discovered had been circulated widely and helped to settle uncertainties in the hearts of the prisoners' relatives scattered around the world outside Europe.
And when the underground subsequently brought him answering letters from America and Palestine, any doubts he still might have had of the integrity or judgment of Oskar Schindler vanished. Life in the Schindler factory went on. Some of the less hardy men and women died, but the majority continued doggedly at their machines, turning out enamelware for the German army.
Schindler and his "inner-office" circle had become taut and apprehensive, wondering just how long they could continue their game of deception. Schindler himself still entertained the local officers but, with the change of tide that followed Stalingrad and the invasion of Italy, tempers were often out of control.
A stroke of a pen could send the Jewish workers to Auschwitz and Schindler along with them. The group moved cautiously, increased the bribes to the guards at the camp and the factory, and, with Schindler's smuggled food and medicines, fought for survival. The year became Daily, life ended for thousands of Polish Jews. But the Schindlerjuden, to their own surprise, found themselves still alive.
By the spring ofthe German retreat on the Eastern Front was on in earnest. Plaszow and all its sub-camps were ordered emptied. Schindler and his workers had no illusions about what a move to another concentration camp implied. The time had come for Oskar Schindler to play his trump card, a daring gamble that he had devised beforehand.
He went to work on all his drinking companions, on his connections in military and industrial circles in Cracow and in Warsaw. He bribed, cajoled, pleaded, working desperately against time and fighting what everyone assured him was a lost cause.
He got on a train and saw people in Berlin. And he persisted until someone, somewhere in the hierarchy, perhaps impatient to end the seemingly trifling business, finally gave him the authorization to move a force of men and women from the Plaszow camp into a factory at Brnenec in his native Sudetenland.
Most of the other 25, men, women, and children at Plaszow were sent to Auschwitz, there to find the same end that several million other Jews had already discovered. But out of the vast calamity, and through the stubborn efforts of one man, a thousand Jews were saved temporarily. One thousand half-starved, sick, and almost broken human beings had had a death sentence commuted by a miraculous reprieve.
The move from the Polish factory to the new quarters in Czechoslovakia, it turned out, was not uneventful. One lot of a hundred did go out directly in July,and arrived at Brnenec safely.
Others, however, found their train diverted without warning to the concentration camp of Gross-Rosen, where many were beaten and tortured and where all were forced to stand in even files in the great courtyard, doing absolutely nothing but putting on and taking off their caps in unison all day long.
At length Schindler once more proved successful at pulling strings. By early November all of the Schindlerjuden were again united in their new camp. And until liberation in the spring of they continued to outwit the Nazis at the dangerous game of remaining alive. Ostensibly the new factory was producing parts for V2 bombs, but, actually, the output during those ten months between July and May was absolutely nil.
Jews escaping from the transports then evacuating Auschwitz and the other easternmost camps ahead of the oncoming Russians found haven with no questions asked. Schindler even brazenly requested the Gestapo to send him all intercepted Jewish fugitives: The Schindlerjuden by now depended on him completely and were fearful in his absence.
His compassion and sacrifice were unstinting. He spent every bit of money still left in his possession, and traded his wife's jewellery as well, for food, clothing, and medicine, and for schnapps with which to bribe the many SS investigators. He furnished a secret hospital with stolen and black-market medical equipment, fought epidemics, and once made a mile trip himself carrying two enormous flasks filled with Polish vodka and bringing them back full of desperately needed medicine.
His wife, Emilie, cooked and cared for the sick and earned her own reputation and praise. In the factory some of the men began turning out false rubber stamps, military travel documents, and the special official papers needed to protect the delivery of food bought illicitly.
Nazi uniforms and guns were collected and hidden, along with ammunition and hand grenades, as all eventualities were prepared for. The risks mounted and the tension grew. Schindler, however, seems to have maintained an equilibrium throughout this period that was virtually unshakable. I had to keep them full of optimism.
The first was when a group of workers, lost for some means of expressing their pent-up gratitude, foolishly told him that they had heard the illegal radio broadcast a promise to name a street in postwar Palestine "Oskar Schindler Strasse. When the hoax was finally admitted he could no longer laugh. The other occurred during a visit from the local SS commandant. As was customary, the SS officer sat around Schindler's office drinking glass after glass of vodka and getting drunk rapidly.
When he lurched perilously near an iron staircase leading to the basement, Schindler, suddenly yielding to temptation, made one of his rare unpremeditated acts.
A slight push, a howl, and a dull thud from the bottom. But the man was not dead. Climbing back into the room with blood pouring from his scalp, he bellowed that Schindler had shot him. Cursing with rage, he flung over his shoulder as he ran out: Don't think you fool us. You belong in a concentration camp yourself, along with all your Jews!
Near the factory he had been given a beautifully furnished villa that overlooked the length of the valley where the small Czech village lay. But since the workers always dreaded the SS visits that might come late at night and spell their end, Oskar and Emilie Schindler never spent a single night at the villa, sleeping instead in a small room in the factory itself When the Jewish workers died they were secretly buried with full rites despite Nazi rulings that their corpses be burned.
Religious holidays were observed clandestinely and celebrated with extra rations of black-market food. Perhaps the most absorbing of all the legends that Schindlerjuden on four continents repeat is one that graphically illustrates Schindler's self-adopted role of protector and saviour in the midst of general and amoral indifference.
Just about the time the Nazi empire was crashing down, a phone call from the railway station late one evening asked Schindler whether he cared to accept delivery of two railway cars fall of near-frozen Jews. The cars had been frozen shut at a temperature of 5 F and contained almost a hundred sick men who had been locked inside for ten days, ever since the train had been sent off from Auschwitz ten days earlier with orders to deliver the human cargo to some willing factory.
But, when informed of the condition of the prisoners, no factory manager would hear of receiving them. Schindler, sickened by the news, ordered the train sent to his factory siding at once. The train was awesome to behold. Ice had formed on the locks and the cars had to be opened with axes and acetylene torches. Inside, the miserable relics of human beings were stretched out, frozen stiff. Each had to be carried out like a carcass of frozen beef.
Thirteen were unmistakably dead, but the others still breathed. Throughout that night and for many days and nights following, Oskar and Emilie Schindler and a number of the then worked without halt on the frozen and starved skeletons.
One large room in the factory was emptied for the purpose. Three more men died, but with the care, the warmth, the milk, and the medicine, the others gradually rallied.
All this had been achieved surreptitiously, with the factory guards, as usual, receiving their bribes so as not to inform the SS commandant.
The men's convalescence also had to be effected secretly lest they be shot as useless invalids. Later they became part of the factory labour force and joined the others in the motions of feigning war production. Such was life at Brnenec until the arrival of the victorious Russians on May 9 put an end to the constant nightmare. The day before, Schindler had decided that they would have to get rid of the local SS commander just in case he suddenly remembered his drunken threat and got any desperate last-minute ideas.
The task was not difficult, for the guards had already begun pouring out of town in panic. Unearthing their hidden weapons, a group slipped out of the factory late at night, found the SS officer drinking himself into oblivion in his room, and shot him from outside his window. In the early morning, once certain that his workers finally were out of danger and that all was in order to explain to the Russians, Schindler, Emilie, and several of his closest friends among the Jewish workers discreetly disappeared and were not heard from until they turned up, months later, deep in Austria's U.
For the Nazis, he had known all the answers. But at the end he had decided that, as an owner of a German slave-labour factory, he would take no chances on Russian troops casually shooting him before asking for character references or his particular views on the fascist system. Schindler quickly created friendships with key officers in both the Wehrmacht the German army and the SS the special armed Nazi unitoffering them black-market illegal goods such as cognac and cigars.
It was around this same time that he met Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant who would eventually help his relations with the local Jewish business community. Schindler purchased a bankrupt kitchenware factory and opened it in January Stern was hired on as the bookkeeper and soon developed a close relationship with his employer.
Schindler relied on his legendary flair as well as his willingness to bribe the right people to secure numerous German army contracts for his pots and pans. To staff his factory, he turned to Krakow's Jewish community, which, Stern told him, was a good source of cheap, reliable labor.
At the time, some fifty-six thousand Jews lived in the city, most living in ghettos poor neighborhoods that were traditionally reserved for Jews. By the spring ofthe Nazi crack-down against Jews had begun. Schindler was ordered to pay his Jewish employees' wages directly to the SS rather than to the workers themselves.
In August Nazi authorities issued a new regulation ordering all but "work-essential" Jews to leave the city. This sparked the panic that sent Jews scrambling for work that would be considered "essential. Some of Schindler's workers, including his office manager, were among the first group of people ordered to report to the train station.
Schindler raced to the station and argued with an SS officer about how essential his workers were to the war effort. By dropping the names of some of his Nazi friends and making a couple of threats, he was finally able to rescue the workers and escort them safely back to his factory. In early the Nazis ordered the final "liquidation" of the Krakow ghetto.
The man put in charge of the operation was a young SS officer named Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Plaszow forced labor camp just outside the city. Jews who were healthy and could work were sent to Plaszow and the rest were sent off to death camps or executed on the spot. When Goeth announced that local industries would be moved inside Plaszow, Schindler proposed establishing a labor mini-camp within his factory that would continue to employ his own workers.
Goeth agreed after Schindler bribed him. The list In earlyhowever, Plaszow's designation was changed from that of a labor camp to a concentration camp. This meant that its prisoners were suddenly marked for transport to death camps such as Auschwitz. Then came word in the summer that the main camp was to be closed as well as Schindler's factory.
Schindler approached Goeth about moving his factory and his workers to Czechoslovakia so that they might continue to supply the Third Reich Hitler's army with vital war supplies. After another bribe, the SS officer agreed to throw his support behind the plan and told Schindler to draw up a list of those people he wanted to take with him.
Schindler was now faced with the task of choosing those he wanted to save—literally a matter of life and death. Schindler came up with a list containing some eleven hundred names, including all the employees of Emalia Camp and a number of others as well. During the fall ofSchindler made the necessary arrangements and paid the necessary bribes to begin the process of moving his factory to the town of Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia. The liquidation of the Plaszow camp began that October.
Shortly after around eight hundred men were shipped out in boxcars bound for Brunnlitz.
Three hundred women and children who were supposed to join them there were mistakenly routed to Auschwitz instead. Schindler immediately rescued these women and children, and they were sent on to Brunnlitz.
Over the next seven months, Schindler's factory never produced a single useful shell the outer casings for bullets.
He called it "start-up difficulties" when, in reality, he had purposefully weakened the manufacturing process to make sure that the shells failed quality-control tests.
End of the war Finally, on May 8,the war came to an end after Germany surrendered. Schindler gathered all of his workers together on the factory floor to pass along the good news. He then asked them not to seek revenge for what had been done to them and called for a moment of silence in memory of those who had died.