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Jewish Biography --> Righteous among the Nations
Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was an ethnic German industrialist born in Moravia. He is credited with saving over 1,100[1][2] Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively.[3] He is the subject of the novel Schindler's Ark, and the film based on it, Schindler's List.

Early life and career

Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 into a Sudeten German family in Zwittau, Moravia, Austria-Hungary. His parents, Hans Schindler and Franziska Luser, were divorced when he was 27. Oskar was always very close to his younger sister, Elfriede. Schindler was brought up within the Roman Catholic Church. Although he never formally renounced his religion, Oskar was never more than an indifferent Catholic.[1] After school he worked as a commercial salesman.


On 6 March 1928, Schindler married Emilie Pelzl (1907–2001), daughter of a wealthy Sudeten German farmer from Maletein. A pious Catholic, Emilie had received most of her education in a nearby monastery.[5] During the Great Depression, Oskar changed jobs several times. He also tried starting various businesses, but always went bankrupt. He joined the separatist Sudeten German Party in 1935. Though officially a citizen of Czechoslovakia, Schindler also became a spy for the Abwehr, then commanded by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.[1] He was convicted of espionage and imprisoned by the Czechoslovakian government in July 1938, but after the Munich Agreement, he was released as a political prisoner. In 1939 Schindler joined the Nazi Party. One source contends that he also continued to work for Canaris and the Abwehr, paving the way for the Wehrmacht's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.[6]

Word War II

As an opportunistic businessman, Schindler was one of many who sought to profit from the German invasion of Poland in 1939. He gained ownership from a bankruptcy court of an idle enamelware factory in Kraków,[3] named Pierwsza Małopolska Fabryka Naczyń Emaliowanych i Wyrobów Blaszanych "Rekord",[7] which he renamed Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik or DEF (location).[8] With the help of his German-speaking Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern,[3] Schindler obtained around 1,000 Jewish forced labourers to work there.[1]

Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest at Nazi SS elite parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit.[8] Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money, as Jewish labour cost less, but later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. He would, for instance, claim that certain unskilled workers were essential to the factory.[3]

While witnessing a 1943 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at Płaszów, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him.[8] He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden ("Schindler's Jews"), as they came to be called. Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked at DEF, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations.[8] Once, says author Eric Silver in The Book of the Just, "Two Gestapo men came to his office and demanded that he hand over a family of five who had bought forged Polish identity papers. 'Three hours after they walked in,' Schindler said, 'two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded'".[9] The special status of his factory ("business essential to the war effort") became the decisive factor for Schindler's efforts to support his Jewish workers. Whenever "Schindler Jews" were threatened with deportation, he claimed exemptions for them. Wives, children, and even handicapped persons were shown to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers.[3]

In the factory itself, Jewish workers were treated civilly, with none of the "shouting, abuse and random killing" that was going on in the Płaszów camp next-door. The Jews were able to pray in a minyan daily, and gathered at night to learn Chumash and exchange words of Torah and stories of Gedolim. At the close of Shabbat, the workers gathered for Shalosh Seudos and sang zemirot (Shabbat-table songs), said words of Torah, and told stories of tzaddikim.[10]

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