Schindler, Oskar (1909-1975)

Born to a Catholic family in the Sudeten part of Czech Republic. Worked as a salesman. Endowed with very persuasive talents, which he successfully used later in his rescue efforts. Worked for the Abwehr and contributed to its preparation of the attack on Poland. Joined the Nazi party. In Cracow took over an enamel factory and employed and protected Jewish workers. Declared even unskilled laborers as essential to the war effort and warned that their removal would seriously hamper his output. His involvement in saving Jews deepened after he witnessed brutal evacuations and deportations in the Cracow ghetto. Arrested a number of times, but always released soon afterwards. 

He befriended Gizi Fleischmann in Bratislava. He marveled at Fleischmann’s aplomb in dealing with the Nazis. Met Kastner first on his early trip to Budapest, prior to the German occupation, when Kastner and the Rescue Committee were busy aiding refugees from Slovakia and Poland. Already then, Kastner discussed with Schindler the establishment of courier routes and the expediting of mail between Turkey, Budapest, Switzerland, and the concentration camps in Poland. Schindler decided to help, this brought about additional visits by Schindler to Budapest and to Kastner.  Schindler delivered information on the camps and exchanged intelligence and was amazed at the high quality information Kastner obtained. They kept meeting after the German take-over, exploring Schindler’s idea of opening factories in Budapest as he has done in Cracow with the objective of employing Jews and taking them off the deportation lists. 

“Der Mann ist unerschrocken,” Schindler said about Kastner, “…he is absolutely intrepid, he is the coolest, calmest, smartest individual I have ever met, yet he is totally reckless with his own safety. This man is custom fitted for the job he does.” Kastner and Schindler hit it off, liked each other, constantly hatched ways and means to get relief to the ones in need and plot  schemes on saving lives.

As the Red Army approached Auschwitz near Cracow, Schindler persuaded the local Gestapo and SS authorities for permission to move his factories to the Sudeten area in Western Czechoslovakia, which he did. In this operation he saved over a thousand of his workers. Schindler was a practical man yet increasingly took on ever growing risks in saving Jews.

After the war, Schindler engaged in various commercial enterprises in Germany and Argentina which all ended in bankruptcy. At age sixty-six, in 1975, Schindler died in Germany. He was buried at the Catholic Cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel.

 

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