The Holocaust was a black mark in our World’s history. Jews were brutally slaughtered by inhumane Germans, and for the vast majority of Jews, there was nothing they could do to avoid it. However, one man, Oskar Schindler was able to make a difference. (Crowe 109) He was a genuinely good man who saved more Jewish lives than any other one person during the Holocaust. He spent millions outwitting the Nazis at every turn in order to saves hundreds of Jews from the gas chambers throughout WWII. It was the unique relationship he developed with the Nazis, his own desire to save the Jews, and the sacrifices he was willing to make, that Schindler was able to save hundreds of Jews from a terrible death. (Brodman 239)
Oskar Schindler was born in Zwittau, Moravia on April 28, 1908. It was part of the Sudetenland, a German region, and it was also an industrial city. Schindler’s father owned a farm equipment factory where Schindler worked while attending school. (Steinhouse 56) In 1928, he married. However, his father did not support the decision. So Schindler quit his job at his father’s company and got a job as a salesmen for a utilities company. Before he became famous, he was know as fun-loving, a ladies’ man, a gambler, and a drinker. (World History 1-4)
Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 meant that the several million ethnic Germans in Sudetenland were included in his vision of a German empire. He inspired nationalist feelings amongst these people, and he wanted them to join the Sudeten German Party. (World History 1-4) Schindler joined the party for business purposes although he didn’t much like the Nazis. He also was asked to report news to the military about Polish troop movement. He did this from Krakow, and it got him out of serving in the German Army. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland, which ended Schindler’s intelligence work. The German Army’s invasion of Czechoslovakia appalled Schindler because of the way they bullied the Czech population. (Crowe 114) Schindler then looked for a business opportunity with the Germany Army. Soon he started a cookware factory called the Deutsche Email Fabrik. The factory created materials for the army, and it was located in Krakow, Poland. Next, Schindler would make friends with high-ranking Nazi officials and SS officers. He did so mainly through hosting fine parties. (Brodman 239-245)
As the Nazis moved into action, Schindler did too. It all started when he hired a Jewish accountant named Itzhak Stern. Together, they brought in Jews to work in the factory. (Steinhouse 558-59) They were cheap labor because the Nazis regulated wages, but the Jews working in the factory were treated well, despite virtually being slaves. Stern first distrusted Schindler, but eventually grew to trust and respect him. Schindler became very serious about his devotion to the Jews when he learned about the “Final Solution”. After this point he did everything he could to save as many Jews as possible. (World History 1-4)
Most importantly, Schindler gave jobs to hundreds of Jews to save them from the terrible conditions of the ghetto. He would soon be saving them from death camps, concentration camps, labor camps, brutal torture, humiliation, and executions. Nazis would often mistreat his workers, but he would avidly complain that it was interfering with their ability to produce goods for the army. (Steinhouse 61) In addition, Schindler got in touch with Zionist Jews from Palestine who were trying to save the Jews. Being a high-ranking Nazi official, he was able to confirm the atrocities that were to rumored to be going on. Stern and Schindler provided them information that would eventually reach Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also provided the Zionists with a large amount of money to aid them in their mission. (World History 1-4) Unfortunately, his pots and pans factory was shut down as the army no longer needed cookware. Frightened for his Jews he managed to convince Nazis that he and his workers should start up an ammunition factory. (Brodman 240-244) In the transportation to their new location, 300 women and children were accidentally shipped to Auschwitz. Schindler tried every bribe he could think of to get them back, but they all failed. So he went personally and saved them. He said that their small fingers were needed to clean out the inside of the shells.
Schindler was certainly a great man, and no one would argue that he did so much for the Jews. However, it is extremely important to acknowledge that he was able to single-handedly make such a difference in the world because of the self-sacrifices he made. He would risk exposing his true motives when he spent huge amounts of money to bribe Nazi officials. Fortunately he was able to have them believe that he only liked the Jews because they were such cheap labor. In addition, all the time and money he spent protecting the Jews caused him to lose a lot of money. (World History 1-4) Also, he didn’t like the Nazis at all, but he threw fancy parties for them so that he could ask them favors indirectly for the Jews. Furthermore, he spent an incredible amount of money buying food and medicine for his workers. (Brodman 239-243) This he had to do illegally. Therefore it was at a considerable risk to his own safety, but he didn’t even hesitate. As time went on, he took more and more risks to help the Jews at every possible opportunity.
With the War drawing to a conclusion, the nightmare for the Jews began to end. By now, Schindler’s workers affectionately called themselves Schindlerjuden or “Schindler’s Jews”. He intentionally made sure that his factory never made a working bullet and when the War ended, he had accomplished just that. (Crowe 110-111) At this point, the War came to an end and Germany had lost. Before parting, his workers gave him a gold ring that was inscribed: “He who saves on life, it is as if he saved the entire world.” They also gave him a signed letter that attested to the good works he had done. (Steinhouse 67-68) Schindler provided his workers with weapons that he had smuggled in. He arranged for them to be given military training from the Zionists. He made it clear that they were not to seek revenge or be violent with these guns. They were simply for self-defense. He then publicly admitted for the first time what he had been doing for the Jews throughout the Holocaust. A few days later, the Russians liberated his workers. (Brodman 246-247)
After the war, Schindler struggled to make any money in business. The Jews did everything they could to help him in whatever he needed. Some years later, he died. The date was 1974, and he was buried in a Catholic cemetery in Jerusalem. This was just as he has wished, and about 500 of his former workers attended the funeral. (World History 1-4)
Over 30 years later, thousands of people still think of Oskar Schindler with great admiration. He was a hero to hundred of Jews, and in doing so he separated himself from a disgusting German people. While his neighbors were willingly torturing Jews or pretending they were unaware, he made a difference. When human nature was looking to be so dark and evil, he gave us hope and shed a little light on one of history’s darkest times. Oskar Schindler will always be remembered for how courageous, self-sacrificing, and compassionate he was. He saved the lives of hundreds and set an example for us all.
Brodman, Jonathon. "Schindler, Oskar: German Industrialist and Rescuer of Jews from
the Nazis."The Grolier Library of International Biographies. Vol. 1. 1996.
Crowe, David M.. Oskar Schindler. Cambridge: Westview Press, 2004.
“Oskar Schindler.” World History: The Modern Era. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 30 Dec. 2008
Steinhouse, Herbert. Oskar Schindler: and his list. Forest Dale, VT: Paul S.