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Oskar Schindler

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  • Oskar Schindler (April 28, 1908 - October 9, 1974) was a German businessman famous for his efforts to save his Jewish workers from the Holocaust. 

    His story is retold in the Thomas Keneally novel Schindler's Ark, and a subsequent film Schindler's List, directed by Steven Spielberg. 

    Schindler was born in Zwittau, Austria-Hungary into a wealthy business family. The family suffered in the depression of the 1930s and Schindler joined the Nazi party. He was a diletante and an opportunistic businessman. Following the German invasion of Poland he was one of many Germans who sought a profit in the new territory. Schindler cheaply acquired a factory in Krakow, which he named Deutsch Emilwaren Fabrik, producing enamelware and later munitions, he also obtained around 1300 Jewish slave labourers to work the plant. Schindler was prepared to keep Jewish individuals in his factory as essential workers and so preserve them from extermination, initially he was motivated by money, hiding wealthy Jewish investors but later he became more active to shield his workers. 

    The key horror he witnessed was a 1942 raid on a Jewish ghetto in Krakow for transfer to the concentration camp at Plaszow, he was increasingly prepared to use all his skills to save his Schindlerjuden. He arranged with the commander of Plaszow for 900 Jews to be transferred to an adjacent factory compound where they would be relatively safer from the depredations of the German guards. When the advancing Red Army threatened the camps they were destroyed, Schindler managed to move 1200 'workers' to a factory at Brunnlitz in Czechoslovakia in October 1944. When a shipment of his workforce was misrouted to Auschwitz he also managed to have them returned to him. Brunnlitz was liberated in May 1945. 

    At the end of the war Schindler emigrated to Argentina. He went bankrupt and returned to Germany in 1958 to a series of unsucessful business ventures. He died in Hildesheim. The Israeli government declared him 'Righteous' in 1962.


     

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