Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a German businessman who saved the lives of almost 1,200 Jewish workers during the Nazi Holocaust. His life and actions inspired the novel Schindler's Ark and the movie Schindler's List.
Brief Biographical Notes
A Roman Catholic, Schindler started his career as a salesman. In 1928 he married Emilie Pelzl; the marriage however quickly deteriorated. A hard drinker and a womanizer, Oskar Schindler had nonetheless a very humane nature, as his wife writes in her memoirs: "In spite of his flaws, Oscar had a big heart and was always ready to help whoever was in need. He was affable, kind, extremely generous and charitable, but at the same time, not mature at all. He constantly lied and deceived me, and later returned feeling sorry, like a boy caught in mischief, asking to be forgiven one more time - and then we would start all over again ..."
The second World War
In 1939 Schindler joined the Nazi Party, although for business opportunism rather than ideological reasons. After the invasion of Poland, Schindler gained ownership of an idle enamel factory in Kraków. Aided by his accountant Itzhak Stern, he reopened the factory. He hired only Jewish workforce; initially motivated by economical reasons - the Jewish workers were the cheapest to obtain - after he witnessed the Holocaust he decided to protect the workers at any cost. An exceptionally charming and persuasive person, he saved the lives of many Jews through diplomacy and bribes, using money from his personal fortune.
After the War
When the war ended, Schindler had spent his entire fortune. Unable to prosper in post-war Germany, he received aid from Jewish organizations to survive. In 1948 he moved to Argentina, where he went bankrupt. In 1957 he left his wife; although the two never divorced, they never met again. In 1958 he returned to Germany, where he unsuccessfully tried to start several businesses. In 1974, at the age of 66, he died.
Schindler was buried at the Catholic Franciscans' Cemetery at Mount Sion, in Jerusalem. His selfless actions earned him the title of "Righteous Among the Nations", an honor that the State of Israel reserves to Gentiles who risked their lives to save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
- Emilie Schindler, Where Light and Shadow Meet: A Memoir, W.W. Norton, 1997.