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Oscar Schindler was a bon vivant, a member of the Nazi party and a shameless womanisor of the worst sort  - and at the same time one of the greatest, if not the greatest, humane figure in the  Holocaust. During World War 2 he continually risked his life to protect and save his Jewish workers. He desperately spent every penny he had bribing and paying off the Nazis to get food and better treatment for his Jews. Millions of Jews died in death camps like Auschwitz - but Schindler's Jews miraculously survived.

In late December 1936 Oscar Schindler by chance met an old girlfriend whom he had known when a driving instructor in Mahrish Schonberg. She invited Oscar Schindler to a New Year’s celebration party to meet friends whom she said were high ranking officers of the German Wehrmacht. At this party Oscar Schindler was introduced to Wilhelm Canaris, the chief of the Abwehr – German Military Intelligence Service. Oscar Schindler joined the Abwehr having met the Abwehr agent Peter Kreutziger, in the Hotel “Juppebad” in the village of Ziegenhais, on the German side of the Czech/ German border.

Schindler was charged with setting up spy network among the three million Germans of the Sudetenland region for the Abwehr, but the then Czechoslovak authorities were quick to identify Schindler as a spy. He was arrested and imprisoned for a month in 1938 shortly before Hitler's annexation of Sudetenland.

According to David M. Crowe, Holocaust historian and professor at Elon University, whose book, "Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities and the True Story Behind the List," was published 2004,
Czech secret police archives refer to Schindler as "a spy of big caliber and an especially dangerous type."

As a salesman, Schindler traveled to southern Poland and reported to Abwehr regarding points of military importance. His affiliation with Abwehr excused him from military service. Schindler was highly esteemed by Admiral Canaris - a fact that was to play a decisive role later in the war for Schindler, when he needed all his contacts to save his Schindler-Jews.

 

 

But why did Oscar Schindler do it ? Why did he spend something like 4 million German marks keeping his Jews out of the death camps - an enormous sum of money for those times ? Why did he risk his life to rescue his Jews in the shadow of Auschwitz ?

Samaritan actions, brotherly love ...? Oscar Schindler does not exactly fit the description of guardian angel very well! We think we know what goodness looks like. It looks like Gandhi, skinny in his loincloth, or Mother Teresa, unostentatious in her nun's habit. Goodness does not drink, womanize, wear big Nazi-badges ...

No one will ever know exactly what made this complex man do what no German had the courage to do. A large part of the fascination of Schindler is that not even those who admire him most can figure out his motives. But Oscar Schindler rose to the highest level of humanity, walked through the bloody mud of the Holocaust without soiling his soul, his compassion, his respect for human life -  and gave his Jews a second chance at life. He miraculously managed to do it and pulled it off by using the very same talents that made him a war profiteer - his flair for presentation, bribery, and grand gestures.

In his acclaimed international bestseller Schindler's Ark, the author Thomas Keneally tells us, that one of the most common sentiments of the Schindlerjews is still:"I don't know why he did it ..." Keneally drops a hint in his description of Oscar Schindler's childhood, a strong Catholic household and deeply religious parents. The nearest neighbors were a Jewish Rabbi family, and the two sons were Oskar's closest friends for years.

In a 1964 interview, standing in front of his dingy apartment Am Hauptbahn 4 in Frankfurt Am Main, West Germany, Oscar Schindler for once commented on what he did:

"The persecution of Jews in occupied Poland meant that we could see horror emerging gradually in many ways. In 1939, they were forced to wear Jewish stars, and people were herded and shut up into ghettos. Then, in the years '41 and '42 there was plenty of public evidence of pure sadism. With people behaving like pigs, I felt the Jews were being destroyed. I had to help them. There was no choice."

When asked, Schindler told that his metamorphosis during the war was sparked by the shocking immensity of the Final Solution. In his own words: "I hated the brutality, the sadism, and the insanity of Nazism. I just couldn't stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That's all there is to it. Really, nothing more."

Oscar Schindler was isolated and rejected by his fellow citizens after World War II. His clear indictment of German war criminals in the trials after the war nourished the hatred that many felt for him. He was persecuted, he was sworn at on the streets, and stones were thrown at him. He was an irritating reminder to everyone that it had after all been possible to do something against the Nazis. It was said that he was their bad conscience - the conscience of all those who had known something but done nothing.

Oscar Schindler earned the everlasting gratitude of his Schindlerjews. No matter why, no matter that he was an alcoholic and a shameless womanisor of the worst sort, no matter that he was no saint and left his wife - what matters to his Jews is that he surfaced from the chaos of madness and risked everything for them. And generations will remember him for what he did. No matter how many businesses Schindler failed in, he was a success in life ..

 


 

Louis Bülow - www.folkeeje.dk -  ©2010-12
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