Schindler's List

Schindler's List The Real Oskar Schindler


Oskar Schindler was born on April 28, 1908 into a Sudeten German family in Zwittau, Moravia in Austria-Hungary. He was raised a Catholic, but later in life seemed indifferent to his religion. He had a younger sister, Elfriede, with whom he was always close. He married Emilie Pelzl, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, in 1928. During the Great Depression, he joined the the separatist Sudeten German party and became a spy for the Abwehr. He was imprisoned for espionage by the Czechoslovakian government in 1938, but was released as a political prisoner after the Munich Agreement.

During World War II, he opened an enamelware factory and benefitted from forced Jewish labor. However, as the Holocaust progressed, Schindler began to shield his workers from harm, despite costs to him (the story that this movie tells). What the movie does not tell, however, is that Schindler was arrested three times during the war, for black market activities, complicity in embezzlement, and for kissing a Jewish girl. Furthermore, it was Schindler's personal secretary, Mietak Pemper who encouraged him to move his factory after the closure of Plaszow and who helped him to draft the list of Jews to employ.

After the war, Schindler and his wife avoided capture by dressing in prison clothes and carrying a letter that described their innocence. Because of the amount of bribes he had made during the war, he was virtually destitute. He moved to Germany, but did not prosper in business there. In 1948, he moved to Argentina, but went bankrupt. In 1957, he and Emlie Schindler split, and Schindler moved back to Germany. He tried and failed again to start a business. He died in 1974 at the age of 66, impoverished but surrounded by friends and family. Schindler requested to be buried in Jerusalem and his grave is located below Zion Gate and the Old City walls. After his death, a suitcase was found with all of his papers from the war. The contents of the suitcase are now located at the Holocaust Museum of Yad Vashem in Isarael.