ARC Main Page Occupation of the East Krakow Ghetto

Oskar Schindler

Last Update 29 January 2006

Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 in Zwittau (Sudetenland / today: Moravia). His father was owner of a farm-machinery plant. The Schindler family belonged to the German-speaking Catholic community in the former Sudetenland. Young Schindler became member of the NSDAP after the German annexation of the Sudetenland.
In September 1939, he came to Krakow, shortly after the occupation by German troops. Poland has changed into an interesting field for German businessmen because the property of around 60,000 Krakow Jews was confiscated and factory buildings, workshops and houses were waiting for new owners...
Supported by German authorities he was able to take over two companies previously owned by Jews, dealing with the manufacture and wholesale distribution of enamel kitchenware products. One of which he operated as a trustee for the German occupation administration.
In October 1939, he established his own factory in a run-down former Jewish enamel works in Zablocie (outside Krakow), assisted by Isaak Stern, a clever jewish accountant. The production of enamel kitchenware for the German Army became the base for Schindler's success. In January 1940 Schindler employed 250 Poles and seven Jews. Two years later his small factory has grown to a big company where 370 Jews from the Krakow Ghetto together with around 430 non-jewish Polish workers were employed.

The Schindler Factory
Emalia Factory in Krakow
Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest on SS parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit. On the other hand he treated his Jewish employees very human.
Realizing the brutal treatment of the Krakow Jews he changed his opinion about Nazis and Jews. From now on Schindler tried to help "his" Jews to survive. In order to help his Jewish employees he brought his money and even his security into play. The special status of his factory ("business essential to the war effort") became the decisive factor for his efforts to support his Jewish workers. Whenever the "Schindler Jews" were threatened with deportation he could claim exemptions for them. Wifes, children and even handicapped persons were showed to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers.

Schindler (center) at a SS Party
When the Krakow Ghetto was liquidated in March 1943, many Jews were sent to the Plaszow forced labour camp, outside Krakow. Schindler took advantage of his good connections to Amon Goeth, the brutal Plaszow camp commander, to obtain the permission to establish a branch of his factory outside of the Plaszow camp, in Zablocie. There he employed around 900 mainly Jewish workers, partially unfit or unqualified for metal works. So he spared them from the horrors of Plaszow.
In October 1944, with the approach of the Soviet Army, Schindler was granted permission to re-establish his firm as an armaments production company in Brünnlitz, Sudetenland.
After having rescued his workers from death in Groß-Rosen KZ and Auschwitz (where they were sent by the SS), he took with him around 1,100 people from Zablocie. Meanwhile 20,000 Jewish inmates of Plaszow were sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Schindler with his Horse
Emilie Schindler
In Brünnlitz the 1,100 Jewish workers were given the most humane treatment possible, some feat as the factory at Brünnlitz was commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Josef Leipold, who had once commanded the Budzyn labour camp, near Lublin.

At the end of the war a sealed train with 120 evacuated Jewish men from the Goleszow Camp (sub-camp of Auschwitz) was stranded at nearby Svitavy, after a seven-day journey without food and water. Emilie Schindler could obtain that the SS leave the Jews at Brünnlitz. Her husband finally received permission to accept these poor people for "necessary work". 120 nearly frozen persons were swiftly taken to the Brünnlitz factory where they had a chance to survive. 13 persons were frozen to death. Schindler managed that they were not cremated in the factory's oven but buried according to Jewish tradition.

A List *
During the last days of WW2 Schindler fled to Germany, meanwhile being bankrupt. Later he emigrated to South America, financially supported by Jewish relief organizations and groups of survivors.
Since 1961 he visited Israel 13 times, always welcomed by the "Schindler Jews" who had survived.

Oskar Schindler died in October 1974 in Hildesheim, Germany. His remains found a rest in Jerusalem. On 18 July 1967, Yad Vashem decided to recognize him as "Righteous Among the Nations". On 24 June 1993, the decision was extended also to his widow, Emilie Schindler.

Robin O'Neil Private Collection *

© ARC 2005