Oskar Schindler: The Virtuous Nazi

Oskar Schindler’s Portrait | Wikipedia
Oskar Schindler’s Portrait | Wikipedia

Oskar Schindler, a German Industrialist, saw the outbreak of war in 1939 as an opportunity to make money. As the Nazi Army invaded Poland, Schindler took advantage of Poland’s loss by purchasing a near bankrupt factory in Krakow, that he could use to make enameled kitchenware. Taking advantage of a free labor force of Jewish people over the next few years, he amassed a fortune. 1

Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow, Poland | India Today

Having worked as a spy for Adolf Hitler, Schindler made important connections with high ranking Nazi officials. His factory, like many others in German occupied areas, exploited the labor of Jews.2 Not far from his factory in Poland was the concentration camp at Plaszow. That nearby camp was run by Amon Göth, who was known throughout the area for being ruthless and merciless. Jews, and anyone else, that were sent to his camp would almost surely die. The exact number of victims that lost their lives there is not known. However, it is estimated that 80,000 people died in Plaszow in its two-year existence.3 Having these connections with high ranking and prominent men in the Nazi Party, he was able to request to move roughly 900 Jews from this concentration camp to his factory in Krakow less than four miles away. Many of these Jews were unskilled workers, and because of this, they would not have lived long in Göth’s concentration camp. Schindler kept these Jews safe in his factory, and as one of his Jews, Moshe Bejski, a future Israeli Supreme Court Justice from 1979-91, recalled that Schindler would stay with the Jews until midnight when the Nazi soldiers would leave.4

As the Soviet Army progressively advanced its way into Poland, Schindler was forced to move his Jews to his other factory in Brunnlitz, in the Sudetenland. During the transfer, the near three hundred women, being shipped together in the same train car, were mistakenly shipped to Auschwitz. These women were being shipped in one freight train car, with little to no clothes in the middle of winter. The women and girls, many sick, old, or frostbitten, knew where they were, and that if they stayed, they would surely not make it out alive. They were forced to stay the night in the camp, many dreading the next day. Schindler, having found this out in time, personally drove to Auschwitz and bribed the Nazi officials to let him take the women back with him to his factory in the Sudetenland.5

Schindler’s list of Jews to be transferred to his factory | ScreenerTv

As the Soviets marched west into Czechoslovakia, and as the war in Europe ended, it was clear to Schindler that he would need to inform his people and prepare them for life ahead. On the eighth of May, 1945, he gathered everyone onto the floor of his factory, and they listened to Winston Churchill address the world that Germany had officially surrendered. After this, he spent one last night with the near 1500 people he employed, and saved the lives of, until morning.6 He had to flee, as he could have been tried as a war criminal because he exploited the labor of hundreds, without pay. He would move many times, and in 1974 he would die. As was his request, he was, and still is buried on Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Today the people that thank Schindler for their lives, thousands in number, call themselves Schindlerjuden, or Schindler’s Jews.

  1. Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), 224.
  2. David Crowe, Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the Truth Behind His List (New York: Westview Press, 2004), 45-50.
  3. Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2015, s.v. “Plaszow Concentration Camp,” by Joseph Dewey.
  4. “Moshe, Bejski,” Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law, 2014, http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/justices/bejski-moshe; Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), 225.
  5. David Crowe, Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the Truth Behind His List (New York: Westview Press, 2004), 402.
  6. Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), 224.

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This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Lyzette Flores

    Every time I read anything about the jews it is usually their tragic stories so it was nice to read about someone who helped them rather than destroyed them. It was interesting to read that Oskar Schindler was a spy for Adolf Hitler yet he helped save thousands of Jews lives. He was a very smart man as he used his business to an advantage to help jews out. Very interesting article!

  2. Avatar
    Miguel Camarillo-Cohen

    The author wrote an excellent article. It was a moving article on how Oskar Schindler, a German business man, heroically saved 1,500 Jewish men, women and children from being extinguished by the Nazi regime during World War II. Schindler is a story that touches struggles and challenges he took to save the Jewish people. The 1500 men, women and children saved by Schindler called themselves Schindlerjuden, or Schindler’s Jews. Immediately after the Nazi regime fell, Schindler had to escape to avoid being prosecuted as a war criminal for using labor without pay.

  3. Avatar
    Devin Ramos

    I had never heard of Oskar Schindler and what he did. The article did a good job of telling how he used the jews to have free labor within his factory. It also did an excellent job of telling how he was trusted by the Nazi party to be a spy. But the part that was interesting the most to me was when he found out the three hundred women have been accidentally been shipped to a concentration camp instead of his factory and how he asked for them to be released.

  4. Avatar
    Annissa Noblejas

    I am grateful that this man, although a Nazi, had human compassion enough to keep thousands of Jews as safe as possible during WWII. The women and children who were accidently sent to the concentration camp, could not have been the most desired factory workers. It is heartening to learn that not everyone within the Nazi party, especially within the higher echelons, acted like a complete monster towards Jews just because of differences in religion.

  5. Avatar
    Eloisa Sanchez Urrea

    I have always found the topic of the Holocaust to be very interesting and unbelievable. I would never have imagined that a Nazi, a person who is supposed to be evil, would have committed such a selfless act. The courage this man showed was able to save the life of thousands of innocent people. This man could have died by defying the Nazis, but decided to continue because it meant saving innocent lives.

  6. Avatar
    Pedro Gonzalez Aboyte

    The story of Oskar Schindler is a great one. Schindler went from being a spy for Adolf Hitler, who is considerably one of the worst people in human history, to saving a large amount of Jewish lives. It was ingenious of him to use his business as a way to give Jews a place to work so that they would not die. I remember watching the movie “Schindler’s List” in a Holocaust class in high school. I very much enjoyed reading of Schindler and what he did for the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Great article!

  7. Avatar
    Ysenia Rodriguez

    This piece had me hooked to the end and I really enjoyed Schindler’s story. The story of how Oskar Schindler helped many Jews by bringing them to his factory has me picturing this man as a double agent: trusted by Nazis but desperately trying to save the Jews. I wonder what work he had done as a spy for Hitler and whether or not any of his experiences played a role in his passion to save Jews. Great article.

  8. Avatar
    Adam Portillo

    It’s weird to see somebody considered a Nazi that saved so many Jewish lives. It goes to show that even though he was considered a Nazi in the end he did what was morally right. It’s interesting to see that he was a former spy for Adolf Hitler. Another part in the article I found interesting was how he ran and operated his business. Great article I really enjoyed reading it.

  9. Avatar
    Jose Sanchez

    This was a good read. Those who risk their lives to save others and in the process put themselves in danger are heroes. Schindler was able to save countless of lives from certain death. He was able to use his influence and power for good. While he did use free labor, I don’t believe this made him a bad person as given the circumstances what else could he have done.

  10. Enrique Segovia
    Enrique Segovia

    I agree with the title because Oskar Schindler was a Nazi who saved many Jewish people’s lives. It was really interesting to learn that he did this to enhance his business, and that he was a former spy for Adolf Hitler; even so, his courage to defy the Nazi rules and regime is outstanding, and he saved many lives during the Holocaust. It was a short article, but it was full of relevant information. I enjoyed reading of a virtuous person of which I had heard before. Nice article!

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