Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was an ethnic German industrialist, spy, and member of the Nazi Party. He is credited to have saved lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He is the subject of the 1982 novel Schindler's Ark, and the subsequent 1993 film Schindler's List, which reflected his life as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication in order to save the lives of his Jewish employees.
He grew up in Zwittau, Moravia. After attending primary and secondary school, he enrolled in a technical school, from which he was expelled in 1924 for forging his report card. He later graduated, but did not take the Abitur exams that would have enabled him to go to college or university. Instead he took courses in Brno in several trades, including chauffeuring and machinery, and worked for his father for three years.
He worked in several trades until he joined the Abwehr, the intelligence service of Nazi Germany, in 1936. He joined the Nazi Party in 1939. Prior to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, he collected information on railways and troop movements for the German government. He was arrested for espionage by the Czech government but was released under the terms of the Munich Agreement in 1938. Schindler continued to collect information for the Nazis, working in Poland in 1939 before the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II.
In 1939 Schindler obtained an enamelware factory in Kraków, Poland, which employed around 1,750 workers, of whom a thousand were Jews at the factory's peak in 1944. His Abwehr connections helped Schindler to protect his Jewish workers from deportation and death in the Nazi concentration camps. Though interested in money making potential in business only, he later began shielding his workers without regard for the cost. As time went on, Schindler had to give Nazi officials ever larger bribes and gifts of luxury items obtainable only on the black market to keep his workers safe.
As Germany began losing the war in July 1944, the SS began closing down the easternmost concentration camps and evacuating the remaining prisoners westward. Many were killed in Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Schindler convinced SS-Hauptsturmführer Amon Göth, commandant of the nearby Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, to allow him to move his factory to Brünnlitz in the Sudetenland, thus sparing his workers from certain death in the gas chambers.
Using names provided by Jewish Ghetto Police officer Marcel Goldberg, Göth's secretary Mietek Pemper compiled and typed the list of 1,200 Jews who travelled to Brünnlitz in October 1944. Schindler continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the execution of his workers until the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, by which time he had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers.
Schindler moved to West Germany after the war, where he was supported by assistance payments from Jewish relief organisations. After receiving a partial reimbursement for his wartime expenses, he moved with his wife to Argentina, where they took up farming. When he went bankrupt in 1958, Schindler left his wife and returned to Germany, where he failed at several business ventures and relied on financial support from Schindlerjuden ("Schindler Jews") – the people whose lives he had saved during the war. He was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government in 1963. He died on 4 October 1974 in Hildesheim, Germany, and was buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi party to be honoured in this way.
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