Oskar Schindler (April 28, 1908–October 9, 1974) was a German businessman famous for his efforts to save his Jewish workers from the Holocaust. He saved up to 1,200 Jews by having them work in his munitions factory in what is now the Czech Republic.
Schindler was born in Svitavy (Zwittau), Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary, now Czech Republic), into a wealthy business family. The family suffered in the Great Depression of the 1930s and Schindler joined the Nazi Party. He was a dilettante and an opportunistic businessman. Following the German invasion of Poland, he was one of many Germans who sought a profit in the new territory. Schindler cheaply acquired a factory in Krakau, which he named Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik, producing enamelware. He also obtained around 1,300 Jewish slave labourers in order to work at the plant. Some say that he was, at least initially, motivated by money—hiding wealthy Jewish investors, for instance—but later he began shielding his workers more actively. He would, for instance, claim that unskilled workers were in fact essential to the working of the factory, and that any harm to them would result in him raising complaints and demanding compensation from the government.Being a witness of a 1942 raid on the Krakau Ghetto, when the soldiers were transferring the ghetto inhabitants to the concentration camp at Plaszow, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many Jews who tried to hide in their homes. He was a brilliant diplomatic individual, and after the raid was increasingly prepared to use all his skills to save his Schindlerjuden (Schindler's Jews). He arranged with Amon Göth, the commander of Plaszow, for 900 Jews to be transferred to an adjacent factory compound where they would be relatively safer from the depredations of the German guards. Schindler was arrested twice on suspicions of conspiracy, but both times managed to evade being jailed. Schindler would typically offer bribes to government officials to avoid investigation. When advances of the Red Army threatened to liberate the camps, they were destroyed, and a majority of the inmates were executed. Schindler managed to move 1,200 "workers" to a factory at Brünnlitz (Brněnec) in Sudetenland in October 1944. When a shipment of his workforce was misrouted to Auschwitz, he managed to have them returned to him. Brünnlitz was liberated in May 1945.
At the end of the war Schindler emigrated to Argentina. He went bankrupt and returned to Germany in 1958 to a series of unsuccessful business ventures. Oskar Schindler died in Hildesheim, Germany, on the 9th of October, 1974, at the age of 66. (The movie Schindler's List claims he died in Frankfurt – maybe because it's better known.) He is honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" and was buried at the Christian (Roman Catholic) Cemetery at Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
- Crowe, David M. Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind The List. Philadelphia: Westview Press, 2004. ISBN 081333375X
- Keneally, Thomas. Schindler's Ark. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982. ISBN 0–3403–3501–7. Republished as Schindler's List in 1993, ISBN 0–6718–8031–4.