Germany invaded Poland September 1st 1939, they took Krakow on the sixth, then home to 60 000 Jews, 26 percent of the city's population. By years end, Jews lost the right to attend school, keep bank accounts, own business, or walk on the sidewalks. They were tagged by the yellow Star of David. By the following April, evacuation orders would reduce Krakow's Jewish population to 35 000.
All this transformed Poland into a land of economic opportunity for German entrepreneurs. They swarmed the cities, snapping up forfeited Jewish firms as their Treuhändlers, or trustees. [The American Occupation Forces did the same in Germany 1945 for any Nazi-owned business.sic] One of them was a young salesman named Oskar Schindler, born 1908 in the Sudetenland. He applied for NSDAP Party membership on February 10, 1939. By then he was an agent of the German Abwehr, the Intelligence Services. [He remained one of theirs to very end and probably played a double game when it suited his interests, sic] In fact, he had been jailed in 1938 as a spy by the Czechs and was released when Germany annexed the Sudetenland. Oskar Schindler provided Polish Army Uniforms to the German Provocateurs who attacked the German border radio station at Gleiwitz the night before the invasion.
|Schindler's enamel factory in Kraków turned into museum in 2010|
Then on March 13th 1943 Untersturmführer Amon Göth liquidated the Ghetto. Those who lived through it became inmates at the Plaszow Forced Labour Camp on the outskirts of the city, under Göth's bloodthirsty command. For a few months, Schindler's workers lived in the camp barracks and marched every day to the factory at 4 Lipowa Street. At the end of their shift, they would return to Amon Göth's hell, and very real possibility ending up dead on Chujowa Gorka, the camp's notorious execution hill.
Schindler made up Lists,[it probably was Goldberg who typed the List.sic] to save human lives but the composition of these Lists are as much of a puzzle as Oskar Schindler's motives. Was he an angel masquerading as an opportunist? An opportunist masquerading as an angel? Did he intend to save eleven hundred Jews, or was their survival simply one result of his self-serving game plan? Did he build the Emalia Subcamp to protect Jews or to keep Amon Göth from interfering in his lucrative black marketeering? Emilie Schindler recalled: “My husband built the barracks under SS supervision. Göth, of course, arranged the transfer of labor from Plaszow, but it was all based on my husband paying him. That was done with diamonds, presents, and other things, as money had no value”. He was a gambler and loved to outwit the SS, in the beginning it was a game. It was fun at first. He joined the NSDAP to make money, but he had no stomach for killing. He enjoyed the wheeling and dealing and doing outrageous things, living on the edge, but then he realised if he did not save the Jews, nobody would. Did he have a sudden change of heart or undergo a gradual metamorphosis? For most survivors the bottomline is: "If I hadn't been with Schindler, I'd be dead, and that's all that's matters". [It is thought that nearly 400 "Schindlerjuden" are still alive, about half of them living in Israel, his fellow countryman Julius Madritsch did perhaps just as much for the Jewish inmates as Oskar, in Krakow, but was not immortalised by Spielberg, sic]
Schindler's Emalia subcamp extracted his workers from hell, but in August of 1944 he was ordered to reduce his workforce by about 700. In September , the Emalia Subcamp shut down and its remaining workers were sent to Plaszow. In October, Schindler moved his operation to a new plant at Brünnitz, Czechoslovakia, near his hometown, Zwittau. A second list was drawn up, providing the nucleus of the one in circulation today. The October list consisted of 300 original Emalia workers and 700 replacements for those shipped out in August. It should be noted that the Davar newspaper was a very important and popular newspaper in Palestine. In the issue of August-September 1944, lists of names appeared of Jews who were saved by Oskar Schindler from going to the Plaszow camp. It is believed that these lists were given to the Jewish Rescue Committee in Istanbul by Schindler. If this is the case, then during the whole of the war years the lists in Davar and the Madritsch list are the only real original lists which were complied many months before the so-called Brünnlitz lists.
Clearly, Oskar Schindler was a sybarite, a sexually voracious, thrillseeking dandy. He wore so much cologne that you could smell him before you saw him. Apparently he considered his sexual magnatism negotiable in situations where gemstones or vodka might have had a less dramatic impact. One of the survivors felt, that it was his personality more than anything else that saved them, another, who came from his hometown, said: "As a Zwittau citizen, I would have never considered him capable of all these wonderful deeds. Before the war, you know, everybody here called him Gauner(Swindler)". He permitted the Jews to observe holidays (secretly) and, at Brünnlitz, to bury their dead traditionally. He got them extra food and rudimentary medical care. He accepted "frozen transports" when no one else would, and, with his wife, Emilie, lavished personal attention and resources on behalf on the half-dead survivors. The Schindlers never slept a single night in their comfortable villa at Brünnlitz, sleeping instead in a small room at the factory, because Oskar understood how deeply the Jews feared late-night visits by the SS.
|Oskar Schindler with female companions, apparently twins 1940.|
On April 18th 1945, Oskar Schindler recognised that everything was over, so he told someone in Brünnlitz, "Make me a list of all the people that are here". That's when Oskar Schindler hatched his plan of escape. There can be no question in anyone's mind that he needed this list of who survived in HIS camp because he was going to Germany and take this list into some agency. It's commonly believed that Schindler had far less to do with compiling the list than Marcel Goldberg, the greedy Jewish policeman, or his faithful accountant Itzak Stern. It was Goldberg who controlled the list, who demanded payment directly from those who wanted to go on the list. What's definite that 700 Emalia workers were sent to death camps. Some survived, others didn't. There is no small amount of bitterness among the former group and among the surviving relatives of the latter. After the war, some confronted Schindler, demanding to know why they had been left behind. He said he couldn't stand over Goldberg's shoulder keeping track all the time.
When Schindler left Brünnlitz, he was accompanied by Emilie, a mistress, and eight Jewish inmates assigned to safeguard him. The group left the factory on May 8th 1945, in Oskar's Mercedes. A truck pulling two trailers followed. The interior of the Benz-the seats and door panels-had been stuffed with valuables. The Schindlers also carried letters, signed by some of his workers, explaining his role in saving their lives.
The entourage headed southeast, first getting stuck in a Wehrmacht convoy, then halted by Czech partisans. They stopped over for the night in a town called Havlickuv Brod. They spent a night at the town jail-not as prisoners, but for accommodations-then they awoke to find their vehicles stripped , inside and out. They proceeded by train and on foot.
In the spring of 1945 Kurt Klein, an intelligent officer in the US Army-a German born Jew-encountered Oskar's travelling party near the Czech village of Eleanorenhain, on it's way from Brünnlitz to the Swiss border. Klein got permits for the group to remain in the American Zone of Occupation until it could find transportation for the rest of the trip.
They were all dressed in prison uniform and presented themselves as refugees from a German Labour Camp. They didn't let on that Schindler, their Nazi Labour Camp Director, was in their midst, probably because they were afraid he would be arrested as POW. They were correct, Klein's function was to interrogate and segregate Germans caught fleeing from Russian and Czech guns, he then enlisted the aid of other Jewish American servicemen to ensure the group's safe passage to the Swiss border town of Konstanz.
Schindler later on helped American investigators gather evidence against Nazi war criminals by presenting them with detailed documentation on all his old drinking companions, on the vicious owners of other slave factories...on all the rotten group he had wined and flattered while inwardly loathing, in order to help the lives of helpless people.
But in 1949, Oskar Schindler was a lost soul. Everyday life became more difficult and unsettled. A Sudeten German, he had no future in Czechoslovakia and at that time could no longer stand Germany he had once loved. For a time, he tried to live in Regensburg. Later he moved to Munich depending heavily on CARE parcels sent to him from America by some of the Schindlerjuden, but too proud to plead for more help. He apparently suffered from alcohol withdrawing symptoms, it is well known to have had an infinite capacity for alcohol. When he came to New York in 1957, he stayed with Manci and Henry Rosner in Queens. Manci remembers how "every night, we got him a bottle of cognac, and in the morning, I found an empty bottle. But he was never drunk". [a typival indication of an alcoholic, sic] Polish Jewish welfare organisations traced him, discovered him in want, and tried to bring some assistance even in the midst of their own bitter post-war troubles. However, he was warned in summer of 1945, to stay out of Poland, "Because he'd meet the same fate as had Dr. Gross and Kerner, the OD men (Jews killed for their war crimes). He'd meet it at the hands of those who got knocked off the list".
The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee gave Oskar money and set up the Schindlers in Argentina on a nutria ranch, where they tried raising the mink-like animals. He failed. Survivors bought him an apartment in Buenos Aires, but he left Emilie in 1957 and went back to Germany. He tried running a cement plant but failed on that too. He just couldn't seem to adjust to the banality of life in peacetime.
He visited Israel in 1962. The Schindlerjuden there received him like a potentate. From then on, he never lacked support from his "children". Before he died in 1974, he asked that the Schindlerjuden take his remains to Israel and bury him there. Schindler died in Hildesheim in Germany October 9, 1974, penniless. He lies in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion.
In late 1999 a suitcase belonging to Schindler was discovered, containing over 7,000 photographs and documents, including the list of Schindler's Jewish workers. The document, on his enamelware factory's letterhead, had been provided to the SS stating that the named workers were "essential" employees. Friends of Schindler found the suitcase in the attic of a house in Hildesheim, where he had been staying at the time of his death. The friends took the suitcase to Stuttgart, where its discovery was reported by a newspaper, the Stuttgarter Zeitung. The contents of the suitcase, including the list of the names of those he had saved and the text of his farewell speech before leaving his Jewish workers in 1945, are now at the Holocaust museum of Yad Vashem in Israel.
|Emilie Schindler Poland 1940. Emilie Schindler 1994|
Although Emilie and Oskar never divorced, they never saw each other again. Thirty-seven years after he left her, she visited his grave: At last we meet again... I have received no answer, my dear, I do not know why you abandoned me... But what not even your death or my old age can change is, that we are still married, this is how we are before God. I have forgiven you everything...
Emilie Schindler lived for many years in her small house in San Vicente, 40 kilometres south-west of Buenos Aires in Argentina with her pets. She received a small pension from Israel and Germany. Uniformed Argentinean police were posted 24 hours a day to protect her from anti-Semitic and extremist groups.
In July 2001, during a visit to Berlin, Emilie Schindler told reporters that it was her "greatest and last wish" to spend her final years in Germany, adding that she had become increasingly homesick. She died from the effects of a stroke in Märkisch-Oderland Hospital, Berlin, on the night of 5 October 2001, at the age of 93 years. Her only relative is a niece in Bavaria. She is buried at the cemetery in Waldkraiburg, Germany, about an hour away from Munich. Her tombstone includes the words from the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5, Wer einen Menschen rettet, rettet die ganze Welt ("Whoever saves one life, saves the entire World.").
PLASZOW KL-"SCHINDLERS LIST'-
The Plaszow camp was built in 1942 as a labour camp for Jews after the closure of the Krakow ghetto, which was 2.5 kilometres away. During the year 1943 it became a transit camp for other forced labour camp inmates from the ghettos in the district of Krakow which were gradually closed. The camp also served as a labour reservoir up to the end of 1943, for the remaining camps at Skarzysko-Kamienna, Starachowice in the Radom district, as well as Tschestochau, Mielec, Wieliczka and Zakopane. In addition to the Jewish part of it in July 1943, it was a detention centre for non-Jewish Poles, who accounted for between 10-20 percent of the inmates. Here, the "political" prisoners are to be distinguished from the rest. Poles were arrested for a limited time simply for non-observance of curfew restrictions. But the Political Prisoners were given usually indefinite prison terms and then transferred after a few months into the concentrate camps at Auschwitz or Gross-Rosen. Among them was a large group from the Gestapo prison in Pomorska and Montelpich, they were suspected of resistance activities by the Gestapo.
Finally, Plaszow was converted in January 1944 into a concentration camp. This happened at the time, when most surviving forced labour camps and ghettos in September 1943 within the General Government were finally liquidated.
|forced labour at Plszow|
1. The Jewish prisoners worked at first, as before at the ghetto relocation and it's closure, in Krakow's factories which were accessible by daily marches under SS guard. Apart from the resulting contact with the outside world and better working conditions compared to the internal camp facilities , it strengthened the economic position of the prisoners, whose only "life insurance" to prolong and probably save their lives was the importance to work in a military run operations.
2. Access to the black market [this expression and it's method is often misunderstood, especially by Americans, it was simply based on a barter system: "I give you two packets of cigarettes for your half loaf of bread" , or what ever and was a necessity for survival. I did the same after 1945 and other things, besides Jews to the best of my knowledge did not receive any wages, what other method did they have?sic] of the city was essential for them, but also for the supply to the camp operations in working at the Enamelware Factory of Oskar Schindler or the Clothing Factory of Julius Madritsch. Both were German or rather Austrian Industrialist, who employed Plaszow prisoners.
3. Most of the prisoners, men, women and children, often entire families came from Krakow, and knew each other through membership in the Jewish community. This resulted in the camp solidarity and was helpful in a tight knit community. In addition, many prisoners had friends and acquaintances on the "Aryan" side, which had it limits, although support from that direction was there.
4. Organisations like the Jewish Support Unit (JUS), Rada Glowna Opiekuncza committee (RGO the Main Council for Support) and the Polish Aid Organisation had easy access to the camp to help the needy.
Plaszow had in contrast to other concentration camps very few satellite camps. The majority of the prisoners was quartered in the main camp and worked there for the German SS operating Equipment Works Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke) (DAW).
|The handwritten entry in German reads: Oktober ???, Verzeichnis der von den ??? Schindler über unser Ersuchen übernommenen Leuten unseres Betribes R. Fitz?l|
CLOSURE OF THE KRAKOW GHETTO
|Gates to the Kraow Ghetto, around 1942|
|Krakow Liquidation Notification|
|A column of Jews march through the streets of Krakow during the final liquidation of the ghetto|
The closure of the ghetto in Krakow and the establishment of the Plaszow forced labour camp began with Himmler's order of July 19, 1942, so that by the end of December 1942 no Jews were allowed to spend outside of the five transit camps Warsaw, Cracow, Radom, Lublin and Tschentochau in the General Governmet. All companies who employed Jews should stop these working arrangements and relocate their factories into the camps. On October 9, 1942, Himmler ordered, "to close step by step" , except to a few "Jewish workers in the armament factories and to limit Jewish KZ-Larger firms as far as possible only in the eastern part of the General Government".
In October 1942 followed the next Resettlement Action: SS deported 6,000 Jews from the Krakow ghetto and shot several hundred people on the spot. During the selections there were well qualified workers who fell victims to these killings and to the companies that employed them, this meant a huge loss. The owners of the factories while trying to save their workers, were rarely successful.
In accordance with Himmler's decree to the SSPF Distrkt Krakow, Julian Schemer, on 14 December 1942, that Jews who had lived in March 1941 in the Krakow Ghetto will have to be relocated into the Plaszow labor camp. This affected the Jewish workers who worked for the Army Defence Inspection, in places for the operations of the military district commander and in private companies, or active in important war efforts. The ghetto was thus converted in two areas the A and B ghettos. The able working Jews lived with barbed wire surrounded ghetto A until they were detained from 13 March 1943 in the newly established forced labour camp Plszow of the SSFP. The Reichsführer SS had set a dead line as of 31 December 1942, which with this measure at least maintained in part his orders, unlike, for example, in Warsaw, where the SS did not initiate any steps that Jews from the ghettos be accommodated in closed camps which made Himmler furious, and caused him to issue commands to commence the closure of all the ghettos.
|A German officer checks the papers of Jews moving into the Krakow ghetto|
CONSTRUCTION OF THE PENALTY CAMP PLASZOW
At the same time, by the end of 1942 began the first construction work planned for the forced labour camp in the district of Krakow at the Plaszow Jerozolimska Sraße. It was to house 15 000 prisoners, all of them Jews in the Krakow District that were still alive. Preparatory work began on the grounds of the New Jewish Cemetery in Jerozolimska street. The terrain on which the camp should be built belonged in part to the Polish state and the city of Krakow, and some private owners. In addition, two Jewish cemeteries were on the premises. [The "old cemetery" belonged officially to the Podgrz community and after combining the two in 1936 the property was owned by the Krakow's Jewish community. The land adjacent to the "new cemetery" had also been acquired in the meantime by the Krakow Jewish community and used since 1932.sic] The land that had belonged before the war to the Polish government, and went to the General Government, any property rights were disregarded and not regulated. Owners and occupants of the houses on the land earmarked for the camp were quickly forced out and had not received a written verification of the administrative action. Even the Council of the Jewish community (Der Judenrat) was not notified of the start of the construction.
In late summer of 1942 the company that had been commissioned for the project under the direction of Ing. Lukas, was the "Deutsche Bau- und Siedlungsgesellschaft" (German Construction and Housing Association). Polish companies from Krakow were subcontractors. When informed of this project, the Jewish Community Leader Ing. Jakub Stendig was able to convince the German Engineer Lukas to work only on the Friedhofsreserve 'cemetery reserve' (unused area) and not to destroy or disturb the Jewish graves.[This is quite possible as up to that time only levelling earthwork took place. Also mentioned by A. Biberstein in: Zaglada zydow w Krakowie, in Krakow 2002,page 119. (Ing. is the German abbreviation for Engineer).sic]
Ing. Lukas was not a convinced National Socialist, and his working methods were not effective enough for those in power to complete the construction of a Forced Labour Camp. Additional problems occurred, bottlenecks appeared in the supply of materials, particularly timber was absent for the building of barracks. Although the camp was still under construction, in the autumn of 1942, SS Sergeant Horst Pilarzik had been appointed as first camp commander. Because of the slow progress of construction, he asked the Jewish community to provide some Engineers for this task. In this specialised field, the Engineers Zygmunt Grünberg, Jacob Berger, Stendig, Haber, and little later Wohlfeiler were chosen. The SS left the responsibility for the construction and overcome technical problems to the Jewish engineers.
Although the German authorities were spreading rumours to the contrary, for the Krakow Jews it became quickly clear that the majority of the new camp was intended for them. After the "resettlement action" on October 28, 1942 every day, workers were taken out of the ghetto to the Plaszow "Barrack commando". These prisoners were not provided with food during working hours, they had to bring their own meals with them out of the ghetto. Already in November 1942, the first members of the "barracks-commando" 'were detained (locked up) in Plaszow, they were the initial prisoners in the new labour camp, and had to live in the unfinished barracks without electricity or sanitation. The "barracks-commando" was one of only about 200 men at first, but grew very quickly. In December 1942 it comprised about 500 prisoners, covering all trades normally needed in building projects. The workers were divided into groups of 25-50 men, each group was monitored by a representative of the security service, the Jewish (OD) Police Unit, established by the German authorities.
Despite the draconian methods the progress of the construction of the camp did not proceed smoothly because Müller and Pilarzik (who did remain in the camp service) did not on concentrate with the erection of barracks for inmates, but focused on the completion of administrative and workshop buildings and in particular on the the renovation of the villas in which would house in the main the SS-Leadership in future.
Three Jewish Physicians Dr. Edward Goldblatt, Dr. Leon Gross and Dr. Henryk Rubinstein reported on orders of the German administration for work in the camp and had to take over without any medical equipment and medicines in the dark and unheated barracks, the care of patients. Only shortly before the final closure of the ghetto in March 1943, the infirmary was equipped with instruments, medicines and bandages. The Jewish Support Unit (JUS) had deposited these goods in the ghetto.
From December 1942, step by step, workers previously employed outside the camp in factories, were transferred to Plaszow. "During that time, when single work details were moved into the camp, the contact with the ghetto was very much alive," recalled a survivor. Many of the barracks commandos "fled because of the severe conditions in the remaining ghetto. The OD-men Jakub Tobiasz Katz and Leopold (Poldek) Goldberg were authorised to issue passes to prisoners into the ghetto, which made "maintaining contact with the ghetto easier". When during a roll call on February 6th 1943 it was found that 15 prisoners were missing , Goldberg and Katz were held responsible and executed. [ See: AZH, Zespol 301, rel. 4738 and 188, Statement 05/06/1967 Lola K., in: BArch Ludwigsburg, AR-Z 1276/63, page 806.sic]
|Göth on horseback|
The problems in the camp still under construction grew in proportion to the number of inmates, by mid-February 1943 there were about 2,000 people trying to cope.
continued under part 2