Oskar Schindler is perhaps the most well-known hero to rise out of the Holocaust, thanks largely to the novel and film based on his efforts to save Jews in Poland and the Czech Republic. Born in 1908, Schindler was a member of the Nazi party as well as a German industrialist, and he used his factories as a way to keep numerous Jews alive and out of the death camps. Eventually, Schindler managed to save more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.
However, Schindler did use the German invasion of Poland as a way to profit tremendously. By purchasing an enamelware factory in Krakow, he was able to rise in the ranks of society and was frequently a guest at various parties held by Nazi elite. Most historians believe that his initial motivations were based solely – or at least primarily – by money. He initially obtained close to 1,000 Jewish forced laborers from various camps and sources and put them to work in his factories. However, as time went on his motivations became clearly focused on keeping his workers alive.
The catalyst for this change in focus is believed to be a raid on the Krakow Ghetto in 1943. During this raid, Schindler witnessed outright murder of many of his workers as they were being rounded up and sent to concentration camp.
Schindler's factory was operated differently than most in the region, and truly different than the nearby Plaszow concentration camp. Jews weren't abused or shouted at, and random killings and executions were not an issue. Jews were also permitted to pray and to gather together with one another on a regular basis.
Schindler was arrested during this period on three different occasions for embezzlement and black market activities. He was also arrested for kissing a Jewish girl, though none of these charges amounted to anything.
After the end of the war, Schindler was practically broke, his fortune spent on bribery and the purchase of supplies for his Jewish employees. He fled to Austria's US Zone with a letter explaining his heroics, and though he was able to avoid criminal charges as a member of the Nazi party, his life was a downhill journey afterwards. Eventually, in 1974, Schindler died at the age of 66, a penniless man. Schindler became the only member of the Nazi party to be buried in the Franciscans' Cemetery in Jerusalem. He continues to be thought of as a savior to the more than 1200 Jews he saved.
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