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The story of Oscar Schindler: a spy, an SS man, a drinking companion of Soviet soldiers and the righteous man of the world

He was born 112 years ago. Abwehr spy, SS man, drinking companion of Soviet soldiers, unfaithful husband and righteous man of the world - all this is one person, Oskar Schindler. His life story was told by the magazine “Such cases".

Photo: Shutterstock

The world found out about this story by accident - due to the fact that the Australian writer Thomas Keneally came on business to Hollywood, and his suitcase broke there. Buying a new one, he talked with the store owner: his name was Leopold Pfefferberg, he was Jewish and managed to survive in the Nazi-occupied Krakow.

“And I'm not the only one - there were about twelve hundred. One German saved us all, Schindler. Oscar Schindler, have you heard about this? ”

Keneally did not hear, although he had long been interested in the topic of the extermination of Jews by the Nazis. He recorded the story of Leopold, and then, while working on the book, more than once clarified the details of him and other former prisoners of the Krakow ghetto. The novel "Schindler's Ark" was released in 1982 year and brought the Booker Prize to the author. Soon, he fell into the hands of director Steven Spielberg, who was gaining fame, who was set on fire to the idea of ​​filming him. Producers objected: a film on such a gloomy topic will certainly be unprofitable. Only after 10 years, becoming a millionaire, Spielberg was able to take on the "Schindler's List". Hollywood aces turned out to be wrong - although the “List” became the most expensive black and white film in history (some extras hired 20 thousands), the costs paid off tenfold. The director did not take on himself these “bloody money” - they were the foundation based on them that keeps the memory of the Holocaust.

The film made Oscar Schindler, played by the handsome Lai Neeson, world famous. In Israel, he was posthumously conferred the title of “the righteous man of peace”; a real pilgrimage began at his grave in Jerusalem. As often happens, next to the "white" legend about him immediately appeared black. Some of those rescued by him said that Schindler was a committed Nazi and helped Jews only with money. Those who could not pay, he did not include in his famous list, thereby condemning him to death. The Czechs and the Poles were outraged: it turned out that Oscar had once prepared a Hitler invasion of these countries. Tar in the Hollywood barrel of honey added the hero's wife Emilia, who was found in Argentina.

"He was a scoundrel!" She told reporters firmly. - I ran after each skirt, I did not think about anything except money and my whims. He also saved these unfortunates just because he wanted to. ”

True, these accusations could not seriously cast a shadow on the reputation of the long-dead Schindler - whatever you say, he saved the 1200 man by risking his life. But for the sake of what he did, we still do not know.

Oscar was born in 1908, in the family of Austrian Catholics who moved from Vienna to the Czech town of Zwittau. With the end of world war, the Shindlers became citizens of an independent Czechoslovakia, which did not make them too happy. Hans Schindler taught his only son not only to repair bicycles and motorcycles, what he did himself, but also to dream of reuniting with Fatherland. Oscar grew up a handsome, confident guy, he had no end of girls. In 20, he married Emilia Pelzl, the daughter of a rich farmer. But I lost it: the world crisis broke out, my father-in-law collapsed, the father’s repair workshop suffered the same fate. With grief, Schindler began to drink, more than once he was detained for fights and scandals. Then he started a love affair with a childhood friend who bore him two children. For some reason, Emilia endured all this: either she really loved her handsome husband, or she didn’t admit the thought of divorce because of her Catholic upbringing.

In 30, Oscar's business got better: having traveled to Germany, he became an agent of a large bank, bought a house, asked his wife and constantly changing mistresses for gifts. Only many years later it turned out that the German intelligence gave him the money — the Abwehr, for which he obtained secret information. In 1938, he was calculated and put in prison, but soon Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, and Schindler was released. He immediately joined the Nazi party and on the instructions of the party he moved to the city of Ostrava near the border with Poland. There he was engaged in the preparation of a covert operation, which became the pretext for the start of the Second World War. Before SS men disguised as Poles attacked a radio station in German Gleijvice, their form was kept in Schindler's house; in the same place, according to some information, the corpse of the criminal was hidden, whom the Nazis disguised as “the victim of the Polish aggressors”.

When Poland was occupied, local Jews were driven into major cities, where they organized a ghetto. One of the largest was in Krakow; on pain of execution, Jews were forbidden to leave without special passes. There was no work, people were starving. It was then that Oscar Schindler found himself in the city, who was sent there by either the Abwehr or the SS. Cooperating with both organizations, at the same time he dreamed not of “great Germany”, but of wealth and a beautiful life. He was lucky: the Jews were selling their enterprises in large quantities, and he bought one of them for a pittance - the enamelware factory “Emalia”. Make it his new acquaintance, accountant Itzhak Stern. Schindler, who did not suffer from anti-Semitism, was amazed by his worldly wisdom. Especially the phrase from the Talmud hit him in the memory: “Whoever saves one person will save the whole world”.

Oskar Schindler. Photo: wikipedia / Public Domain

But so far, Oscar was not going to save anyone: he wanted to make money. The factory was plundered, there remained only a dozen pans. Then he made a deal with her former owner Abram Banker: he will set up the business again, and for this he will be saved from death. And so it happened: next to his office, Schindler made a stash for the Banker, carried food there, and he gave him valuable advice. When the factory started its production, Poldek Pfefferberg already known to us was selling on the black market. There he also produced what was more valuable than money: scarce products, coffee, cigars. All this was used to bribe the Nazi ranks. The same Stern advised Oscar to hire Jews: they were ready to work, tirelessly, for the sake of their salvation. If at the beginning only 7 Jews worked at the factory, then in 2, there were more than a thousand of them. Production expanded, and performing military orders, because at the front and in hospitals, enameled utensils were also required. At first, Schindler recruited workers in the Krakow ghetto, but in the summer of 1942, the Nazis launched a “final solution to the Jewish question.” The inhabitants of the ghetto were transported by train to Auschwitz, and Oscar had to go to the concentration camp Pleshov in neighboring Krakow in search of labor.

The commandant of the camp was his peer Amon Goethe — a staunch Nazi who terrified the prisoners. Every day he “played God”, leaving the balcony of his office and killing someone from the passing prisoners with an accurate shot. Even among the SS men, he became famous for his sadism: in raids on the ghetto, he not only shot Jews, but also forced their relatives to pay the cost of ammunition spent on it. Strangely enough, they quickly found a common language with Schindler - the merchant was no stranger to the SS, and the commandant also loved the "sweet life", arranging the invited parties at home. Schindler supplied food and liquor to him, and for this, Goethe allowed a friend to take from the camp everyone he wanted. Peering at the haggard faces of the prisoners, Oscar was gone — now instead of a faceless mass, he saw people who were threatened with death, whom he — and only he — could save. His own “game of God” began - he betrayed one Jew as an experienced chemist, another as a design expert, and a third as a typist. Listening to the prayers of the saved, he began to rescue their wives and children from the camp.

He was helped by Emilia who arrived. When she got a job at the pharmacy, she obtained medications for the prisoners and sneakily fed them - they were supposed to have dinner only in the evening after returning to the camp. There, "Schindler's Jews" lived in separate barracks, and Goethe did not touch them - Schindler convinced him that without these specialists his factory simply could not exist, especially since instead of pots there they now made cartridges. This continued until the summer of 1944, when Soviet troops began to approach Krakow. Plašov’s prisoners were ordered to be taken to death camps. Schindler and his wife decided to save them. The commandant and other SS officers were given bribes, but they still needed permission from the mayor of Krakow to evacuate. Fortunately, the burgomaster turned out to be Emilia’s schoolteacher — permission was obtained. Schindler's secretary, Mimi Reinhard, whom he used to be an experienced typist, with one finger, typed the 1200 list of men, women, and children with errors — that same Schindler's list. Actually, the lists were 5, because every bureaucratic body needed a copy.

Oscar decided to take his wards to the city of Brunlitz near his native Zwittau - he had many friends there. In the autumn, the train with “his” Jews left Krakow, but in the confusion, the carriage with the children was uncoupled and sent to Auschwitz. Schindler, cursing himself for his recklessness, went to a terrible camp, where everything smelled like burnt human flesh. Before that, he stocked up a fake certificate that the hands of teenagers 12 – 14 years are best suited for fine work on the manufacture of cartridges. Surprisingly, it helped, the children were returned to him - although it is possible that even here bribes played a more important role. A large part of Schindler’s savings went to the operation to remove the prisoners. The rest was spent on their feed in a new place - the plant in Brunlitz did not start working and brought only losses. Already at the end of the war, SS men arrived there, ordering workers to dig graves in the courtyard. Assessing the situation, Oscar offered the executioners to drink before the execution for the victory of Germany. The wine was a sleeping pill, and when the firing squad woke up, the Jews were already hiding in a nearby quarry.

Soviet troops were approaching the city, his wife offered to Shindler to flee, but again he did not want to abandon his charges. But the fate of Amon Goet, who was hanged after the war in Pleshov, could well have been waiting for him - many saw how he was friendly with the SS men. Fortunately, the soldiers did not check his documents (but took the clock), and the Russian cook, who worked in his kitchen, explained that he was a “good German”. Soon he, putting snooked-on schnapps on the table, drank with Soviet officers for the health of Stalin. Then he and his wife managed to move to the American zone of occupation, where one of his former workers helped him get the documents. Someone else told him about the organization "Joint", which helped the Jews, and she once a month gave out Schindler scant food sets. However, a member of the Nazi party was not easy to get a job, and the spouses were in poverty. Many former Nazis then left for Argentina, and in 1948, the Shindlers decided to go there too. For the last money, Oscar bought tickets not only for himself and his wife, but also another young mistress - a relative of one of “his” Jews.

The town of San Vicente met them with bright sunshine and southern hospitality. After borrowing money from the Jewish community, Schindler bought a farm, where his wife, who grew up in a village, tirelessly looked after cows and pigs. He himself didn’t like that kind of life: under the pretext of business meetings, he constantly traveled to Buenos Aires, where he settled a mistress. Then he learned that the German government paid compensation to the Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia for their property, and went overseas. But he never returned, enthusiastically burning through the 100 received thousands of brands. At first, Oscar also sent modest sums to his wife, but when in one of the letters he complained that he had begun to gain weight from champagne and lobsters, she sent another transfer back and stopped all communication with the wrong spouse. She learned of his death only when she was invited to shoot the film finals in Jerusalem in 1993, and three hundred surviving prisoners rushed to her with a cry: “Mom!”.

The exact number of Jews he saved is unknown - except for the 1200 people included in the list, he helped many more. Maybe that is why in Frankfurt am Main, where he lived the last years, they looked askance at him. Once he even went to the face of some partitenosse, who called him "a lover of fluidists." He felt more comfortable than in Germany, in Paris, New York and especially in Jerusalem, where he came almost every year. In the same year, in 1974, he found the last refuge, becoming the only member of the Nazi party buried on the holy mountain of Zion. Although he was buried according to the Catholic rite, the gravestone is decorated with the Jewish inscription “Hasidi umot ha-olam” - “The Righteous Among the Nations of the World”.

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