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Oskar Schindler collection

 Collection
Identifier: 2016-001-h-r

Overview

The Oskar Schindler Archive is a collection that includes reproductions of photocopies ranging from the years 1940s to 2000s. The items have been collected by Dr. David Crowe as research material to support his biography on Oskar Schindler.

Divided into sixteen series spanning the years from the 1940s to 2000s, the collection documents the activities of Oskar Schindler (1908-1974), who was a spy, businessman, Nazi Party member, and Righteous Gentile. Personal papers include family and medical records, his National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) application, and death certificate. The correspondence consists of letters between Schindler and survivors and associates, as well as correspondence with Hollywood film director and writer Martin Gosh.

The factory records are from both of Schindler’s factories Emailewarenfabrik in Kraków and in Brünnlitz, comprised of financial records, lease agreements, certificates, inspection, and technical reports. The German government records are divided into subseries. The subseries Lastenausgleich include documents for his application to the equalization of burdens program for compensation of the properties he lost during World War II. Additionally, the subseries Amon Göth records provide details of his career as a commandant of the Kraków -Plaszow concentration camp, including awards, documentation on his Schutzstaffel (SS) service, and NSDAP membership information.

The suitcase (Koffer) lawsuit series documents the litigation between Erica Schindler against the Stuttgarter Zeitung and Chris Staehr over Oskar Schindler’s suitcase found in Staehr’s family home. The newspapers Stuttgarter Zeitung wrote a seven-part series that summarized the essential documents in the suitcase. Emilie Schindler initiated two lawsuits against the newspaper and the Staehrs. The collection contains documentation of the proceedings of the lawsuits.

The testimonies and statements series contain transcripts of Holocaust survivors, rescuers, and witnesses. The testimonies were conducted from the 1940s to the 1970s. This series also includes several statements from Schindler in which he discusses his efforts to save his workers. The interview series encompasses transcriptions of dialogues from survivors, as well as Oskar and Emilie Schindler.

The writing series range from the 1940s to the 2000s. The material has been divided into eight subseries: scholarly articles, articles, manuscripts, published books, newspaper clippings, periodicals, scrapbooks and diaries, and scripts. The series highlights specific moments of Schindler’s life during and after World War II, additionally, the subseries documents the book and movie based on Schindler’s life.

Dates

  • Usage: Majority of material found within 1955 to 1980

Biographical / Historical

Oskar Schindler (1908-1974) was born April 28, 1908, in Svitavy, then a German-speaking area of the Sudetenland, now part of the Czech Republic. He was the eldest of two children born to a farm machinery manufacturer, Johann Hans Schindler, and his wife, Franziska “Fanny” Luser. Schindler began school in 1915 but was expelled in 1924 for forging his grades. After leaving school, he worked with his father and sold farm equipment. On a business trip to the Pelzl farm, he met his future wife, Emilie Pelzl, whom he married in 1928.

In 1935, Schindler joined the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service. He served with Abwehrstelle II’s Commando VIII unit whose headquarters was in Breslau. He was assigned to collect information on railways, military installations and troop movement in Czechoslovakia. In July 1938, the Czechoslovakia government arrested Schindler on charges of espionage and imprisoned him, but he was subsequently released under the terms of the Munich Agreement in October of 1938.

In June1939, Schindler applied and was accepted to be a member of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). He left his wife behind in Mahrisch Ostrau, Czechoslovakia, and moved to Kraków, Poland, to explore new business opportunities. During this time property belonging to Polish Jews were stripped away, including possessions, homes, and places of business. On November 13, 1939, Schindler leased Rekord Ltd, a bankrupt enamelware factory which he renamed it Deutsche Emalwarenfabrik, also known as Emalia. Schindler’s factory produced mess kits and field kitchenware for the German army. In the factory, he employed Jewish labor from the Kraków ghetto. His workforce grew from 190 in 19 to 550 in 1942 to 900 in 1943, and 1,000 in 1944. After the Germans liquidated the Kraków ghetto in March 1943, the Nazis transferred several thousand remaining Jews to the nearby Plaszow labor camp. To protect his employees, Schindler used his connections with the Schutzstaffel (SS) to gain permission to convert his factory into a sub-camp of Plaszow. His camp had its own barracks which the SS guards were prohibited from entering except on official business, thereby sparing the prisoners brutality from the camp commandant, Amon Leopold Göth.

In 1944, as the Soviets advanced towards Kraków, Schindler was forced to disband Emalia. His workers were taken back to Plaszow and soon were deported west to other camps. Later that year, Schindler relocated his factory to Brünnlitz. He argued that he needed his trained workers to accompany him. Two lists were prepared, a male list of 800 names and a female list of 300 names were submitted to the authorities for the workers to be transferred to the Brünnlitz factory . The new factory was to produce armaments, calibrated shells and casings. However, in reality, it never produced any armaments. Schindler also rescued about a hundred Jewish men and women from the Goleszow concentration camp after they were trapped in sealed train cars which their guards had abandoned. Schindler and his wife Emilie helped the prisoners who were near death from freezing. Those prisoners who subsequently died were buried with Jewish rites.

When the Soviet Army liberated Brünnlitz on May 9, 1945, Schindler delivered a speech to his workers thanking them for their service and reminding them of all that he had done for them during the war. He then requested three minutes of silence for those victims who died during the war. He received a gift from his workers, a gold ring inscribed with the Talmudic verse, “Whoever saves a single life saves the entire world.” Afterward, the Schindlers prepared to escape to the west to avoid capture by the Soviets. As a member of the Nazi Party, Schindler feared being arrested as a war criminal. The Schindlers disguised themselves as Jewish prisoners and were escorted to the Allied lines by survivors.

By the end of the war, Schindler had depleted his fortune on bribes and black market purchases. He estimated that he had spent $1,056,000 to save his Jewish workers. In 1945, he and Emilie settled in Regensburg, a Bavarian city on the Danube River but never felt welcome there as Sudeten Germans. Schindler received a sum of $15,000 from the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in 1948 for reimbursement of his wartime cost. The following year, the Schindlers moved to Argentina and purchased a farm, but by 1957 Schindler had become bankrupt. He applied to the West German compensation program Lastenausgleich, anticipating the government would pay him an equalization of burdens . The following year, Schindler abandoned his wife Emilie in Argentina to return to West Germany to run a cement business funded by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, but the company failed in 1961.

In 1962, Schindler visited Israel for the time and reunited with his Jewish survivors. He was invited to Israel by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Museum as a result of being nominated as a “Righteous Gentile.” There he would plant a tree on the Avenue of the Righteous, a memorial to the Holocaust. When he reached Israel, he was faced with controversy regarding his nomination, mainly stemming from the Wurzel-Wiener testimony against Schindler’s actions when taking over the Emalia factory. In the end, Yad Vashem allowed Schindler to plant the tree but he did not receive the full title of “Righteous Among the Nations.” In 1964, Martin A. Gosch a producer for MGM, became interested in Schindler’s story. He was eager to produce a movie which would be titled “To the Last Hour.” Schindler received an advance of $20,000 for the proposed film. However, the film was never released, and Schindler spent the money quickly. Later, Schindler was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, presented by Dr. Heinrich Lübke, on January 12, 1966. The following year, on December 4, 1967, Camille Honig , hosted a banquet in honor of Schindler and presented him with the Martin Buber Peace Prize award for his humanitarian efforts. Survivor Leopold Page and other “List” members honored Schindler at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles on January 5, 196. They established the Oskar Schindler Survivors’ Fund to provide Schindler with an income.

By 1970, Schindler was living in an apartment in Frankfurt. His health was in decline. He had suffered a heart attack and also had severe kidney problem and diabetes. On his annual trip to Israel, Schindler had met Ami (Annemarie) Staehr, which would developed into a companionship. Schindler spent many vacations with Mrs.Staehr, her husband, and son. On December 9, 1973, Schindler suffered a stroke and never fully recovered. He became paralyzed on his right side. After the stroke, the Staehr family made room for Schindler in their home in Hildesheim. In 1974, Schindler went to the hospital to receive a pacemaker, but during the operation, he went into a coma. Schindler never regained consciousness and was placed in the intensive care unit. On October 9, 1974, Schindler passed away at the age of 66 and was laid to rest in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Schindler’s story continued through the publication of Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally in 1982. The novel became an official text of Holocaust literature, which inspired Steven Spielberg to produce the film Schindler’s List that was released in 1993. When Emilie visited Israel in 1993 to film the last scene of the film, she was invited to Yad Vashem and recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations. It was not until then that Oskar Schindler also received the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Extent

14.86 Linear feet

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Dr. David M. Crowe

Accruals

Accession 2018-001-h Accession 2016-001-h

Source

Title
Finding Aid for the Oskar Schindler collection
Status
In Progress
Author
Tiana Taliep
Date
9/1/2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Oskar Schindler Archives Repository

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