“If you saw a dog going to be crushed under a car, wouldn’t you help him?” – Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler was born into a German family in the Czech Sudetenland on 28 April 1908. He joined the Nazi Party at the age of 30, following the absorption of the Sudetenland into the Third Reich. He was an affluent buisness man and recognised the profits to be made from wars and therefore took over a enamelware factory (Emalia) in Krakow in the autumn of 1939. Anti-Semitic feeling and action in Poland escalated swiftly following the Nazi invasion. Mass shootings were carried out throughout the country and those Jews who survived the exodus from their homes were crowded into sealed ghettoes. Although Schindler remained a member of the Nazi Party, he became increasingly opposed to the violent persecution of Jews and by late 1942, 370 Jews from the Krakow ghetto were among the workers employed in his factory.

Oskar Schindler also produced a lot of ammunition in his factory. He used this as an argument during the mass deportations to convince the german officials to let him keep the jews that were working in Emalia to ensure the rapidity of the massproduction. After the liquidation of the jewish ghetto in Krakow, Oskar schindler established a sub camp to protect his workers form the harshness of the Third Reich.

By late 1944 at least 1,000 Jews were working for Schindler, in relatively humane conditions compared to the deprivation of other labour camps. As one of his workers later reflected, ‘we were hungry, but not starving. We were cold, but not freezing. We had fear, but we were not beaten.’  With the advance of Soviet troops from the East, however, the evacuation of all Jews in the Krakow-Plaszow area was ordered. Over 20,000 people were sent to extermination centres, but Schindler obtained permission to relocate his workers to another factory in Brünnlitz, back in the Sudetenland. Several versions of the now famous list were drafted that named over 1,000 Jews who would continue working for him at this location, where they survived for the rest of the war.