"He who saves a single soul , saves the world entire"
The Jewish Inscription on Schindler’s ring given to him by the Jews at Brunnlitz.
Oskar Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 in Svitavy, a Moravian industrial town, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many ethnic Germans lived in Svitavy, and the surrounding area, the Sudetenland.
Oscar’s parents Johann Schindler and Francisca nee Luser were both Germans from Silesia, who had settled in Svitavy, where he worked in insurance, and the selling of electrical generators for domestic purposes, and dealing with farm machinery.
A sister Elfriede was born in 1915 - Oskar was very close to her, as was his relationship with his mother. After leaving full time education, Schindler worked in the family business in Svitavy, after a short break he commuted to Brno, where he worked for an electrical company called Moravska Elektotechnica (M.E.A.S.), as a representative.
Bored with this work, he then became the manager of a driving school in the town of Mahrisch – Schonberg, which is halfway between Switavy and Mahrisch Ostrava. It was towards the end of 1927 that Schindler first met Emilie Pelzl, born on 22 October 1907, at her parents house in the village of Alt Moletein, in the area of Honeestadt, northern Moravia, some 60 kilometres to the east of Switavy.
Oskar’s visit was a business trip with his father to the Pelzl household to sell electrical equipment to Joseph Pelzl, the business calls became more frequent, and a whirlwind courtship developed.
Three months later, on the 6 March 1928 against the wishes of both families, they were married. On the very day of the wedding there was a disaster. The local police had received anonymous information that Oskar was already married. He was arrested and detained in the Switavy police cells in order that enquiries could be made.
It transpired that Oskar had for some three years been living with a much older woman, a fact that he denied to his new wife. The allegation of bigamy was malicious, but this apart, the facts were correct and this caused Emilie much heartache and she never forgave him.
Schindler started up his own business, running a poultry farm in the village of Ctyricetianu, but gave up after 6 months, unable to make any money. After a short period of unemployment, Schindler worked in Prague, at the Yaroslav Chemnitz Bank. Leaving the bank his last period of serious employment was as a representative for the Company “Opodni Ustev” in Brno, earning between six and ten thousand crowns a month.
Turning back the clock a couple of years, in late December 1936 Oskar Schindler by chance met an old girlfriend whom he had known when a driving instructor in Mahrish Schonberg. She invited Oskar Schindler to a New Year’s celebration party to meet friends whom she said were high ranking officers of the German Wehrmacht.
At this party Oskar Schindler was introduced to Wilhelm Canaris, the chief of the Abwehr – German Military Intelligence Service. Oskar Schindler joined the Abwehr on 1 July 1938 having met the Abwehr agent Peter Kreutziger, in the Hotel “Juppebad” in the village of Ziegenhais, on the German side of the Czech/ German border.
By 18 July 1938 Oskar Schindler had been arrested and charged with offences against the Czech State, he had recruited a Sudeten German police officer named Prusa, who worked for the Criminal Investigation Department in Brno.
Prusa was an alcoholic, in debt and separated from his wife, and it was Prusa who set up a meeting with Schindler at the hotel “Ungar” in Switavy, after having first reported Schindler’s activities to his superiors. The Czech Security Service arrested Oskar Schindler just as Prusa handed over material to him, at the bar in the hotel “Ungar”.
In August 1938 Schindler appeared before the Court in Brno where he pleaded guilty to offences of betrayal against the State – he was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
In October 1938 Germany occupied the Sudetenland and all political prisoners were released. Oskar Schindler resumed his Abwehr duties and was posted to Mahrisch Ostrava on the Czech/ Polish border. The Abwehr building in Ostrava shared offices with sections of the Gestapo, SD and Kripo. The head of the Abwehr in M. Ostrava was Karel Gassner, with Schindler as his deputy.
Working with Schindler in the field were Alois Girzicky, Ervin Kobiela, Hildegarde Hoheiteva and Hans Vichereek – they were all engaged in collecting and assessing information from a number of sources on the Czech/ Polish border. One of his contacts was Joseph Aue.
The German High Command had opted for the invasion of Poland but, before this could be carried out, some pretext was necessary. This was conceived in the crudest melodramatic terms, and was the work of Himmler and Heydrich for the SD and Muller for the Gestapo and this action was under the command of SS- Sturmbannfuhrer Naujocks.
Naujocks had joined the SD in 1934 and held the rank of Sturmbannfuhrer and at the Nuremburg trials, after the war. His task, he was told by Heydrich, was to make a staged attack on the German radio station at Gleiwitz, in Upper Silesia, near the Polish border.
The incident had to appear to be an act of aggression committed against the station by a force of Poles. Documentary “proof” of Polish aggression would be made available, along with German convicts decked out in Polish uniforms.
The man who was to supply the necessary equipment for this operation was Oskar Schindler. The Schindler’s apartment was filling up with large cardboard boxes, uniforms, weapons, identity cards and even Polish cigarettes. According to Mrs Schindler who was privy to her husband’s activities, their greatest problem was with the Polish Counter Intelligence Services, who were paying attention to their flat.
At Nuremberg, Naujocks testified:
“Muller declared that he had twelve or thirteen condemned criminals who would be dressed in Polish uniforms and left for dead on the spot to show that they had been killed in the course of the attack. To this end they had to be given fatal injections by a doctor in Heydrich’s service. Later they would also be given genuine wounds inflicted by firearms. After the incident members of the foreign press and other persons were to be taken to the spot.
A police report would be made – Muller told me that he had an order from Heydrich telling him to put one of these criminals at my disposal for the Gleiwitz action. The criminal in question, a Pole, was anaesthetised and brought to the radio station where he was then shot. The body was photographed on the spot for the benefit of the Press.
The attack on the station then went ahead – a Polish- speaking member of Naujock’s team broke into a broadcast in accented German – “This is the Polish rebel force, Radio station Gleiwitz is in our hands. The hour of freedom has struck!”
The attack on the radio station at Gleiwitz on 31 August 1939 was Hitler’s excuse to attack Poland and at 4.45am on 1 September 1939 the German battleship “Schleswig – Holstein” opened fire on the Polish Transit Store on Westerplatte.
By 6 September 1939 Krakow was occupied by German units belonging to the 14th Army of the Wehrmacht. General Sigmund List had secured the city, despite fierce opposition from the Polish forces.
On arriving in Krakow, Schindler and his team went directly to his apartment on the Westring, formerly called Straszewskiego Street, not far from the Wawel Castle. Schindler had bought the apartment from a wealthy Jew, and its luxurious furnishings included porcelain vases, Persian carpets and heavy velvet curtains.
Kobiela, a Trust Administrator suggested to Aue, that he should take over the import/ export business of the Jew Salomon Buchheister at 15 Straddon Street Krakow.
Ervin Kobiela took Aue to the premises at Straddon Street where he was introduced as the new administrator. Kobiela ordered the owner, Salomon Buchheister out of the premises. The remainder of the staff were all Jewish who helped Aue to understand the running of the business.
The chief accountant at the firm was Itzhak Stern who had worked for Salomon Buchheister since 1924. Aue immediately re-engaged Salomon Buchheister who became just another worker, but was treated respectfully by Aue.
At the Schindler’s apartment it was a continual round of entertaining high-ranking officers of the SS, Whermacht and Abwehr. Major von Kohrab Chief of the Polish section of the Counter Intelligence Service, had become a close friend of Oskar Schindler, and according to Emilie Schindler it was Kohrab who introduced her husband to Abraham Bankier, the bankrupted owner of “Rekord”
Schindler convinced himself it was “Rekord” he needed own, and on Stern’s advice, went ahead and applied to the Polish Commercial Court where he obtained a short lease of the bankrupt “Rekord” Company, 4 Lipowa Street.
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/schindler.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009