Did Oskar Schindler make a difference in history?

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Oskar Schindler's story was not well-known after World War II (1939–1945). World War II, the largest and bloodiest conflict in history, usually overshadowed the noble efforts of determined individuals. The horrors of the Holocaust were so monstrous that the heroism of one person is easily forgotten. In fact, Schindler's deeds were not well-known until the first-rate film Schindler's List (1993) popularized them.

Nevertheless, Oskar Schindler did make a difference. He tried to do the right thing, and he risked his life and fortune. (There were some other Germans—such as those behind the 1944 Hitler assassination plot—who stood up for what they believed and risked everything.) There was nothing extraordinary about Schindler other than his salvation of more than one thousand Jews; but that was more than enough. He was an ordinary man who showed extraordinary determination.

Although Schindler could not prevent the Holocaust, he reaffirmed our faith in humanity. There may be other Oskar Schindlers whose stories are lost to history, but that does not diminish Schindler's heroism.

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While Schindler did not greatly alter the course of the war, it is absolutely fair to say that he did as much as any individual could do in terms of changing history. Though his actions were more local than global, Schindler started by going slightly out of his way for his Jewish employees. Soon, he was completely risking his life and well-being for the safety of as many Jewish lives as he could influence.

Schindler's life proved that even in the face of adversity from one's entire nation, no act of selfless compassion is too small to change a life and eventually snowball into a massive historical difference. Schindler and his wife were given multiple honors by Israel and even buried on Mt. Zion, so it is quite clear that in the opinion of the Jewish people, Schindler certainly did make a historical difference.

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Oskar Schindler made a huge difference in history by saving the lives of over one thousand Jewish prisoners during the Second World War. Schindler was a successful German businessman and industrialist with close links to the Nazi regime. He exploited those links to get Jewish prisoners to work in his factories. In this way, Schindler was able to prevent them from being sent to the concentration camps where so many other Jews had already been murdered. Schindler paid increasingly large bribes to senior SS officers and officials to keep hold of his Jewish workforce, thus saving them from almost certain death.

After the war, Schindler experienced numerous setbacks in his business career and often had to rely on financial support from those Jewish prisoners whose lives he'd saved. When he died in 1974 he was buried on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the only member of the Nazi Party to be given such an honor. Almost twenty years later he and his wife were named Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government, an honor bestowed on those Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

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Schindler was not a statesman, a politician, or a great military leader, indeed he was not that remarkable a businessman. He did not alter the sweep of World War II. Yet Schindler, though his actions, saved hundreds of Jews from certain death. In doing so, he squandered his own wealth and risked arrest and even possible death. After the war, he was instrumental in helping identify Nazi war criminals. In short, Schindler did as much as anyone could have asked a person in his situation to do, and as the ring his workers presented him said, "He who saves a single life saves the world entire." Schindler is an example of how individuals, acting through their own agency, can make a difference even under the worst of conditions.

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