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Oskar Schindler (1908-1974) was a native of Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic) and the primary focus of the Stephen Spielberg film Schindler's List. During the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, Schindler employed several thousand Jewish forced laborers in his factories, saving the lives of at least 1200 who would have otherwise been subject to extermination by German authorities.
Schindler's life changed dramatically during the war years. Beginning as a member of German intelligence, he was jailed by the Czechs in 1938. After his release, he joined the Nazi Party and profiteered greatly from the German invasion of Poland in 1939. He enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle, hobknobbing with German SS officials at upper echelon military parties. He became very wealthy by utilizing Jewish labor in his factories rather than paying normal wages to civilian workers. His astounding change began in 1943 when he witnessed the brutal murders of Jews during the roundup in the Krakow ghetto. He also saw many of his workers killed during their stay at the Polish concentration camp at Plaszow. He soon became attached to many of his Schindlerjuden ("Schindler's Jews") and found ways to protect as many of them as possible, usually by acquiring them special status "for business essential to the war effort." He soon resorted to gaining special exemptions and falsifying documents in an effort to protect his workers. He was arrested at least three times (once for kissing a Jewish girl), and he risked further punishment by selling Jewish property (marked for the Third Reich) on the black market to aid his workers. In one factory, he refused to allow his workers to make any functional munitions, falsifying records in order to cover his chicanery. He eventually spent his entire fortune bribing officials and purchasing black market items to aid his Schindlerjuden.
It was an amazing turnabout for the once money-hungry Schindler, whose post-war financial operations nearly all resulted in bankruptcy. According to his wish, he was buried in a Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem--the only Nazi Party member so honored. Schindler rarely ever commented on his motives, but he was once quoted as saying,
"I knew the people who worked for me... When you know people, you have to behave towards them like human beings."
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