Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, spy and member of the Nazi Party, died on 9th October, 1974. He is buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, which is quite unique. Perhaps he was one of those people in Germany during the Second World War who minted money through war beneficiaries. But what makes him stand out as a human is quite a remarkable story.
The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy. With the beginning of the Second World War, concentration camps in Germany became places where millions of innocent Jews, Gypsies and people belonging to such undesirable groups of society were enslaved, tortured and killed. During the war, new Nazi concentration camps for "undesirables" spread throughout the European continent. This is where Oskar Schindler comes into the picture.
In 1939, Schindler obtained an enamelware factory in Krakow, Poland, which employed around 1,750 workers, thousand of whom were Jews. Initially, Schindler was mostly interested in the money-making potential of the business and hired Jews because they were cheaper than Poles – the wages were set by the occupying Nazi regime. Being a member of the Nazi Party, he was a man to be feared for most of his workers. But somewhere between all of this, Schindler was a noble and an empathetic man.
When most of them were taken away to the concentration camps, his Abwehr connections helped Schindler to protect his Jewish workers. He spent millions on safeguarding them, and had to bribe a lot of the Nazi officers. Some of them were still secretly sent to Auschwitz, but he was able to rescue them. He continued to bribe Schutzstaffel (SS) officials to prevent the slaughter of his workers.
Now, you may think that as a businessman, Schindler didn’t want to lose his workers and incur loss and thus may have rescued a few Jews. But that is not the whole story. Oskar Schindler was a man who realized that the mass killing of the innocent was in no way in accordance with humanity. He had been closely observing the activities of the concentration camps and even though he was a Nazi, he was haunted with the deportation and death of the Jews. But how do we know this for certain?
After the war ended, members of the Nazi Party and the Abwehr intelligence service were in danger of being arrested as war criminals. Schindler had to escape. The workers prepared a statement he could present to the Americans attesting to his role in saving Jewish lives. He was also given a ring, made using gold from dental work taken out of the mouth of Simon Jeret, one of the Jews working for Schindler. The ring was inscribed "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." On this act of gratitude, Schindler became overwhelmed. He realized that all his life he had been running behind money. He felt that he had not completed his job, and that he could’ve saved more people if he had not craved for wealth as much as he had. Clearly the most unprecedented and humblest man in Germany’s history, Schindler was thus a beacon of light and hope for his workers as well as the wider humanity.
After he fled, Schindler faced destitution. He failed in all his business ventures. But when he died, he was buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way.
People have a million things to say about the World War II and how it was horrifying and full of murder. But Oskar Schindler’s story is perhaps the most important to tell, because it shows us that a in a world where humanity is harmed every day and in every way, even a small act of kindness often makes a big difference.