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Chapter Five

The “Wiener Affair”

“Schindler called the SS. …a few SS men came and took Wiener to an adjoining office and beat him up. There were groans and screaming. When Wiener appeared he was covered in blood and wounds. The SS spoke to Schindler: “We took care of him, you get rid of him!”
Natan Wurzel, November 26, 1956.

In my Introduction, I mentioned that Schindler was a controversial figure. I think we must call into question at this early stage the darker side of his character and not rely on the highlighted events that we have come to know. I want to discuss the part he is alleged to have played in the “Wiener Affair.”

In the early part of 1940, the Aryanizing program was gathering momentum. It was now the practice that if a Jewish company became a nuisance or an obstruction to some other purpose, the Jewish owner was thrown into the street. The niceties of the law were conveniently ignored.

Schindler was now in business at 4, Lipowa Street. The Emalia factory was an imposing building which was fronted by a large entrance arch. Behind the facade were a number of smaller industrial units owned and used by independent manufacturers.

 

Schindler's correspondence obtained by the author 1992
Schindler's correspondence obtained by the author 1992

 

Viktor Dortheimer (69124) outside Emalia 1995
Viktor Dortheimer (69124) outside Emalia 1995

 

The occupier of one of these small industrial units was the Jew Natan Wurzel, born November 5, 1900, a small-time manufacturer of kitchen units. Schindler had now taken these premises over, under the Aryanizing regulations, but had employed Wurzel on the trade counter in his Emalia factory. By all accounts, although Wurzel had been ousted from business, he was at that time on good terms with Schindler.

Schindler had his eye on another business in Stradom Street, Krakow: the Chamber of Commerce Wiener, another kitchen wholesale supplier's outlet. This business was owned by the Jewish father and son, Salomon and Julian Wiener. Schindler had placed his Abwehr woman friend Marta now a Trust Administrator, into the premises. Marta may have been a proficient Abwehr agent but she utterly failed to supervise the Wiener business and, according to Schindler, was getting the run-around by the Wieners.

Both the Emalia and Wiener businesses were being used as an outlet of goods to the black market. There was a proviso that all transactions would go via the “Schindler works,” a position that Marta had failed to control. Therefore, she sought the help of Schindler. Instead of working their deals with Schindler, the Wieners were operating separately, to Schindler's disadvantage. There was one subtle difference between the two sites: Emalia was controlled by the Sudetendeutsch Oskar Schindler and party to the occupying power, while the Wiener outlet was being controled by Jews. To say the least, there was a mighty clash of interests--a falling out among thieves-- and Schindler was not about to lose the argument, not even to a Jew!

One morning when Wurzel was at the trade counter in Emalia, Julian Wiener called in to collect merchandise in order to pay off a collecting agent of the SS. According to Wurzel, Schindler was in a furious mood and was threatening to kill the Wieners. On the following morning when Julian Wiener returned to the Emalia factory, Wiener was at the trade counter. A number of SS men entered the reception area, seized Wiener, and took him to another room where he was badly beaten up. On their way out of the factory, one of the SS men said to Schindler, “We took care of him; you get rid of him.” That same day, both Wieners left their premises, leaving the spoils for Schindler.[1]

The Wiener affair became a cause celebre within the inner circles of Yad Vashem. When Schindler was nominated in 1963 to become a Righteous Gentile, questions were asked about his credentials. This is a point I shall explore later. After the war, Julius Wiener emigrated to Buenos Aires, only to find himself in the same city as the Schindlers. Julius Wiener initiated civil proceedings against Schindler for robbery and seizure of his businesses and assaults by the SS. Wurzel (who had now changed his name to Antoni Korzeniowski,) emigrated to Israel. There was an exchange of letters between Wurzel and Wiener to gather the evidence needed by their respective solicitors. After a few years, it was Julian Wiener who was to withdraw litigation due to ill health, and the matter rested. It did, however, open up old sores. It is interesting to note that on the Schindler List the name Julius Wiener (69290). born September 5, 1904, appears.. Wiener was in fact saved by Schindler and lived to take vengeance against him. To be saved by The List does not mean that that person agreed with Schindler's actions, as we shall find out later from another Jew, Joachim Kinstlinger (68861).

During Schindler's first year at Emalia, he employed about 70 Polish workers, including only seven Jews[2]. This balance gradually changed, as he employed more Jews as time went on, but not because he had a love for Jews then. Quite simply, Jews were cheaper to employ. This was a win/sin situation. Employing Jews was financially advantageous for the factory. It was also advantageous to the Jews who received the protection of the Kenkarte (Working Card), followed very quickly by the Blauschein (Blue Sticker), an endorsement of the Kenkarte. The changing nature of these working cards was to sift the work force by the gradual process of elimination.

Life for the Jews in Krakow became increasingly more oppressive. SS labor squads roamed the streets, picking up Jews for labor battalions elsewhere. Schindler had been in touch with the Jewish labor office to take on more laborers as his business grew. Sometimes he was the recipient of these SS labour squads.

Solomon Urbach (69427):

“Walking in the street I was suddenly stopped by the SS. I was taken with a load of kids to the Emalia works. We were lined up for inspection by Director Schindler. He said he would take the men but not the kids. The SS said when we bring you Jews, you keep them. The SS left and we joined Schindler. I survived because of this man”[3].

On some occasions, if Schindler was in need of a particular skill, he would go into the town and select the man or woman he wanted. This was usually done on the advice of Bankier.

Richard Rechin (69233):

“It was like falling onto another planet. Director Schindler came into the garage where I was working. He greets me and gives me his hand. He told me not to be afraid. He said he had heard that I was a good mechanic and invited me to come to the Emalia factory where I would never be hungry. I was assured he was not a bluffer.”[4]

 

Footnotes
  1. The 'Wiener' papers and statements are in the archive at Yad Vashem. Translated from Hebrew into English by Yael Richer, Tel-Aviv for the author. See also Keneally, 86/87. Working independently on this issue I find that Keneally has got it just about right. He changes the names probably on advice from his publishers. Keneally's research is very thorough.
  2. Return
  3. The share of Jewish workers employed by Schindler at Emalia 1940/44. 1940 - 150; 1941 - 190; 1942 - 550; 1943 - 900; 1944 - 1000; 1945 (Brunnlitz) - 1100.
  4. Return
  5. Jon Blair, Film Documentation Schindler, 1982.
  6. Return
  7. (1) ibid. (2) Interview by the author with Richard Rechin, Israel. 1992. Rechin played an important part in Schindler's escape from Brunnlitz after the war. He was also the man who, when Schindler died in 1974, was nominated to go to Germany and bring Schindler's body to Jerusalem.
  8. Return

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