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Chapter Nineteen

Conclusions

 

So,who was this “Righteous Gentile” Has Keneally told the whole story, and if he has, did he get it right?

Schindler was a naive optimist, a chronic alcoholic, a lover of women, outside his marriage to Emily Pelzl. The Jews he saved used to say, “Thank God he was more faithful to us than to his wife.” Will the enigma ever be solved? Schindler is not here to tell us, and the survivors are uncertain and differ in their opinions. The establishment and Schindler's business associates in Krakow had opposing views of his ethics and would have preferred to sit on the fence and hope the Schindler story would retreat into the archives.

Schindler's friends and enemies accept that he was a very unusual man. A few of the Jews that he saved maintain, after all these years, that they still consider him a Nazi and exploiter of Jewish slave labor. Others swear their love for the man. That he used Jewish slave labor to enrich himself is not questioned, nor are his endeavors to eventually save them.

Schindler must have been aware of the penalties confronting him when dealing in the merchandise of corruption, and if that be so, then his courage is true, too. He may have considered his Nazi friends were too corrupt and greedy, or simply too preoccupied with their own approaching doom to act against him. Even so, the calculated risk must have remained high. There is no doubt Schindler received protection from the Wehrmacht, the Abwehr, and the Armaments Inspectorate. He convinced the Wehrmacht and the Armaments Inspectorate that his works were indispensable to the German war effort. He was useful because of his infiltration into the closed and guarded culture of the SS. We must not forget that he was a high-ranking officer of the Abwehr, and, I believe, very loyal to Canaris and all that he represented.

By 1942, when the intended genocide of the Jews was apparent to him, he went on playing the game of bluff and counter bluff with the likes of Goeth and Leipold. On a number of occasions Goeth could have blown the whistle on Schindler, but he kept his own counsel. I believe that there was a true friendship between these two men and the gifts given by Schindler to Goeth were considered, by Goeth, to be the spoils of war.

The only possible conclusion seems that Oskar Schindler's exceptional deeds stemmed from just that elementary sense of decency and humanity that our sophisticated age seldom sincerely believes in. A repentant opportunist saw the light and rebelled against the sadism and vile criminality all around him. The inference may be disappointingly simple, especially for all amateur psychoanalysts who would prefer the deeper and more mysterious motive that may, it is true, still lie unprobed and unappreciated.[1]

It is a strange coincidence that my very first interview with a Schindler survivor remains probably the most enlightening and lasting image aspect of the man himself:

 

Mrs. Rosalia Kornhauser
Mrs. Rosalia Kornhauser

 

“Schindler was a man of convincing honesty and outstanding charm. Tall and erect, with broad shoulders and a powerful trunk, he usually had a cheerful smile on his strong face. His frank grey-blue eyes smile too, except when they tighten in distress as he talks of the past. Then his whole jaw juts out belligerently and his great fists are clutched and pounded in slow anger. When he laughs, it was a boyish and hearty laugh, one that all his listeners enjoy to the full. It was the personality more than anything else that saved us.”[2]

Was Oskar Schindler a “Righteous Person” The criteria I adopted in formulating my conclusions were in the form of three questions: (1) Did he save life? (2) Did he have any pecuniary interest? And (3) did he put his own life in danger?

In answer to (1), there is abundant evidence that he did save life. The answer to (2) is more difficult. The evidence suggests that in the early days of the war, Schindler did take advantage of the situation and benefited personally, but this was just a 'blip' when considering the extraordinary events that followed. There is evidence to suggest that he amassed great wealth and there is also evidence that this wealth was used to facilitate his program of saving lives. On count (2) I think a jury verdict would exonerate him on a 10-2 majority. The answer to (3) is that there is overwhelming evidence that Schindler's life was on the line on a number of occasions.

In conclusion, what of Tom Keneally's book? I have consciously avoided travelling the same road as Keneally, as my task was to independently research his conclusions. Although it was a road with many crossroads, much of the way forward had already been cleared by him, making my task that much easier. His research was exemplary. Whatever extras Keneally may have added or painted out for the sake of the novel, the essential facts are true. It was never my intention to supplant Schindlers List, only to supplement it and perhaps add by my research a basis for further study.

Acknowledgements are extended to the many individuals who have assisted my inquiries over many years. I thank them unreservedly. Many of the photographs are from the author's personal collection but many have been from scholars and institutions that have contributed to my many requests for assistance and information to whom I extend my sincere thanks.

 

Author with Mrs Schindler Jerusalem 1995
Author with Mrs Schindler
Jerusalem 1995

 

Footnotes
  1. Acknowledgements to Dr Wundheiler in her assessment of Schindler to the author.
  2. Return
  3. Rosalia Kornhauser (76335) now Pechthold and living in Raanana, Israel. Interviewed by the author 1992. The photograph was given to Rosalia by Schindler in 1944.
  4. Return

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