Oskar Schindler was a German entrepreneur. During World War Two, he saved around 1,200 Jews from Nazi concentration camps. Schindler was born on April 28, 1908 in what is today Svitavy, Czech Republic. His family was wealthy but they went bankrupt in the 1930s. After working in his father’s firm, the younger Schindler became sales director for an electrical company. In 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Schindler, then unemployed, joined the Nazi Party. Intent on profiting from the war, Schindler went to work for the German Secret Service. He moved to Krakow, Poland, where he acted as an informer.
Thanks to his contacts and diplomatic skills, Schindler was able to buy a kitchen utensils factory in Krakow for a very low price. DEF, as it was known, was later converted to produce ammunition. In 1942, Schindler witnessed a bloody Nazi raid in Krakow's Jewish ghetto. Many people, including some of his employees, were taken from their homes and deported to concentration camps. Soldiers gunned down those who tried to escape. Shocked by what he had witnessed, Schindler decided to hire Jews as a way of sheltering them from Nazi violence. On the pretext of increasing production at DEF, Schindler made arrangements with Amon Göth, who was in charge of the Plaszow concentration camp. 900 Jews were transferred from the camp to Schindler’s nearby factory. In 1944, the advance of Russian troops convinced the Nazis to dismantle the Plaszow camp and get rid of the prisoners. Schindler moved his factory to Brinnlitz, in Czechoslovakia, taking more than a thousand workers with him. The devil lay in the details. A bureaucratic error diverted the female convoy to extermination camps at Auschwitz. Schindler’s intervention turned the train back, saving all 300 women.
At the end of the war, Schindler faced accusations of collaborating with the Nazis and had to grapple with serious financial problems. He emigrated to Argentina, returning to Germany in 1958. With financial backing from the Jewish community, he attempted to set up new businesses. None were successful. On July 18, 1967, Yad Vashem, a holocaust museum in Jerusalem, bestowed on Schindler the honor of “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving the lives of hundreds of Jews. Oskar Schindler died on October 9, 1974 in Hildesheim, Germany. He was 66. Schindler was buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Jerusalem. In 1993, American director Steven Spielberg paid tribute to him with the film Schindler's List. The movie won seven Academy Awards.