Oskar Shindler: a hero who broke the stereotype

schindlerBy: Juan Ignacio Pazmiño

“I just couldn’t stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That’s all there is to it. Really, nothing more” (Shindler, n.d)

 Oskar Shindler would say this at an interview after the Holocaust, and become an icon of heroism and leadership. Although, some people discuss this because of his fame as an improbable role model, Shindler is considered a historical symbol of sympathy. He saved many Jews during the Holocaust and gave optimism to those who thought everything was lost. Oskar Shindler was a leader, a hero, and an unlikely role model to humanity; he was a war profiteer who saw the madness of the Holocaust and, like no other, rose to the highest levels of humanity by saving Jews and bringing hope in the midst of chaos.

            Above all, Shindler was a man of values, who as a leader saw the insanity of the Holocaust and became a hero. He had always been a powerful man, which led him to be a real frontrunner. He was born on April 28th, 1908, in Zwittau in Czechoslovakia to a very wealthy family; indeed it was one of the richest families in Zwittau (Bullöw,2011). After participating in several jobs he then begin working with the Office of the Military Foreign Intelligence of the German Armed Forces in 1936 (Holocaust Encyclopedia Online, 2011). There, he gained several connections with the German government, which later on helped him to save the Jews. During the Holocaust, Shindler dedicated his life saving the Jews. He rose to the highest levels of humanity, and as a hero he risked his own life in order to become their savior. Actually, he used all of his power and connections in order to deal with Jews and the Gestapo, by persuasion, bribery, fighting and begging (Holocaust Encyclopedia Online). He was able to save hundreds of Jews by employing them into his factory, and saving them from being deported into labor camps. Slowly he increased the number of Jews into his factory, by several negotiations. As well, he gave all of his conformity and riches to provide any kind of benefits to them. He is clearly a hero for he saved and protected those who were already condemned. He never answered the question of why he did it.  Ludwik Feigenbaum, a Jew saved by him, gave the best description of Schindler that made sense of his actions.

I don’t know what his motives were, even though I knew him very well. I asked him and I never got a clear answer and the film doesn’t make it clear, either. But I don’t give a damn. What’s important is that he saved our lives (Bullöw).

Shindler constantly demonstrated an example of leadership and heroism. His compassion and respect for human life led him to make such heroic acts and provide his Jews with a second chance. Ironically, he achieved it by using the same abilities that had made him a war profiteer: bribery and outstanding movements.

            Even though Shindler is a symbol and icon of compassion, he was an unlikely role model to humanity.  In his early years, before the war, his life had always been seen as that of a selfish and materialistic man. He had gained a bad reputation throughout the years, and was known as an alcoholic playboy and a womanizer of the worst kind, with no respect at all (H.E.A.R.T Inc., 2012). In the same way, when the war started, he had seen a possibility and joined the Nazi Party to become a war profiteer (Holocaust Encyclopedia Online). He was a slave exploiter, and an opportunist businessman with interests in the finest and most superficial things in life (Holocaust Encyclopedia Online). Miraculously, Shindler had opened his eyes to the reality, and was able to look at the madness of Hitler’s ideology to save the Jews. As it is described:

But slowly as the brutality of the Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror, the seeds of their plan for the total extermination of the Jews dawned on Schindler in all its horror – he came to see the Jews not only as cheap labor, but also as mothers, fathers, and children, exposed to ruthless slaughter (Bullöw).

When Shindler saw such cruelty from the Nazi Regime, he decided to stand up for the human race. He did what no other was able to do, by gathering courage and standing against the ideologies of the most evil men in the world. Parsimoniously, he went on bribing, begging and negotiating to acquire Jews for his factory. In the end, he saved 1,200 Jews (H.E.A.R.T Inc., 2012). Overall, Shindler is a perfect example of a role model. Although he had his flaws, like anyone, he was able to do the right things and cover that “Old Shindler” by having felt the sorrow of the Jews.

            His level of concern towards the protection of his Jews led him to do everything whatsoever in order to keep the Jews safe. The protection of his Jewish workers and his business dealings, led SS and police authorities to suspect him of corruption and of giving unauthorized aid to Jews (Holocaust Encyclopedia Online). He was arrested two times, but they were unable to charge him. (Holocaust Encyclopedia Online) In order to achieve the saving of his Jews, Shindler had to give all his financial stability and comfort. In his factory he provided them with the best living conditions that he could afford, he provided food, clothing, beds, company, but most important he protected them from the brutality of the camps. After World War II he became bankrupt and lived some rough years until his death (Woco Inc., 2012). Oskar Shindler did all he could in order to save their lives. His sympathy made him stand for a cause above all, and risk his life and money in rewards for people he didn’t even know.

            Jews were living a horrific and terrifying moment. There was no escape, but Oskar Shindler brought hope in the middle of chaos. Acting upon his beliefs and great courage, this man rose above evil and insanity to protect the Jews. He provided a second chance to all of them whom were saved, and with his list he gave another breath to those who were called inferior. In such darkness he provided a glimpse of light for them. His factory was known as “Safe Heaven” among the Jews (Woco Inc., 2012). As well, he had not only brought hope to the Jews, by saving them he gave hope to the world. As he saved them, the world realized that the hearted people also existed, and that not everything will be darkness for so long. He was so significant to Jews, that even when the war ended, some survivors gave him a ring that had written it “Whoever saves a single life, saves the world entire” (H.E.A.R.T Inc., 2012). Shindler represented courage, goodness, humanity, but above all he was hope in the hearts of Jews.

            Oskar Shindler not only saved the life of hundreds of Jews, he saved our faith in humanity. He is the example of a human being, who stood against madness, and as a leader and a hero, he was able to save His Jews. Being a role model and an icon of goodness he achieved his purpose of saving human lives by applying the skills that had made him a war profiteer, like bribery, negotiation, bargaining, and corruption.  He was against and refused to watch the extermination of Jews, and his consciousness of reality and strong beliefs made him a savior. Shindler was a true leader and protector for humanity; he was able to see the idiocy and immorality of the Nazi objectives to exterminate Jews, and therefore acquired consciousness and became a hero of the Holocaust by saving Jews.  He once had said: “What is there to say? They are my friends, I would do it again, over and over, for I hate cruelty and intolerance” (Shindler, 1972). He never liked to be thanked for what he did. He rather saw it as an obligation towards the morals of human life.  Although he lost his money and comforts, he doesn’t regrets a second for the saving of His Jews. This man is clearly an example of a human being; through his actions we are able to see the immensity of his heart and the power of the goodness.

3 Responses to “Oskar Shindler: a hero who broke the stereotype”

  1. elbarriostaff

    I had heard of Shindler before but didn’t exactly know how he had helped in the holocaust and the background behind all of the event. The article is very professional and its thoroughness is outstanding. I can also tell the research that went into this project and the quotes do a great job at making the article more accurate.

  2. Michaela

    Juan Ignacio, your article is very interesting. I like the idea that you write about someone as important as Shindler. It is important that you remind the reader about someone as important as Oskar, who was, and still is a hero. We can’t forget about this people that taught all of us lessons about humanity. Good job!

  3. elbarriostaff

    It is nice to get to know a lot more about Shindler in such a fun and interesting way. The article shows you a lot about the world and gives you a moral message. I can see that you put a lot of effort doing such good job with the research and the quotes gives you different points of view which I personally love.


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