World War 2, millions of Jews died in the Nazi death camps, but Oskar
Schindler's Jews miraculously survived Hitler's genocide. The boy Moshe
Rosenberg was one of them.
In his book The Boys - Triumph Over Adversity Sir Martin Gilbert
tells how Moshe Rosenberg, then 16 years old, was being whipped one day at
the KZ camp Plaszow by Nazi guards for daring to take a rest while
road-building. After twenty-five lashes the whipping unexpectedly stopped.
The boy looked up - and he saw Oskar Schindler. "I'll take care of
this one," Schindler told the guards, and proceeded to drag the boy
to a nearby stable.
Moshe Rosenberg later recalled: "Loud enough for the Germans to hear,
he shouted What's this shit? Then he threw some food wrapped in
paper and walked out. It was his way of smuggling food to the Jews.
Without him stepping in, the guards would have beaten me until I was
A few months later, while he was working in Schindler's factory DEF, Moshe
Rosenberg sat down for a moment. At that very moment Schindler came in to
the factory, followed by the SS Commandant Amon Goeth. Rosenberg later
recalled how Schindler "raced ahead of Goeth, grabbed my jacket and
slapped my face, shouting, Get back to work! It was an act.
Schindler never hit anyone or raised his voice. If Goeth had found me
sitting down he would have shot me on the spot."
On another occasion a young Schindler-worker Isak Pila had made the
mistake of falling asleep under a table at the factory the same day that Amon
Goeth came by for an inspection. When Goeth saw the sleeping young man, he
told Oskar Schindler to kill him instantly. Schindler desperately tried to
find a way out and hit the boy on one side of the face, then the other.
Finally he said to Goeth, 'He's had enough. I need him. We've got a war to
win. This can always be settled later ..'
Schindler's usual technique but Amon Goeth complied - and Isak Pila
In his book Schindler's Ark Keneally tells the story of the Danziger
brothers, who cracked a metal press one Friday. Oskar Schindler was
away on a business trip and someone denounced the brothers to Amon Goeth.
They were immediately arrested and their hanging advertised in the next
morning's roll call in Plaszow.
Oskar returned at three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, three hours before
the execution. News of the sentence was waiting on his desk. He drove to
the SS headquarter at once, taking cognac with him and some fine kielbasa
sausage. He found Goeth in his office and no one knows the extent of the
deal that was struck that afternoon.
It is hard to believe that the SS Commandant was satisfied simply with
cognac and sausage. In any case, he was soothed by Schindler, and at six
o'clock, the hour of their execution, the Danziger brothers returned to
Schindler's factory in the back seat of Oskar's plush limousine.
Pfefferberg was instrumental in publicizing the story of Oskar
Schindler. He and his wife Ludmilla were saved by Schindler - the rest of
his family was not as lucky. Almost 100 perished including his parents,
sister and brother-in-law.
One day, in November 1939, a man knocked on the door, and Pfefferberg
thought it was the Gestapo. It wasn't. It was Oskar Schindler, a German
businessman who had purchased an enamelware factory that had been
confiscated from Jews. Schindler had come to ask Pfefferberg's mother, an
interior designer, to redecorate his new apartment.
"I was hiding in the next room", Pfefferberg later said,
"but listening to Schindler, I knew he wasn't Gestapo. Even then I
could tell he was a good man. I began to talk to him and we became
He began to work a little for Schindler, procuring rare commodities for
him on the black market. In 1940, he met Ludmila Lewinson, and the two
were married in the Crakow ghetto, where Jews were confined. They
subsequently worked for Oskar Schindler in his factory.
Schindler promised the Jews who worked for him that they would never
starve, that he would protect them as best he could. And he did, building
his own workers barracks on the factory grounds to help alleviate the
sufferings of life in the nearby Plaszow labor camp. He gave safe haven to
as many Jewish workers as possible, insisting to the occupying Nazi
officials that they were essential workers, a status that kept many
from certain death.
"Oskar Schindler was a modern Noah", Pfefferberg said, "he
saved individuals, husbands and wives and their children, families. It was
like the saying: To save one life is to save the whole world. Schindler
called us his children. In 1944, he was a very wealthy man, a
multimillionaire. He could have taken the money and gone to
Switzerland ... he could have bought Beverly Hills. But instead, he
gambled his life and all of his money to save us ..."
After the Liberation in Mai, 1945, Poldek and Ludmila had gone first to
Budapest and eventually to Munich where Poldek - a physical
education instructor before the war - organized a school for displaced
children. Oskar Schindler, too, had settled in Munich where his best
friends, the people he regarded as "his children", were the Jews
he had helped survive.
It was there, in the midst of a card game, that Poldek Pfefferberg made
his promise, vowing he would tell the world what had happened, how even on
the days when the air was black with the ashes from bodies on fire, there
was hope in Crakow because Oskar Schindler was there: "You
protect us, you save us, you feed us - we survived the Holocaust, the
tragedy, the hardship, the sickness, the beatings, the killings! We must
tell your story ..."
Poldek Pfefferberg spent 40 years trying to drum up interest in the
Schindler-Story - and the story was told so the whole world knew it by
Mejzesz Puntierer - today Murray Pantirer - was the only one of his
family to survive. He lost both his parents, two sisters and four brothers
during the war, all murdered by the Nazis.
He himself was saved because Oskar Schindler gave him work at his factory,
provided him with food and protected him from the Nazi reign of terror.
Murray Pantirer later recalled the time a prisoner stole some potatoes:
"An SS man put a potato in his mouth. He had to stand outside like
that in the cold weather, and it was written on him 'I'm a potato thief.'
When Schindler saw it, he took the potato out of his mouth, and said to
the guy, 'go back to your work.' And he told the SS man: In my camp you
don't do those things."
World War 2 Abraham Zuckerman spent
his teenage years in Nazi concentration camps, never hearing about Oskar
Schindler until he was sent as a worker to his factory, known as Emalia,
at Plaszow in 1943.
"The moment that I arrived, I knew that my life had
changed," Abraham Zuckerman later recalls. "There was food and
mountains of potatoes. One never went hungry ..."
"The movie showed one thing, but there were other things that he did
in camp, little things," says Zuckerman. "He was a chain smoker,
so he used to take a puff and throw it away. For the survivors, the people
who were smoking, it meant a lot to them to pick it up and have a puff. He
would do it on purpose, knowing that people would pick it up."
He couldn't just give them cigarettes or extra food because there were
Nazi guards in the factory who might squeal if they witnessed behavior
deemed too humane; indeed, says Zuckerman, Schindler was arrested a couple
of times because somebody reported him.
Despite the conditions, Oskar Schindler was always a perfect gentleman to
the inmates, he says. "He bowed to you, and he said good morning to
you," Zuckerman says, which may not sound like much of a favor, but
to those beaten-down Jews, that small acknowledgement of their dignity
gave them enormous hope.
Abraham Zuckerman has devoted himself to memorializing Oskar Schindler.
Zuckerman published his memoirs in 1991. His "A Voice in the
Chorus" is a moving and powerful addition to the library of works
on the holocaust.
Gunz spent World War 2 largely under Schindler's protection: first at
Plaszow and later, at the factory in Brinnlitz, Czechoslovakia.
She later recalled how Schindler told the prisoners to dig graves to
deceive the Nazis. But he assured them he could save them and then he
disappeared for days. "We were digging the graves and thinking: This
is the end" Gunz said. Then Schindler returned.
"One day this beautiful, gorgeous man shows up with a piece of paper,
and he says: Saved, no digging anymore ... "
By 1944, when the workers on Schindler's list were transferred to
Brinnlitz, their feelings of security were unshakeable. "Doubts? No,
never!" insisted Bronia Gunz. "He was for us like God."
Ferber - today Rena Finder - was only 10 years old when the Nazis
invaded Poland. Her father was killed at Auschwitz and she and her mother
were sent to KZ Plaszow.
They began working at Emalia, Schindler's enamel and ammunition factory.
The conditions in Schindler's factory were more humane than Rena and her
mother would have encountered in any other circumstance during the war.
She later recalled that Schindler "treated us with kindness and
respect ... Schindler bribed Goeth and others to get food and better
treatment for the Jews during a time when all Germans were killing the
She later told how a Nazi guard was about to shoot her for mistakenly
breaking a factory machine - and Oskar Schindler intervened: "He
said: You idiots, this little girl could not break that machine .."
"He was wonderful," Rena said of Schindler: "He was tall
and he was handsome and he had a twinkle in his eye. He was our hero and
our God. How can you say thank you for someone who saved your life? .. I
wish he were here today so I could hug him and kiss him."
She said: "I would not be alive today if it wasn't for Oskar
Schindler, my Mother survived and so did my grandfather. It's a tragedy
that Oscar Schindler died young before the world could acknowledge his
heroism. His country men considered him a traitor, to us he was our God,
our Father, our protector."
In his book Witness The Making Of Schindler's List Franciszek
Palowski tells about Janina Olszewska, who had worked for Oskar
Schindler at his office and had known him well during World War 2. She
later told that Schindler not only saved Jews but also helped many Polish
When her husband was arrested and sentenced to death for his work with the
Polish underground, Schindler miraculously got him out of the prison and
thus saved his life.
Janina recalled once when a friend came to her in tears - the Nazis were
taking her son to slave labor in Germany. She asked Schindler for help and
he arranged the boy's release, employing him in his factory till the end
of the war.
On another occasion an escaped Polish prisoner from Auschwitz showed up at
Janina's. When Schindler was asked for help, he hired the man as his
Helen Beck, then Hela Brzeska, No. 18 on Schindler's List, was torn
from her family as teenager and was 15 when she was thrown into KZ Plaszow
a kitchen help. She later recalled the SS Commandant Amon Goeth as being
"incredible bloodthirsty - he would walk the line with his dogs and
order them to rip people apart. And after a few minutes of torture, Goeth
would shoot them in front of everyone ..."
At an evening line up in Plaszow the Nazi guard smacked Helen so hard, the
girl collapsed and the guard ordered her death. But she was spared, saved
by Oskar Schindler as she suddenly was enlisted in his work forces. Today,
she still doesn't know how Schindler did it. But the next morning in
Schindler's factory, the tall man with soft blue eyes and a Nazi lapel pin
walked by her and said: Just keep working, keep working.
Helen later recalled when she worked in the kitchen at one of Schindler's
parties. At the end of the party, in front of some of the top Nazis,
Schindler asked the Jewish servants to come out and take a round of
applause for their hard work and good service. Scared, they came out and
to their surprise, the drunken Nazis applauded them.
Only after the war, as Helen searched for her family, did she learn that
she had lost six of her nine siblings, along with her parents.
Helen Beck later said: "We gave up many times, but he always lifted
our spirits ... Schindler tried to help people however he could. That is
what we remember."
Duklauer Perl had her name on Oskar Schindler's List - No. 76235, Anna
Duklauer, Metallarbeiterin or metalworker it says in German next to her
Long before Steven Spielberg ever heard of him and decided to make his
movie, Oskar Schindler's name was kept nearly as close to Anna Duklauer
Perl's heart as the names of her own children and grandchildren. For
almost five decades, she never said much about the Holocaust or the
salvation of becoming one of Schindler's Jews. She later said:
"I just told them that, without a man named Oskar Schindler, I
wouldn't be here." But she didn't tell them the whole story until
Spielberg's movie was made.
In 1942 Anna, barely 20 years old, was sent to the forced labor camp of
Plaszow. Here the conditions of life were made dreadful by the SS
Commandant Amon Goeth. She didn't think she would survive very long, she
was beaten regularly and her life was almost unbearable.
Then one day in the laundry, in the spring of 1943, she was approached by
a small Jewish man who told her he needed women to work in the factory. Oskar Schindler's factory. "I don't know why I was chosen that
day," she later said, "It's a question I've asked myself
hundreds and hundreds of times. Why me ? Why was I chosen to live ?"
At first, Anna did not want to go and leave her sister Erna. "But she
begged me. `Go. With Schindler, there is life. You must go`", Anna
At Schindler's enamelware factory DEF Anna worked 12 hours a day,
alternating her time between making pots and pans and working in the
kitchen preparing meals. But she was away from harassment and the
killings. At Schindler's factory, nobody was hit, nobody murdered, nobody
sent to death camps.
Anna Duklauer worked at Schindler's factory until the Liberation.
"Schindler was a good man. You could tell that ... Schindler and us
grew together. And in the end, he gave away all his money." Anna
Over the years Anna heard bits of news about Oskar Schindler from others
on "The List". Unloved and unrecognized at home, he reached for
the bottle. He had become an alcoholic during the war and struggled to
wean himself off the habit. "He was like in the movie", Anne
said, "Very handsome. A ladies' man. And he had this huge ring. We
used to say you could see him coming from the light of his ring."
She didn't remember the exact day, but it was sometime in 1974 when she
heard that Oskar Schindler had died. "I think a little bit of us all
died, too", she said, "If it weren't for Oskar Schindler, we
wouldn't be here."
Another time at Schindler's factory, during an inspection by Amon Goeth
and his SS officers, the attention of the visitors was caught by the sight
of the old Jew, Lamus, who was pushing a barrow too slowly across
the factory courtyard, apparently utterly depressed. Goeth asked why the
man was so sad, and it was explained to him that Lamus had lost his wife
and only child a few weeks earlier during the liquidation of the ghetto.
Goeth ordered his adjutant Grün to execute the Jew "so that he might
be reunited with his family in heaven," then he guffawed and the SS
officers moved on.
Someone from the metal hall rushed up to Oskar Schindler's office and
alerted him. Oscar came roaring down the stairs and reached the yard just
as the SS man ordered Lamus: "Slip your pants down to your ankles and
start walking." Dazed, the old man did as he was told.
Schindler called out desperately:"You can't do that. You are
interfering with all my discipline .." The SS officer just sneered.
Schindler continued, blurting out the words:"The morale of my workers
will suffer. Production for der Vaterland will be affected." The SS
adjudant took out his pistol, ready to shoot.
"A bottle of schnapps if you don't shoot him", Schindler almost
screamed, no longer thinking rationally.
"Stimmt!" To Schindler's astonishment, the SS man complied.
Grinning, the officer put the gun away and strolled arm in arm with the
shaken Schindler to the office to collect his bottle of schnapps. And old
Lamus, trailing his pants along the ground, continued shuffling across the
yard, waiting sickeningly for the bullet in his back that never came.
On another occasion, three SS men walked onto the factory floor without
warning, arguing among themselves. "I tell you, the Jew is even lower
than an animal," one was saying. Then, taking out his pistol, he
ordered the nearest Jewish worker to leave his machine and pick up some
sweepings from the floor. "Eat it," he barked, waving his gun.
The shivering man choked down the mess. "You see what I mean,"
the SS man explained to his friends as they walked away. "They eat
anything at all. Even an animal would never do that."
Muller, today Stella Müller-Madej,
owes her life to Schindler's list. She was 14 but registered as being 2
years older and as a metal worker - all so she could survive as essential
for the war industry. Both she and her parents would not have survived
World War II without it. Aided by notes, diaries and a vivid memory, she
managed to capture her recollections of the wartime period in a book: Through
the Eyes of a Child, which has been published in eight countries. The
book deserves a place next to Anne Frank's Diary. She later told:
I’ll say is nothing poetic, but I will repeat till the end of my days
that the first time I was given life by my parents and the second time by
In ‘44 there were around 700 women transported from Płaszów, 300
of whom were on his list, and he fought for us like a lion, because they
didn’t want to let us out of Auschwitz. He was offered better and
healthier ‘material’ from new transports, unlike us, who had spent
several years in the camp. But he got us out .. he saved us ..'
Holocaust Testimonies, edited by Joseph J. Preil, the survivor
Aaron Schwartz recalls Plaszow and the slaughter of the Kracow ghetto:
I came to Plaszow the first day, they put me in a group where we were
digging a huge grave .. they brought in trucks, with children, from infant
to twelve years old. They were all killed .. when the children were
brought in, they were shot, right in that grave ..
A little girl, a beautiful blond girl, sat down in the grave, dressed in
an Eskimo white fur coat, was all bloody, and asked for a little bit of
water .. this child swallowed so much blood, because it was shot in the
neck. And then it started to vomit so terribly. And then it lay down and
it says, "Mother, turn me around, turn me around." ..
This child did not know what happened to it. It was shot, it was half-dead
after it was shot. And this child sat down in the grave, among all the
corpses, and asked for water .. it was still alive. There was no mother,
just children brought from the Cracow ghetto.
So this little girl lay down, and asked to be turned around. What happened
to it? I do not know. It was probably covered alive, with chlorine .. I am
sure, because they did not give another shot to that girl .."
one million children under the age of sixteen died in the
Holocaust - she
was one of them ...