Emilie Schindler

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Emilie Schindler : biography

22 October 1907 – 5 October 2001

World War II

Schindler’s factory at Brněnec in 2004 In 1938, the unemployed Oskar Schindler joined the Nazi Party and moved to Kraków, leaving his wife in Zwittau. There he gained ownership of an enamelware factory that had lain idle and in bankruptcy for many years and that he renamed Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik, where he principally employed Jewish workers because they were the cheapest. However, he soon realized the true brutalities of the Nazis, and the Schindlers started protecting his Jewish laborers. Initially, they saved the workers by bribing the SS guards; later, they listed their employees as essential factory workers, constructing uniforms and munitions for the Reich. When conditions worsened and they started running out of money, she sold her jewels to buy food, clothes and medicine. She looked after sick workers in a secret sanatorium in the factory with medical equipment purchased on the black market.

One of the survivors, Maurice Markheim, later recalled:

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The Schindlers saved more than 1,200 Jews from extermination camps. In May 1945, when Soviets moved into Brunnlitz, the Schindlers left the Jews in the factory and went into hiding, in fear of being caught because of Oskar’s ties with the Nazi party.

Legacy

Emilie Schindler was honored by several Jewish organizations for her efforts during World War II. In May 1994, she received the Righteous Among the Nations award from Yad Vashem, along with Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank and her family in the Netherlands during the war. In 1995, she was decorated with the Order of May, the highest honor given to foreigners who are not heads of state in Argentina. Her life inspired Erika Rosenberg’s book Where Light and Shadow Meet, first published in Spanish in 1992, and now available in English and German translations.

Marriage and life with Oskar Schindler

Emilie Pelzl first saw the handsome and outgoing Oskar Schindler in 1928, when he came to Alt Moletein to sell electric motors to her father. After dating for six weeks, the couple married on 6 March 1928, in an inn on the outskirts of Zwittau, Schindler’s hometown.