Liam Nisson as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg "Schindler's list" has received many nominations for prestigious awards in the world of cinema, but the image he created has nothing to do with the actual character.
When I went to watch a movie "Schindler's list", I did not expect that I would seriously and for a long time take up the study of the biography of his protagonist. But the Hollywood image of an elegant Nazi, in a silk shirt and a suit with a needle, who was engaged in only one thing throughout the war - saving Jews - seemed so perfect to me, and his exploits were so heroic that I doubted it. I doubted the veracity of the tale of a noble Nazi, since some of the film's provisions seemed incredible to me in the light of the occupation reality, which I, fortunately, did not experience, but which, unfortunately, fell to the lot of many of my relatives and friends.
Why, studying history World War II and being a frequent visitor to Poland, have I never met this name? Why didn't leading Polish Holocaust experts like Władysław Bartoszewski, Zofia Levin or Agatha Patalyas write about him? Why is he not mentioned by world-renowned researchers of the problem like Eli Wiesel, Philip Friedman or Mark Matsover? Why the well-organized Krakow branch of the Jewish Aid Council "Zhegota" does not have any information about the merciful deeds of a certain Oskar Schindler?
It turned out that I was not the first to ask such questions. Already in 1995, the former commandant "Zhegoty", Stanislav Vincenty Dobrovolsky, on the pages of his memoirs named the story about Oskar Schindler
"The exaggerated legend of the opportunistic guardian of the Jews, who actually paid for the salvation of their bare lives with their own slave labor for the occupiers."
Dobrovolsky's opinion was published with censorship bills, and even then the enthusiasts of the newly-minted hero made every effort to scream him.
But the story of Thomas Kennelly "Schindler's list" published in thousands of copies in many languages of the world. The director Steven Spielberg, who was received in Krakow with ingratiating devotion, took up the filming without bothering himself with a test of the historical veracity of Kennelly's story. He even softened her anti-Polish accents. And in the film, the Jews wandering in the ghetto are not thrown by filth and no one makes fun of them. And no one in the film says the iconic phrase that the Poles hate Jews so much that Jews will live much better in the ghetto.
But me "Schindler's list" interested not in how he represents Polish-Jewish relations - offensive for Poles, according to film critics. I was interested in the personality of the hero itself, or rather, in the technology of its manufacture at the factory of monuments to them. Steven Spielberg.
Blatant lie about the crook
The long journey in the footsteps of Oskar Schindler has come to an end, and I can write with responsibility for my words that his story is not a "fanned legend", but a blatant lie from beginning to end.
I didn't think that the personality of Oskar Schindler would take away so much of my time and money, and that I would write more about him than a second line on my website. But over time, I realized that Kenally and Spielberg had piled up such heaps of lies that fighting them out required more extensive, more comprehensive, and better documented work. And even when I took it, I wondered if I was giving too much honor to such a worthless person as Oskar Schindler? Am I swinging at something that is beyond my strength, trying to topple this monument where it belongs - into the garbage pit of history?
The real Oskar Schindler. Even his appearance has nothing to do with the cinematic image. (Yad Vashem Institute)
The uncritical creators of the legend and their exalted singers called him "Noah from Krakow", "The Builder of the Ark", "The Angel of Life". I had to travel 450 kilometers to find out that in his youth his name was completely different. Through Vienna and Brno, I came to Oskar Schindler's hometown of Svitava. At the time of the gallant soldier Schweik, the city was called in German - Zwittau. The industrial village of Brnenets, or Brunnlitz in German, is located 20 kilometers to the south. Here it is - the Promised Land, where Noah from Krakow took his Jews. I had to see them with my own eyes: both Svitavy and Brnenec.
The Svitavy make a nice impression: the fabulous architecture of old houses with arcades surrounds the elongated, elliptical market in the center.
- Have you heard about Oskar Schindler? - I asked worriedly at the first oncoming passer-by.
- Schindler? Gauner? But how! A monument to him was erected in Svitavy. A sweet elderly man with an unshaven stubble of a red beard smiled at me good-naturedly and showed me the way to the monument.
Gauner? This is a German word, but it turns out that it is also known in the Czech Republic. Gauner means a rogue, but there are also worse synonyms: a rogue, a bloodsucker ...
Monument to the rogue
That's right: to the left of the neo-Gothic building of the city government, near the school is a fork. To the right the road leads to Litomyšl, to the left - to Polička. This is the former Iglauerstrasse. The monument should be somewhere in the park, opposite the house where our saint was born. Here it is - a very beautiful obelisk with the Star of David in the middle. The inscriptions are in two languages - Czech and German. Dates of birth and death. The monument was opened by the Chief Rabbi of Prague, Ephraim Karel Sidon, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jizi Dienstbir.
- Why here? - I asked a fat lady passing by.
- How why? Someone needs to inflate the problem of the Sudeten Germans! See - the inscription in German ?!
I didn’t mean that at all, but the fat lady had already disappeared. And here is the home of our saint - across the street. Rebuilt many times, with two Venetian windows on the first and second floors. That's the whole "beautiful villa" over which Kennelly touches. I decided to call to find out why the obelisk was installed in the park, and not near this house. Someone answered on the intercom. I asked my question. There was a long, long silence. Finally, a hoarse baritone full of indignation cried out:
- Schindler ?! Gauner?! Fascist?! In our house?!
Svitavy. Monument to Oskar Schindler. The inscription in Czech and German reads: “Oskar Schindler. An unforgettable savior of the lives of 1200 persecuted Jews. " (Photo by the author.)
The intercom stopped. Later I found out that it was they - the owners of the house - who did not give permission to install the obelisk at their place. And they are not alone. The Czech Union of Freedom Fighters made an official protest:
Why does a Czech city need to extol a German, a fascist, an agent of German intelligence ?!
The freedom fighters do not believe that Schindler actually saved 1200 Jews from the Brunnlitz camp.
The branches of Gross-Rosen are said to have worked for the German war industry until the last day. Where there was no time to undertake the "evacuation" of prisoners - and there were many such camps - all the Jews survived. Where is Schindler's merit? But freedom fighters wrote one more phrase than is allowed in the free world:
If his deeds are so highly regarded in Israel, let his memory live on in Israel and among the Jews scattered around the world.
This declaration was recognized as nationalist. Signals were sent to independent media outlets to drown out criticism.
In the Svitavy Local History Museum, no one denies Schindler's merits. There, the salvation of 1200 Jews is unconditionally recognized as a fact. A bearded, unexpectedly playful, middle-aged historian, Dr. Miloslav Shtrikh even prepared a list of 25 points listing the main stages of the saint's life. This is in case an eccentric wandered there, who would like to know more about him.
The next day I spent in the cool walls of the museum, making my way through its archives. I also diligently rewrote St Schindler's Life of Strokes. Basically, it supports the official line and, rather, shows the Svitava "fellow countryman" in a good light, but one cannot fail to notice some of his ... um ... weaknesses ...
The myth of the holy fascist
I started with the pedigree - himself, his parents, his parents' parents ... Birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates ... And then I went to the pub, where, over a glass of excellent Pilsen beer, I was sad that the truth does not always look like this, as we imagine it. I expected to meet a dignified, bourgeois family, a father - a secular man, according to Kennelly, and a magnificent wedding, which, of course, preceded the birth of the saint. A white brick church, white ladies' dresses, city fathers who came to the main market to congratulate the newlyweds ...
Why stir up old archives? Djinn are hidden in them, overthrowing legends.
Oskar Schindler's father, Hans, was a peasant son who settled in the city for the first generation. He drove around the outskirts and traded in various agricultural products and machines. In the hot summer of 1907, he visited his native village of Lachnov, in German Lotschnau. The trip was not fruitless. And by the fall, the local girl Franziska Luser was already desperately rushing to the altar with a strongly convex figure. Even if she was the daughter of a simple builder and worked in a tobacco factory, it was impossible to appear in such a form in the ordinary Svitavy.
The wedding took place hastily and quietly in Brno, in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, on 12 October. And then - the gray reality of earning a livelihood. Because in reality there was neither a nice villa on the outskirts, nor a factory of agricultural products, nor 50 workers, nothing that Kennelly lists with affection on the pages of his story ...
From the very beginning, we are dealing with a myth.
The son of a traveling salesman was born on April 28, 1908. He studied in elementary school, and then in a real gymnasium. He had a sister seven years younger with the double name of Elfriede-Gertrude. Not only German names - parish books in Svitavy at that time were also kept in German.
The fifth item of the "Stroke list" from the Museum of Local Lore says that in 1924 the saint was kicked out of the fourth grade of a real gymnasium for falsifying some documents. Then the nickname stuck to him Gauner... And the mythical relatives of Rabbi Kantor were not at all his great friends, as the legend of Thomas Kennelly wants. At the age of 16, with a wolf ticket, Schindler left Svitavy and tried to enter a construction school in Brno. But Shtrikh says he has no specific data. The saint himself in his biography compiled for the Institute Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, claimed to have graduated from a driving school in Sumperk. It is not far from Svitav. But this Czech avtoškola, they were just courses for obtaining a driver's license. And he graduated from them only in 1928!
And, in general, the young Schindler did not have time to study, since cars and heifers appeared in his life. The court biographer of Saint Schindler writes:
In his final school year, Oscar was racing around town in a 500-cube red Galloni.
Of course, the last grade in the gymnasium was the eighth grade. Only for Oscar, the fourth was the last.
In 1924-1927, he helped his father sell agricultural machines and drove around the surrounding villages, offering some a mower, some a thresher, and some a new tractor. Red Galloni growled deafeningly in the narrow streets of the old town, and a new girl fell apart on the back saddle every time. In cafes and restaurants, wine and vodka flowed like a river. Advances and debts disappearing into the pockets of the young Schindler, every time at home caused scandals between him and his father, to the despair of the compassionate mother. But father and son continued to drive around the neighborhood - sometimes even together - and sell their cars to peasants.
So they got to the village of Moletin, where they tried to sell the tractor to a wealthy owner named Pelzl. But Oscar had no time for the tractor. He noticed not a bad girl and started flirting right off the bat. Moreover, the girl graduated from a respectable church school and had half a million marks of dowry! One could even seriously think about love and marriage, which was done. We know this from the words of Emilia herself, who until 2001 lived in San Vicente, Argentina. Again, everything is different from the Australian fabulist!
In Argentina, Emilia kept marriage photos. In March 1928, she was somewhat bodily, but in a white dress. Below the groom's head and six months younger than him. The photographs do not show the expression on the face of her father, who is recorded in the marriage certificate as a landowner from Moletin (Grundbesitzer in Alt Moletein). But it is known that he was not delighted with this marriage. But she was delighted with the Oscar. Here he is, next to her in marriage photographs, a tall, thin Aryan with a Nordic face, squinting like an angel. You can't say that in reality this whole show was started because of half a million marks ...
This is how Oskar Schindler entered adulthood. Until now, he lived with his parents in a house at Iglauerstrasse 24 and helped his father sell agricultural machines. Now the newlyweds moved to their own house in Svitavy, and Oskar immediately lowered his young wife's dowry onto a new motorcycle - the coolest Moto-Guzzi 250...
In the evenings, the Svitavy become quiet and sleepy. Dreams of tourists, mass pilgrimages to the cherished Schindler's places did not come true. In front of the hotel SlaviaIn the main market, there are several mid-range cars and one motorcycle parked. Only two tables are occupied on the terrace of the hotel cafe. But I settled in this hotel for a reason: before the war it was called "Ungarn", and this is of great importance for the further narrative.
But so far I have looked through the notes about Saint Schindler, who at that time was still neither a saint, nor even an Equal-to-the-Apostles. In general, he was far from being chaste. The year was 1928, which brought many events. The wedding is in March. Then a motorcycle. Moto-Guzzi 250 at that time it was chic - Italian, modern, unique. On it, Pietro Gersi achieved his greatest successes in Italy, and outside Italy, only two Germans, one Hungarian and one Pole had such a motorcycle. Such a motorcycle was worth a fortune.
Family idyll. Oskar Schindler driving a car; with him is his father, father-in-law, mother-in-law and an unidentified relative. In fact, the Schindler family life was far from idyllic, and the photograph is known on the Internet in a cropped form. (E. Rosenberg. Ich, Emilie Schindler. Erinnerungen einer Unbeugsamen... Herbig, 2001.)
Skipped Emilia's dowry - both fathers decided and excommunicated Oscar from cash and credit. But Moto-Guzzi 250 was already purchased, and Oskar with great pleasure rode it through the narrow streets of Svitav. Most willingly, he left his motorcycle in the parking lot in the market to show off his peers and girls. But his wife was somehow not observed with him ... Instead of going on a honeymoon somewhere in the mountains or to the sea, he preferred the dusty roads and the company of his Moto Guzzi... The crackle of the engine and the smell of gasoline hit him in the head. And now Oskar Schindler was dreaming about the career of a glorious motorcyclist. Barely two months have passed since the wedding, and he has already taken part in the Brno - Sobieslav races on a difficult alpine track. Dr. Shtrich even unearthed the exact launch date: May 13, 1928. Oscar himself claimed to have taken third place then. I did not find any confirmation or refutation of this statement, but in the archives of sports magazines I did not find any mention of these races. They were probably only of local importance.
Big things are intertwined with small ones. Sport is strangely intertwined with politics. By the end of the 1920s, agents of the Reich were already operating among the Sudeten Germans. At the same time, the first nationalist organizations appeared. The official activity of the influential Volksport - the recruitment of young people, the organization of competitions and the first harbingers of a new ideology began:
Abwehr Pelikanov's agent
"We, the Germans, stand above this Slavic cattle!"
Events moved rapidly. And already in 1931, athletes from Volksport T-shirts with a swastika were seized. And then, at their meetings, shouts were heard:
Adolf Hitler, free us from Czechoslovakia! (Adolf Hitler, mach uns frei von der Tschechoslowakei!)
But not before Fuhrer seized power in Germany.
Item 13 on the "Stroke List" talks about a motorcycle competition in some Altwatter. And a big question mark, since the date of the competition is unknown. The area with the name Altvatter also does not exist. Most likely, we are talking about Altwasser - Stara Voda near Marianske Lazne. There Schindler allegedly miscalculated: on the penultimate race he thought he was the last and slowed down. The victory was in his pocket, but the pocket was full of holes. Nevertheless, he was greeted.
These motorcycle races are just an ornament on the gray youth of the saint. And time flies. And now he turned 20 years old. And he's already married. Where is his young wife Emilia? Did she expect him every time with a heartbeat at the finish line? And were they, these finishes? Kenally himself noticed in the pages "Schindler's List"that Oscar liked to embellish. Emilia claims that this is poorly said: he knew how to blatantly lie. And this ability was appreciated.
Six months after the wedding, Oscar received a summons from the army. And he, instead of enjoying his wife, pranced on a motorcycle and even went to Sumperk to get a driver's license. That "driving school" had the honor of becoming the only educational institution that Schindler graduated from, apart from the four grades of the gymnasium, of course. But why such a rush to get a driver's license? Most likely, he already dreamed of his own car, but for now Oscar had to be content with a military gymnast and the steering wheel of an army truck. This is item 14 on the "Stroke list": 18 months of service in the motorized forces, 31st Infantry Regiment.
And then the word first appears Abwehr. True, Fuhrer has not yet come to power, the year is still 1928. But German intelligence was in full swing. In Svitavy they drew my attention to the following circumstance: why did Oskar go to Sumperk, 65 kilometers from Svitavy, to get his driver's license?
Is it because a certain Ilsa Pelikanova lived in Shumperk - an agent Abwehr?
The driver's license was supposed to provide Oskar Schindler with service in the motorized troops, and Pelikanova was supposed to give him instructions on what to look for and how to transmit information. This is probably how the beginning of his collaboration with Abwehr... But only likely.
The saint returned from the army in 1930 - at the height of the economic crisis - and got a job at the MEAS electrical engineering company in Brno. I will never believe that he was the sales manager. Most likely, we are dealing here with a tendency to "embellish" both Schindler and Kennelly.
How could a young man, with no education, no experience in electronics, get such a high position?
The very fact that he got a prestigious job in the midst of the global economic crisis indicates that someone was behind him who pushed him upstairs. One can only guess who: German nationalist organizations, Sudeten Germans entering into force, maybe even himself Abwehr, whose tentacles spread across Czechoslovakia incredibly densely.
Abwehr Schindler's agent in Berlin?
And suddenly - a gaping hole in his biography: in 1931 Oskar Schindler spent several months in Germany, in Berlin itself. This is item 16 on the "Stroke list". Where does this Berlin come from, if we discard the likelihood of cooperation with Abwehr? After all, in Germany he had neither relatives, nor did he ride a motorcycle. And then point 17 - throughout 1932 Oskar Schindler did not work anywhere.
Where have you been? What have you been doing?
It wasn't until 1933 that Schindler founded a chicken farm on the outskirts of the Svitavy. Six months later, she went bankrupt. Not only she, but also his father's enterprise. If it were (according to Kennelly) a factory employing 50 workers, its bankruptcy would have left a significant mark on the history of the Sweets. Just think - 50 families without a livelihood!
Fortunately, this was only a private trade in agricultural machinery. And it is not even known whether anyone other than the Schindlers worked there. Then, after a double bankruptcy, in the same 1933, another family scandal. Diligently hidden, he nevertheless leaked into the rumors of a small town.
A certain Aurelia Schlegel gave birth to a daughter named Edith on February 20, 1933. Rumor has it that this is the illegitimate child of Oskar Schindler, who at that time allegedly lived with his wife in separation. In 1935, the same Aurelia gave birth to a boy who was given the name Oscar. There is no evidence of the birth of both children in Svitavy. But Dr. Shtrich does not stop searching. He wants to see with his own eyes whether Oskar Schindler is recorded there as a father?
Kennelly lingered on the relationship between father and son Schindlers for a long time. In the book, it's Oscar, of course. The noble one who scolds his father for allegedly leaving his mother in 1933. But there is no evidence for this. But that Oscar left his wife, lived with her in separation and produced illegitimate children, albeit circumstantial evidence, but there is.
So, maybe the father had more reasons to scold his son?
Franziska Schindler died in 1935. According to the parish books - from tuberculous meningitis (meningitis tuberculosis). Oscar was at her funeral, but stood apart from his father, whom he accused of the same thing that he himself did in relation to his wife. Yes, and during the war he left his father to the mercy of fate, despite the fact that he himself led a truly fabulous life.
Old Hans Schindler died after the war in complete poverty in a displaced persons camp at Kisslau near Eichstätt in West Germany.
But the inhabitants of Svitav remember the mother's funeral for completely different reasons. Exactly then Gauner Schindler first appeared in public with Konrad Henlein's Sudeten German party badge in his buttonhole. It was called the Sudetenland-German Patriotic Front (Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront). And in Svitavy, its activists were Julius Honig, Otto Hørash and Rudolf Tirolt.
Konrad Henlein himself appeared more than once in Svitavy at public meetings. In 1934, a meeting of many thousands gathered in Svitavy. Another in 1936. Join the Sudetenland to Germany! Soon, bombs began to explode in the homes of local Germans, but so that no one was accidentally killed. Attacks on the Germans became more frequent, but so that they got off with a slight fright. In German farms, fires began to arise, in which little was burned. All the same, the Czechs will pay for everything, but for now it is necessary to shout to the whole world how they cruelly persecute peaceful Germans.
Adolf Hitler, free us from Czechoslovakia! (Adolf Hitler, mach uns frei von der Tschechoslowakei!)
In this choir there was also a solo for Oskar Schindler. Anti-Semitism played an important role in the program of the Henleinists. In 1936, Rabbi Kantor, frightened by the impunity of the Nazis, left for Belgium with his entire family. Kennelly is attracted by the legend of Oskar Schindler's friendship with the sons of Kantor. What? Did they go to school together? They could very well hate each other!
Oscar again spent the winter from 1936 to 1937 in Berlin and Dresden. This is item 24 on the "Stroke list". He is already directly related to Ilse Pelikanova, with whom Schindler had an official relationship - they were both active and experienced agents. Abwehr.
Item 25 on the "Stroke List" took me to Brno, where from the beginning of 1938 Oskar Schindler worked in a commercial bank (Obchodná Banka) on Veresi street, 30.
And then ... the big white spot.
But do we really know nothing about Schindler's life in 1938?
This text was written in 1999-2001 for publication on the now defunct author's website. Hereinafter, references to persons with whom the author met and talked then may not be relevant at the present time.
All quotations, unless otherwise specified in the text, are given according to the edition of T. Kenally. "Schindler's list"... Erica, 1994, which lacks significant fragments of the English original. The missing fragments are cited in the author's translation from Th. Keneally. Schindler's List... Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Other sources and literature:
SW Dobrowolski. Memuary pacyfisty... Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1994.
Historie, falšovaná Oscary: Do Evropy po Schindlerových zadech. Republika, (9.5. – 15.5.), 1994.
E. Rosenberg. Ich, Emilie Schindler. Erinnerungen einer Unbeugsamen... Herbig, 2001.
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