A Saint in Disguise? A deadly shot bellows through the air. People jump back in surprise. A young girl lays in a soft red puddle of blood, her shining Star of David glistening in the once delightful sun. Many glance, but most just pass on by. But one stares in astonishment. In anger. In disbelief. Though a controversial man of his time, Oskar Schindler, through bribery and lies, transformed the threatened lives of hundreds of Jews. Individuals can make a difference as far as human rights are concerned. Even though the initial motives for action may be less than honorable, the end may justify the means. The story of Oskar Schindler is a shining example. A German war profiteer of slave labor, a crook, an alcoholic, and a womanizer are all terms that have been used to describe Oskar Schindler. Why then, on his fifty third birthday did the municipality of Tel Aviv dedicate a plaque in the Park of Heroes describing him as savior of over 1200 Jews? Why was he declared a Righteous person in Jerusalem and invited to plant a carob tree in the Avenue of the Righteous? The answer is simple: To more than 1200 Jewish people held as prisoners in camps during World War II, Oskar Schindler and his factories are all that stood between them and death at the hands of the Nazis. Schindler's motives, even to this day, are not completely clear. As you learn about a man full of flaws just like the rest of us, I know that you too will appreciate the fact that an ordinary man can do extraordinary things. Oskar Schindler is a hero to over 6,000 Jews currently living across the United States and Europe. Schindler is a great example of loving one's neighbor. The people who Schindler saved made his morals a part of their life, also. Schindler motivated the Jews to be the best they could possible be. Oskar was once quoted as saying, "I knew the people who worked for me. When you know people, you have to behave towards then like human beings." Also, God's love is not selective. It is to include all people. Schindler tried to save as many Jews as he possibly could. Although he could not nearly save all, his attitudes and opinions stayed the same with every person. He wanted to help them, to feed them, to save them. Schindler performed faith with love-in-action. Instead of publicly speaking about the unfair treatment of Jews, he took many steps further. He opened up the factory, employed several hundred Jews, and put his beliefs into action. He believed that the truth will make one free, and that was the exact outcome of the war - the Jews kept their religion and pride throughout the years, and in the end, they came out successful. Oskar's father and mother, Hans and Louisa Schindler, were deeply religious. This resulted in a strong Catholic household for Schindler. The Schindler family was one of the richest and most prominent in Zwitlau and elsewhere. Schindler himself was a very tall and handsome man. Needless to say, he was adored by all the young women. His fancy, though, fell for a beautiful young girl named Emily. After only six weeks of courtship, they were married. Sadly, after only a few months of marriage, Schindler began to heavily abuse alcohol. He also had several affairs resulting in two children out of wedlock. In 1929, during the Great Depression, the Schindler family business went bankrupt. At this time, Schindler's father left his mother, and she died soon after. The picture being painted of Schindler is not exactly one of high class and morals. Indeed, Schindler was an alcoholic and a womanizer. This leads many to think, how can this man be considered a saint? What would possess him, with all of his power and money, to risk his own life to save the lives of thousands of people he has never met? How did he do it? It was no easy task. In all of this the question still remains, why? Why did he do it? The answer is that there is no answer. Schindler would never comment on what he did. He never truly gave an answer as to why he did what he did. Ludwik Feigenbaum 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. Another survivor, Johnathan Dresner suggests, " He was an adventurer. He was like an actor who always wanted to be center stage. He got into a play and he could not get out of it." No matter what anyone believes, the story of Schindler touched me. I think to myself, would I have the courage to give up my life for a bunch of strangers? Would I give up all of my comforts and riches with nothing in return? I am a bit bewildered by the story. I wish that I knew exactly why he did the things he did. Yet as the old saying goes, "Some things are better left unsaid." I think that is what Schindler believed. He saw no reason to give a why. I think that is why he is a hero. He did not want all the pomp and circumstance. He did not want the hero status. I think he saw no reason to brag about what he had done. Schindler knew what it meant to himself and those that he saved, and that is all that mattered. Saving those lives was his return for giving up all he had. He died without much fanfare. He was bankrupt and his last few years were rough. He gave up everything he owned, literally. Yet it did not matter. He gave an unselfish love, of sorts, to the Jews. Schindler is indeed a hero for many reasons. Most importantly, he helped to save a race of human beings, just like you and me. Through the actions of one man, 1200 human beings were saved. Today, 40 years later, there are over 6,000 descendants of the schindlerjuden. Oskar Schindler was faced with many choices. He began his adventure as a profiteer making millions of dollars. He spent every last cent that he had providing for and ultimately buying the freedom of "his children". In Schindler's case the end justified the means. In 1963 Oskar Schindler was named a Righteous Gentile. He was the third Christian to ever receive this honor. Moshe Bejski, who has served on the committee that decided who will be honored as Righteous Gentile, said, Schindler was unique in two ways: he carried on his rescue actions for a very long time, and he did it on a large scale." I completely agree with this. It takes a gifted and special person to be able to carry out what Schindler did, and that is exactly what he is. Author Eric Silver, who wrote The Book of the Just: The Unsung Heroes Who Rescued Jews from Hitler, once wrote, "You had to take him as he was. Schindler was a very complex person. He was against evil. He acted spontaneously. He was adventurous, someone who took risks, but I'm not sure he enjoyed taking them. He did things because people asked him to do them. He loved children. He saw all the children and grandchildren of those he had rescued as his own family. He was very, very sensitive. If Schindler had been a normal man, he would not have done what he did. Everything he did put him in danger. He could have done much less, and still qualified as one of the righteous." This insight by the author basically says it all. Schindler was a special man and others like him do not come along every day. Applying the aspects of Christian morality toward Oskar Schindler may actually reveal a saint in disguise. Schindler had his share of faults just like you and me, but in the end, his love conquered all evil. He used the Jesus Principle to act instead of using his own reactions. One may never know his motives, even his closest relatives. But that is not important. The fact of the matter is that he risked his own life to save 1200 lives. After the war, Schindler and his wife were forced to flee to Argentina. Oskar sacrificed his home, family, money, and life for the Jews. And that, in my opinion, is a great reason for Oskar Schindler to be considered a saint.
1. Hertling, Victoria. "The Making of Schindler's List." April 4, 1995. http://www.unr.edu.80/chgps/makeschn.htm. 2. Paldiel, Mordecai. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler. 1982. "Schindler's List." 1995. http://members.aol.com/rockycd/obstacle.htm. "Schindler's List." 1995. http://members.aol.com/rockycd/why.htm. 3. Gleick et al. "Requiem for a Hero." People. MAR 1994. pp. 40-44 4. Keneally, Thomas. "Schindler's List " New York: Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, 1982 5. Ottenhoff, John. "Naming the Dead. " Christian Century. 16 FEB 1994, pp. 172-175. 6. Schickel, Richard. "Heart of Darkness." Time, 13 DEC 1993, pp. 75-77 7. Silver, Eric. "A crook, a Womanizer and a Hero." Entertainment Weekly, 8. Roberts, Jack L., "The Importance of Oskar Schindler" San Diego:Lucent Books, 1996
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