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Rare Schindler Documents Up for Online Auction

Rare documents that fill in some major gaps in the story of Holocaust hero Oskar Schindler have gone up for auction online.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/8/2013, 5:17 AM

Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler
Arutz Sheva archive

Rare documents that a historian says fill in some major gaps in the story of Holocaust hero Oskar Schindler have gone up for auction online, AFP reported on Wednesday.

New Hampshire auctioneers RR Auction said the items -- including blueprints for an expansion of Schindler's factory in Poland -- are available for bidding through August 14.

The sale comes on the heels of the failure by a Los Angeles-based auctioneer to find any bidders for an original Schindler's List at a staggering $3 million.

Schindler is credited with saving the lives of some 1,200 Jews employed in his factories during World War II. He died in anonymity in Germany in 1974 at the age of 66.

The industrialist's story was the focal point of director Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List" in 1993.

Billy Livingston of RR Auction told AFP that the latest documents had been consigned to his firm -- which specializes in historic documents -- by a private collector in California.

One lot includes detailed blueprints for an expansion to Schindler's enamelware factory in Poland's second city Krakow that employed more than 1,000 Jews from a nearby concentration camp.

Dating back to 1943, and bearing the logo of German engineering firm Siemens, the plans refer to living quarters where Schindler housed his Jewish workers safe from the atrocities of the Plaszow camp.

"This is really the starting point of Schindler saving the Jews," Holocaust historian David Crowe of Elon University in Greensboro, North Carolina, told AFP.

Another document is a letter of introduction, dated August 1944 and signed in blue pencil by Schindler, for a Polish employee arranging for the transfer of the Krakow factory to Brunnlitz, known today as Brnenec in the Czech Republic.

Crowe said the letter is valuable evidence that Schindler got top-level permission from Nazi German officials to relocate his operations -- and, in turn, his Jewish workers -- sooner than previously thought.

By transferring his Jewish work force en masse to the new munitions factory, Schindler is credited with saving them from certain death in Adolf Hitler's gas chambers.

Together, the documents "fill in really important gaps in the Schindler story," said Crowe, author of "Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List," who assisted RR Auction in putting the papers into historical context.

In hindsight, Oskar Schindler was an unlikely hero.

Born on April 28, 1908 in Zwittau/Moravia (today in the Czech republic), to a middle-class Catholic family in the German-speaking community in the Sudetenland, he studied engineering and, like many other German-speaking youth in Sudetenland at the time, subscribed to Konrad Henlein’s Sudeten German Party, which supported Nazi Germany and advocated for the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and its annexation to Germany. After the Sudetenland's incorporation into Nazi Germany in 1938, Schindler became a formal member of the Nazi party.

After moving to Krakow in 1939 aged 31, Schindler made a small fortune with after taking over an enamelware factory previously owned by a member of the local Jewish community, and rose up the social ladder; socializing with leading SS commanders and other Nazi Party members. But after witnessing Nazi cruelty to the helpless Jewish community the shrewd businessman changed track - sacrificing his own fortune to employ as many Jews as possible into his workforce - by hook or by crook - as a pretext to save them from being deported to death camps.

He even risked his own life - he was arrested by the Gestapo several times under suspicion of "favoring Jews." One time he traveled to Hungary on a risky mission in cooperation with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to meet with local Jewish leaders and discuss further methods of relief.

His many acts of heroism are recorded by Yad Vashem.

After passing away in 1974 his remains were brought to Israel - where he spent much of his later years - and are buried in the Catholic Cemetery of Jerusalem. The inscription on his grave reads: 'The unforgettable rescuer of 1,200 persecuted Jews".

In 1962 a tree was planted in Schindler's honor in the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. In 1993, Oskar and his wife Emilie were recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem.

Last month, a 14-page typewritten list bearing the names of 801 of Schindler's employees -- thought to be the only one in private hands -- went on sale on eBay with an opening price of $3 million, but it attracted no bidders.

The auctioneer handling it, Eric Gazin, later told AFP that he was in "active discussions" with potential buyers.

Other copies of the list belong to museums in Israel and the United States. In 2010, a New York State judge allowed an original copy of Schindler’s original list to be auctioned off for over $2 million.

Last year, 84-year-old Aryeh Sadeh, whose life was saved thanks to Schindler, celebrated his bar mitzvah, and took the opportunity to thank his rescuer yet again.