The Man And The Myth
I suppose history has to be full of unexplained coincidences that perhaps changed the world or more importantly, many people's own lives and not always for the better.
For example, Mr. Rolls was perhaps introduced to Mr. Royce by a Rothschild or one of his hirelings, it seems, and the motor trade was never be the same again. Maybe if Bonny Parker had never crossed paths with the outlaw Clyde Barrow, both would not have perished in a hail of leaden law enforcement bullets in 1934 in Louisiana. And without Gilbert’s close collaboration with Sullivan, well, there would never have been the merry Mikado (my favourite) or the perfect Pirates of Penzanze. Or if Learner had not teamed up with Lowe we would never have been introduced to the young naïve sparkling "Gigi" nor journeyed to the atmospheric "Brigadoon" and "Camelot", musically speaking of course. And what about their wonderful rhyming couplets such as You did it from My Fair Lady. I also have to mention Friedrich Engel’s life-saving financial raft of sweatshop money from Manchester frequently thrown to Karl Marx and his destitute family (bad news). Rodgers without Hart would have denied us some of the most poignant lyrics of the 20th century.
Yet the King James Bible translation is still the world's best-selling of all the so-called other bibles in spite of all the wicked damage of the evil Messrs Westcott and Hort who tried to inflict upon this sacred book their own occult views since they teamed up in 1853.
The Australian novelist Thomas Keneally’s fortuitous encounter in California in 1980 occurred when he entered an expensive air-conditioned leather goods shop (it seems he was searching for a new briefcase) then situated in the upmarket Beverly Hills area. This allowed the Australian author to meet the late Leopold (Poldek) Pfefferberg, the then jovial employer of this emporium. I suppose that what he was about to learn about Oskar Schindler was always going to encourage him to exercise his literary skills in informing the world about the war-time tales and exploits related to the colourful life and misfortunes of the late Oskar Schindler. The persuasive Polish prose of this storyteller must also have captured this Australian's imagination as well. Poldek Pfefferberg informs him very dramatically that: "I have a story for you for the theme of a book."
I wonder how often most successful authors have had those familiar words thrown at them in their careers, I suggest most probably have. Yet Thomas Keneally after listening intently to his host’s tale announces to him later that: "I'll write this book," and he did. It took him two years before it was accepted and published. The story, if you did not know, is of a German Nazi named Oskar Schindler who rescued over a thousand defenceless Jews and others from liquidation in war-torn Poland.
It is my usual practice to try and assimilate, if possible, the lives of the subjects I have written previously about for our newsletter. But not so with the gregarious secretive Oskar Schindler, a charmer and chameleon and criminal who strode the cobbled streets of war-time Krakow like a titan, and perhaps something of Oskar’s own overpowering personality still lingers today in that charming city rather like an overpowering cool-mint aftershave that won’t go away.
It seems this was the preparation for Thomas Keneally concerning Schindler’s life as he was about to hear the story of Oskar Schindler's amazing life firsthand from those who had also known and loved him, but the projected book and its outcome would be his own testimony to the legend that became Oskar Schindler.
Years ago, before the intrusion of that familiar PC arriving into the home, a novel or book first saw life on a blank sheet of A4 paper secured into perhaps an Underwood or Adler typewriter set out before a concentrating author and situated on his crowded desk, probably next to copious spiral notebooks. Or before that, successful writers' were familiar with a quill pen and heaped pile of lined paper. Some have even dictated their own works of fiction to a pen-poised nervous secretary with the author reclining on the luxury of a chesterfield velvet chaise lounge sipping chamomile tea whilst awaiting inspiration, of course. Other writers were remembered by pacing back and forth furiously, smoking Henri Winterman cigars and dictating furiously in an oak-panelled smoke-filled study to a coughing typist.
Interestingly, Mr. Keneally originally prepared all of his own manuscripts in longhand then later posted them to a professional typist to "be typed up" then to be returned in order for the author to read and correct before being dispatched to a waiting publisher. Once this author himself acquired a computer, it seems the typist was herself finally made redundant and later purchased or managed a family video store; it’s called 'progress,' or so I'm informed.
Originally titled "Schindler’s Ark" there was, it seems, some religious opposition at the time to the Biblical use of this title because of the word "Ark," and I agree with that. Many others thought this was perhaps a reference to the "Ark of the Covenant.” However, the title "Schindler’s List" would be inserted and used for promotional purposes for the film’s future debut in 1993. I remember the film’s premiere very well when both James and myself were invited to a screening in a cinema in....my! Where have those lost years gone to!?!
I noticed that Thomas Keneally’s book Searching for Schindler, published in 2007, blasphemed God nearly eight times in the first dozen or so pages, and there is also a crude reference to Jesus Christ from the ever-obliging Polish shop owner that is recorded. I very much object to this blasphemy, most strongly in fact, and it seems to be the norm in every "Hellywood film" nowadays to bring in shovels of it from the overpaid screenwriters. I do wonder if they get paid extra for this unpleasant task. So, guys take on Buddha or Muhammad or Allah! Then let’s see how tough you are then with your cheap blasphemy.
As a young man, this Australian author spent six years in catholic seminary or cemetery training to be a priest before he left and entered the teaching profession, as so many other men before him seem to do, leaving the seminary chapel for the school staff room. He should also be aware of the significance of the fourth Commandment and how very seriously God takes wicked insults of His Son’s sacred name and many times brings deserved punitive punishment with selective divine retribution on those bigoted blasphemers’ destined for Hell and rightfully so, should they never repent!
For his literary research, Keneally and Poldek journeyed to Poland and there took in both the cities of Krakow and Warsaw, Auschwitz and the KL Camp of Plaszow, in the 1940s under the cruel command of Amon Goth (more on him shortly). A further journey by the author to Vienna to try and locate any traces of the Goth family proved fruitless. They also visited the factory that Schindler operated from, which is still standing. Here Schindler was able to employ and save many Jews from being deported to the assorted death camps. Those Jews who survived the war would later call themselves "Schindlerjuden" (Schindler Jews), and with pride.
The pair would later journey to Israel, of course, and visit Oskar Schindler’s grave located at Mount Zion in Jerusalem situated in a Franciscan catholic plot. I wonder if Oskar ever escaped his catholic roots. Or was he like so many others? Just a willing supplicant to religion and always needing it rather like an aphrodisiac?
Incidentally, that famous historical list of names used for the title of the film was a 1945 yellowing single-spaced typed copy of the names of over 800+ Jews that Schindler managed to protect from the death camps; now these details were discovered eight years ago in Australia. Another historical copy is housed in the Yad Vashem Centre in Jerusalem.
Much of Oskar Schindler’s life and times has been documented, so a brief CV of the man is offered. He was born in 1908 in what was then Sudeten Germany. His mother was a devout Catholic, his father an alcoholic who would desert his family to enjoy the fleshpots of pre-war Europe. Later, his son Oskar married another pious religious woman, then Oskar would desert his wife himself; sounds "Like father, like son."
The sadistic commandant of Plaszow Camp and a so-called “business partner” of Schindler was Amon Goth, also a Catholic would commit himself to two marriages and embark on numerous adulterous affairs, one with Schindler’s secretary. Goth’s sumptuous villa overlooking the Krakow Plaszow concentration camp still stands today as a memorial to the terrible years of pain inflicted on its inmates, and passionate nights for its camp commandant and his invited guests, Oskar regularly being one of them, of course.
Schindler and Goth were interestingly both born in the same year, and both dabbled in the then-lucrative black market flourishing and corrupting in and all around Krakow. Both perused the promiscuous hedonistic sexual satisfactions which, when offered them, they could not or would not refuse, and both experienced the curse of the love of money. It seems perhaps that what both men gained illegally through their own acquired entrepreneurial efforts and talents was to them (or so they mistakenly believed) a God-given gift which they would use to massage their own warped self-esteem in that age of anxiety.
This greed and lust would be their own personal private religion and all to be used in the promotion of themselves, of course. In an early scene of the film, Schindler is happy to steal living accommodations from Jewish owners being humiliated and forcibly evicted by brutal German troops. An interesting clip from the film shows the ejected and departing apartment owners as they vacate their property and the man removes a Mezuza from the front door and places it in his pocket. Apparently, this is to be touched each time some visitor enters or leaves the apartment and contains select passages from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, both taken from the Old Testament, of course.
(Patrick examines Schindler's list)
It’s rather akin, I suppose, to a talisman seen in many catholic homes with a picture or depiction of a favoured "saint" placed over a small dish of water. Neither can save you unless you repent, and neither can offer any lasting salvation. Concerning the means and motives of the "Herr Director," Oskar Schindler was perhaps just a failed actor always offering a believable performance before the Nazi audience he had cultivated with marked relish.
In Auschwitz, he is later seen in the film pleading for the 300 women previously marched away from his factory by soldiers; he was later able to secure their release after three hectic weeks in the Auschwitz concentration compound. It must have taken them years, I suggest, to get over that experience if indeed they ever did. However, before he was able to successfully gain their release, he used a bribe of a handful of precious stones to purchase their freedom from the crafty camp commandant. Was this akin to the Biblical 30 pieces of silver that Judas accepted so willingly? And was this somehow incorporated into the film’s script for obvious reasons?
I suggest Oskar Schindler slightly redeemed himself (well, at least in the film) when he became aware of what was happening all around him, especially the terrified Jews in the Lodz Ghetto. He would later say: "I now resolved in my power to do everything to defeat the system," so could perhaps this be his sole ulterior motive that he offered after the war? Well, who knows, he was a man of mystery after all performing many thespian roles in surviving himself in those dangers of the Nazi elite then supreme in Poland.
Of Amon Goth and his perverted practices, well, one witness remembered years later that: "He would never start his breakfast without at least shooting one person," and probably from the villa’s wooden veranda structure. Both men were dangerous opposites and each needed the other, it seems, for safety and survival.
(Goth preparing to shot innocent victim)
Unless men and women today truly repent of their previous sins, they carry their own seeds of destruction. Schindler may have been known by many as a "saviour" but remember: only Jesus Christ is the supreme Saviour of this fallen world. No man could or should ever be bestowed with that false title! There should never be anything ambiguous about what men or women name themselves. They are all as dirty rags!
I'm sure Schindler’s Krakow years would be remembered by him after the war as those lost yet lucrative exciting years of his immoral life, and they would never happen to him again. Later, in post-war Europe, he would then slowly slide into the lonely years. Money and power that had once been plentiful to him were now no more, all simply swept away in the post-war ruins of Europe.
"Oskar’s high season ended now," writes Thomas Keneally referring to that vanished era. He would never again capitalize on his fast financial triumphs of previous years or taste the power that he had once known and enjoyed perhaps rather too much, some might say.
Didn't I read somewhere of an aphorism from Onassis or maybe it was Vanderbilt that: "You have to spend money to acquire money"? And I think this statement would certainly meet with Oskar’s approval, as indeed the next revealing quote from that Greek would be: "That the secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows.” Yet amazingly today, that unique list of saved Jewish names dictated by Schindler and others has survived, and each name I suggest could tell a true tragic tale in their own right of what they experienced. It seems that, apart from the copies housed in Jerusalem, other rare editions still survive, with one such item offered on eBay some years ago for 3 million dollars. However, it did not reach its asking price and was quietly withdrawn.
Fortuitously for him, those selected Jews he had aided and assisted, with great danger to himself, would now remember him when they learned of the pitiful plight of poverty he was now struggling in post-war Germany. By naming themselves very appropriately "Schindlerjuden" or Schindler’s Jews, as mentioned before, they would repay his kindness, financially supporting this former Nazi and paid spy for the Abwehr. Don’t forget, perhaps this spying cash would have allowed him to arrive in Krakow at the start of the war with a wallet full of spending money for bribing certain notable Nazi officials and others. Incidentally, the then German Intelligence was headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (please see article concerning him in our archives.)
Later, in General Juan Peron’s pro-Nazi friendly Argentina and after a failed livestock experiment, Oskar would "scratch" around, it seems, seeking some form of employment, but the offers were few and far between and he was sinking fast. Then: "However within a year, he left for Germany. He would never live with Emilie (his long suffering wife) again,” all very sad.
That should have been the finale of Oskar Schindler’s flawed life and, of course, if he weren’t for the financial assistance offered by so many of his former "employees," he probably would have died penniless in his Frankfurt apartment, alone and forgotten, and (like so many others in his predicament) not to be discovered for several days, if not weeks, afterwards.
I do find it rather strange and alarming again that he still retained his catholic roots after what he had heard and witnessed in occupied Poland from the catholic hierarchy and the Jesuits. Did he ever consider converting to Judaism? Because he certainly wished to be buried with them, did he not?
Amazingly, in 1968 he received the papal knighthood of St. Sylvester from the hands of the archbishop of Limburg. Interestingly, the same award was given to both Bob Hope, a non-catholic, and "Wild Bill" Donovan in 1944 from Pius XII, he of course was the head of the OSS and founder of the American CIA.
Incidentally, a later catholic cleric in Limburg was a certain bishop Van-Elst who would rightly come under the eye of the German media and Rome some years ago, if you remember, for squandering and wasting millions of euros on refurbishing his bishop’s luxury palace. Today we fondly remember him as “bishop bling,” such happy memories, but where is he now!?!
Before his death in 1974 in Frankfurt, Oskar had requested to be buried in Jerusalem in the catholic Franciscan Latin cemetery if possible. As a matter of fact, this location looks south over the valley of Hinnon, called Gehenna in the New Testament. “He was mourned in every continent and was one of the church’s least observant sons," writes Thomas Keneally and so concludes this final description in the author’s book Schindler’s Ark presenting the life and immoral times of Oskar Schindler.
I suppose he is the only restless Nazi as far as we know to be laid to rest in the Holy Land, and that has to be an achievement, I suggest. There is an interesting footnote to this story: after his requiem mass in Frankfurt on October 19th, 1974, the coffin was shipped to Israel and the high cost of this was supposedly met by the German Government out of lottery cash funds, can you believe? Oskar, I'm sure, would have found this terribly amusing. Later, the original wording of his name and other details engraved on the finished carved headstone was set in expensive copper finish, only to be later stolen. But why do we need all this frivolous expense for a headstone that the deceased will never see himself?
There's an old joke of a young man entering a train carriage some years ago who sees another elderly passenger reading a heavy book, then sitting down he enquires: "What are you reading?" The man looking up at him replies rather quietly saying: “It’s The Holy Bible, have you read it?" “No,” answers the man sarcastically, “but I've seen the film.” Stupid, I know, but probably true of millions of people today who have neither read this sacred book but have watched so-called biblical films and perhaps too often.
I have to suggest that perhaps more people have watched the film Schindler’s List than have read Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s Ark, and boy, what a film! After sitting through nearly four hours myself, I want to add some views I had not noticed before or had forgotten from seeing the film the first time around. For starters, the harrowing scene when the ancient Polish ghetto in Krakow is brutally cleared under Amon Goth’s sadistic orders, followed by murder and mayhem sadistically perpetrated upon a defenceless people. Later he would sit down exhausted, it seems, and briskly wash his hands and wipe his face after the killings. Symbolic, I propose, of the unrepentant Pontius Pilate rinsing his own hands at the unlawful trial of Jesus.
Also, it seems, both Goth and Schindler were apparently close friends according to one of Goth’s forced housemaids, she recalls them frequently embracing each other with Oskar addressing him by a personal nickname of "Muni," strange behaviour. In John Baxter's book he writes that Schindler: “Cajoled, seduced and hypnotised (Goth) into colluding in his plan." Keneally writes: "The ambiguity of Schindler and the man’s opportunism and human compassion...and no one could tell where one ended and the other began, maybe he was a little mad." A hero with flaws, it seems, rather like so many of us.
Before getting into personalities of the film and especially the troika of Schindler, Goth, and Stern, I must mentioned that I did object to the nudity that was inserted into several scenes of the film, and it seems I was not alone in this objection. It seems the Philippine government at the time also disliked the nakedness, as well as some of the violence portrayed in the film when it was originally released, and delayed its premiere. Such scenes also had nothing to do with the film’s powerful story, but were just used for sexual gratification of the viewer.
I was also sick and tired of the repeated blasphemy (uttered 5 times) in this film that we had to listen to and accept as ‘entertainment.’ In today’s films, this has dipped to new and disgusting depths from wicked "Hellywood." Have you noticed? Or are just like me and do not watch such films anymore? I also deplore the usage of the profanity of four-letter words (uttered 9 times) that drip off these actors’ tongues like syrup. Wash their mouths out, I say, with carbolic soap and a hard-bristle nail brush. Why must the director stoop this low to be a part of the "Hellywood" milieu of demonic depravity that seems to fuel their industry, both then and now?
The film went into production in Krakow on March 1st 1993 with a planned 75-day shoot employing some 20,000 extras and a working budget of 25 million dollars. To date, the film has grossed 365 million dollars. Incidentally, director Stephen Spielberg had never heard of Oskar Schindler before, but knew of the war-time disappearance of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (please see my article about his life) and was also supervising the completion of his other major film run in tandem with Schindler, this being Jurassic Park, very Darwinish in its concept, I suggest, then being filmed in Hawaii.
In the casting department, the young actor Ralph Fiennes offers a convincing portrayal of Nazi commandant Amon Goth with Ben Kingsley, of course, performing convincingly as Schindler’s ever willing accountant Itzhak Stern keeping the financial books correct for three camps then under Schindler’s command. Stern would play a major role in Schindler’s life as well as after the war. However, where I must differ from the director’s own choice for playing Schindler is with regard to the Northern Ireland actor Liam Neeson. Somehow he just doesn't convince me of the joie de vivre that Schindler revelled in during those crazy boozy Krakow years when Oskar was riding high. And do I perhaps hear some of those Ballymena regional tones sneaking into the film’s dialogue from Liam Neeson himself?
Incidentally, other notable Ballymena men have been Ian Paisley and Sir Roger Casement (a future project to research). My own personal choice for the film would have been Jon Voight or maybe just casting an unknown actor, always dangerous of course but sometimes rewarding (Kingsley was an unknown when casted for Ghandi), or maybe Piers Brosnan or Daniel Day Lewis could have been perfect for this role. And don't forget Kenneth Branagh. His past portrait as S.S. Reinhard Heydrich "The beast of Prague" (please read my article on him as well) was a masterpiece of acting skills. It’s a pity that none of the above actors are born again, well, not as far as I know.
The film is far too long, of course, to offer a detailed appraisal so here are a few selected scenes that I wanted to comment on. If you haven't seen it you might want to make the effort yourself:
There seems to be some plausible suspicions about Amon Goth’s execution in 1946 for war crimes, of course, with some still questioning whether or not the man executed by hanging was Goth. It was a botched execution all the same, and only succeeded on the third attempt. Now the victim did resemble Goth, but was it indeed a certain Dr. Ludwig Fischer (as suggested), a prominent Nazi lawyer then in Poland? I do have my own doubts about Goth’s death and that it perhaps was Fischer after all. And if so, what happened to Goth? Was he secreted out of the country, perhaps destined for South America courtesy of the Nazi Red Cross Vatican-compliant organization, where incidentally Schindler would also search for a new life with his wife in 1949 but never to find it, only later to depart rather suddenly in 1958, returning to Germany and perhaps fearing for his own life. But, I wonder, from whom? Who knows! And was Schindler perhaps involved in assisting his old "business associate" Amon Goth to arrange a speedy getaway in 1944 from war-torn Europe to a peaceful and welcoming South America? Did the two ever meet up again elsewhere? These men were never fools but survivors, and knew without a doubt that the war was over. Well, at least for them that is, so they must have been seriously preparing the transfer of money, gold, diamonds and art works before the war’s end.
And more importantly those genuine (if possible) letters of transit with new identities would be imperative from 1944 onwards for them and other escaping murderers to flee and seek sanctuary in friendly Catholic South America and other welcoming countries in Europe. I would not be surprised if they hadn't been preparing for this coming eventuality in the final death of Hitler's blasphemous thousand-year third Reich, maybe years before, storing up Nazi nest eggs somehow.
I sadly suspect that many of those saved Schindler Jews were possibly unsaved later in life because as Jesus proclaims: "Unless you believe I am you will die in your sin." I also believe God used Schindler to rescue those Jewish women simply because their children's children could perhaps be part of the future bloodline that makes up the 144,000 Jewish male virgins as described in the Book of Revelation. They of course will bear witness of Jesus Christ to many unbelievers in a post-rapture world and suffer the consequences in a still-fallen world.
Three prime reasons behind Schindler's motives and myths seem to be suggested, these being:
1) Those rescued Jews adopted by Schindler were fortunate enough to be able to pay for their desperate freedom early in the war and, it seems, with expensive gifts given to him as well. Also brought into this mix was "the idea of whitewashing him as an agent of the Abweher" much later, so Oskar was indeed still working for them during the war.
2) A political whitewash of atonement was skilfully concocted, it seems, during the 1950s between the prime minister of Israel at the time, David Ben-Gurion, and German chancellor Konrad Adenauer when it was decided that the German Government would pay Israel financial restitution for the war victims," but hidden in the small print was a signed agreement to continue paying the relatives of the murdered Jews continually to their families, it seems, and as a caveat came the introduction of "the good German" later to be found in numerous books and films still being used successfully today. I can think of several such films I've watched recently.
3) It is also claimed that there was a motive "to discredit the world opinion regarding the legitimacy and maybe even the legality of the Nuremberg trails especially against the criminal bureaucrats," whatever that means couched in "legal speak."
Suspicions about Schindler's motives will, I suppose, continue and create even more conspiracies about the man and his motives and of course his myths in the history of the war. And that evocative designer ring that the camp workers tenderly presented to Schindler in some of the final scenes of the film is now housed in a Holocaust museum in Australia. And of interest, the film prop of that ring featured for the film’s purpose was recently auctioned for $11,000 in Los Angeles. The wording inscribed on the inside of the ring is useless in saving the sinner from his or her of sin. Rather the Luke 13:3 verse on our religious tracts is far more applicable and should not be ignored. And thankfully the rumoured project Schindler - The Musical never got off the ground. Praise the Lord for that!
Finally, it is very important where many will spend eternity. For the born-again Christian, of course regenerated and washed in the precious blood of Christ, we will spend eternity with the LORD. For those who foolishly rejected Him, Hell will be prepared and waiting, again as written so vividly in the book of Revelation.
Of course, I cannot predict where Schindler or Goth are now residing nor would I wish to do so, but I have my own ideas and I don't think it looks good for either men. But ask yourself: where will YOU one day reside? Because it will be either Heaven or hell, and more importantly, this will be decided in the life that you’re now living in daily frivolity in this passing fallen world. Remember: after death it will be much too late, so do not delay today, for you the consequences.
(Schindler's tomb in Jerusalem)
Schindler’s List, Thomas Keneally
Searching for Schindler, Thomas Keneally
Witness: The Making of Schindler’s List, Franciszek Palowski
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