October 16, 1999, a German newspaper, the Stuttgarter Zeitung, reported that this old suitcase with a lot of trips behind it was found by a Stuttgart couple at a relative's house in Hildersheim, Lower Saxony.
An original list of Jewish employees drawn up by Oscar Schindler - the famous Schindler's List - to save them from Nazi death camps was discovered in the suitcase full of papers. Stuttgarter Zeitung said it planned to give the suitcase to Yad Vashem. The gray Samsonite suitcase with a tag that reads "O. Schindler" was given to the newspaper by the couple who found it while cleaning the home of their late parents. The family had been close friends of Schindler. A former neighbor of Schindler's in Frankfurt, Dieter Trautwein, confirmed that Oscar Schindler spent the last months of his life in Hildersheim with his friends after becoming ill.
The Stuttgart couple found the list of 1,200 workers among the papers, which deal mainly with his life after World War II, his relationship to his German fellow citizens, his problems with alcohol and womanizing and his connections with Israel and with German Jews. The papers include an exchange of letters from the 1940s through the 1960s and a speech given by Schindler at the end of the war, urging the Jews from his factory not to take violent revenge.
The list is on letterhead for Schindler's enamelware factory in Crakow, southern Poland. Schindler wrote the names of 1,200 Jews at the Plaszow concentration camp and gave it to the Nazi SS, saying the people on the list were needed for employment at his factory in Crakow, Poland, said Mordechai Paldiel, who heads the department at Yad Vashem that researches and honors Gentiles. Schindler added fictitious jobs for each worker to convince Nazi officials that they were vital to the war effort and should live. One copy presumably was saved in SS archives, and Schindler may also have kept a copy, said Paldiel.
Michel Friedman, whose parents were saved by Schindler, said the newfound letters are important because they "confirm that his economic situation after World War II was very bad, and the only ones who helped him were the Jews and not the German government, which paid pensions to old Nazis."
"Schindler was a guest of honor at my bar mitzva and he was at our house for Sabbath dinners, said Friedman, a Frankfurt attorney and member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Oscar Schindler with Jews he saved
The papers, contained in the suitcase, also have an unpleasant message for Germans: They show how a man known for rescuing Jews was isolated and rejected by his fellow citizens after World War II.
"For the Germans today, Oscar Schindler is a very positive example," said Stefan Braun, a reporter for the Stuttgarter Zeitung. "But after the war, people were not really interested in knowing about his story. In one of his letters from 1948, he says, 'There is a neo-Nazism coming from the east. Nothing has changed and it is worse.' " Braun said.
"The letters show how he learned that after the war Germany was not interested in looking at what happened during the Holocaust", Braun said. "He was very unhappy that Germans were not interested in the history, didn't want to hear about it. And they were angry that he had made a good impression in Israel."
"The suitcase is very old; it has a lot of trips behind it," Braun said. "When you open it you see a lot of old papers, very old letters. No one writes such letters any more today and no one collects them, either. It was completely disorganized."
Reading Schindler's papers gave him "the feeling of being intimate with someone I never saw. He was a very open-minded and free-speaking person. He said what he was thinking. He was balancing between a lot of hopes, a lot of disappointments."
In 1962, after Oscar Schindler was honored by Israel as a Righteous Gentile, his business partner in Germany canceled the partnership saying, ' ... now it is clear that you are a friend of Jews and I will not work together with you any more ...'
For Braun, it was fascinating to read about the failed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film project based on Schindler's story. Though Schindler did get some advance money from the project, it was canceled in 1966. "Of course he was devastated," Braun said. "That was the end of the final hope."
The unearthing of these papers belonging to Oscar Schindler in Germany is one of several recent tangible reminders that the Holocaust is not ancient history ...
Schindler in USA shortly before he died
The ending of the screenplay by
Frankfurt Am Main, Germany, 1955
A street of apartment buildings in a working class neighborhood of the city. The door to a modest apartment opens revealing Oscar Schindler. The elegant clothes are gone but the familiar smile remains.
Hey, how you doing?
Itís Poldek Pfefferberg out in the hall.
Good. Howís it going?
Things are great, things are great.
Things donít look so great. Schindler isnít penniless, but heís not far from it, living alone in the one room behind him.
What are you doing?
Iím having a drink, come on in, weíll have a drink.
I mean where have you been? Nobodyís seen you around for a while.
Iíve been here. I guess I havenít been out.
I thought maybe youíd like to come over, have some dinner, some of the people are coming over.
Yeah? Yeah, thatíd be nice, let me get my coat.
Pfefferberg waits out in the hall as Schindler disappears inside for a minute. Schindler reappears wearing a coat, steps out into the hall, forgets something, turns around and goes back in.
He comes back out with a nice bottle of wine in his hand, and, as he and Pfefferberg disappear down the stairs together Ė
Kids are good? Letís stop at a store on the way so I can buy them something.
They donít need anything. They just want to see you.
Yeah, I know. Iíd like to pick up something for them. Itíll only take a minute.
Their voices fade. Against the empty hallway appears a faint trace of the image of the factory workers, through the wire, walking away from the Brinnlitz camp. And the legend:
THERE ARE FEWER THAN FIVE
THOUSAND JEWS LEFT ALIVE
IN POLAND TODAY.
THERE ARE MORE THAN SIX THOUSAND
DESCENDANTS OF THE SCHINDLER JEWS.