Photo Credit:
Oskar Schindler

After talking to me, Mr. Wilfert plans to find more witnesses to the assault on me and to my failed business. Today…my lawyer…informed me that he had told Mr. Wilfert, “They didn’t beat Schindler to death. He’s still alive.” This was only a small part of their conversation, and it might have been intended to be a compliment on my physical and mental strength, but it doesn’t help.

Dear Hermann, we have known each other now for 30 years, and unfortunately we’re getting older. We’ve always had the courage to face the truth, and it didn’t matter if personal, national or racial matters were involved. We have fought hard and honestly for our Golden Years, even though success was sometimes elusive. Therefore, I ask you to give the attached copy and newspaper article to your friend, the journalist, who was kind enough to publish your piece of writing. I want this gentleman to have an objective view of what happened. I want you, your family, and all of your friends to be healthy and successful, and I remain, as always,


Yours, Oskar.


Tuesday Pages11-4-16.indd

The recipient of the letter, Alfred Hermann, was a Czech Jew who, according to his employment entry on Schindler’s List, was an accountant.

Otto Wilfert was a renowned German journalist and writer who served as editor for Second German Television (ZDF), a public service German television channel and one of the largest public broadcasters in Europe. He did in fact go on to write the feature article which Schindler discusses in our letter, “These Days: An Interview with Oscar Schindler.” He produced several television features detailing vicious attacks against Jews in Germany by neo-Nazis long after the Holocaust and he ran a documentary demonstrating that, as late as the 1970s, there was still strong support for Nazi ideology among the general German public.

Alexander Besser, whom Schindler cites as his lawyer, is himself an interesting character. After studying law at the Universities of Breslau and Berlin and earning his doctorate in law in 1927, he – along with every other Jewish lawyer in Germany – was disbarred in 1933. Beginning 1937, he worked in the Berlin Emigration Office of the Jewish Agency of Palestine, but was forced to flee to Eretz Yisrael in 1938, where he turned to journalism and worked for the magazine Hakidmah (“progress”) in Tel Aviv.

Upon his return to Germany in 1950, where he was admitted to the Frankfurt bar, he became a renowned radio and television commentator and served as a journalist for the General Weekly of the Jews in Germany. Besser represented Schindler in a broad range of matters, including the purchases of several businesses as well as various bankruptcy proceedings. It’s interesting to note that Schindler not only turned to a Jewish lawyer to assist him with his many legal issues but to one with a significant public profile as a German Jew.

Finally, public exhibitions and memorials in Germany dealing with the Holocaust were always controversial, a manifestation of Germany’s struggle to confront its terrible Nazi legacy. The first such event, to which Schindler refers in our correspondence, was the Warsaw Ghetto Exhibition at the Frankfurt Paulskirche, which opened on November 23, 1963, ran through January 1964, and drew 61,000 visitors.

As Schindler notes, the exhibition opened in Frankfurt during the trial of several former Auschwitz camp guards. In fact, highlighting the trial was, at least in part, an important objective of the creators of the exhibition, who deliberately included contemporary photographs of the Nazi defendants entering the courthouse and excerpts from the prosecution’s indictment.

The exhibition designers depicted the Holocaust as the logical result of the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 and the gradual dehumanization of Jews. The underlying theme they sought to convey was that immoral ideas inexorably lead to evil actions. However, the exhibition was broadly criticized for emphasizing universal lessons about victimization, and for presenting a generic characterization of the victims of National Socialism, when in fact the Nazis’ primary victims were Jews and the unambiguous goal of the Third Reich was the total annihilation of the Jewish people.

In the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, which attracted considerable publicity in Germany, 22 defendants were charged under German criminal law – not on the legal definition of crimes against humanity as then recognized by international law – for their roles as lower-level officials at Auschwitz. Though the defendants were convicted, the trial was considered by many to be a failure because the media treated the accused as sick, deviant monsters, which enabled Germans to view the defendants as different from “normal Germans” – such as themselves.

Schindler died in Germany on October 9, 1974, at age 66 – about 10 years after he wrote our letter. As he had requested, he was buried in Jerusalem.

His great legacy is attested to by the more than 7,000 descendants of the “Schindler Jews” who are alive today.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleSouth American Illegal Immigrants Rushing To Cross Border Before Election Day
Next articleSwiss MP at the Knesset: UNESCO Resolution on Jerusalem ‘Absurd’
Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at [email protected].