Middle East News
Former secretary of Oskar Schindler immigrates to Israel
Dec 14, 2007, 9:03 GMT
Tel Aviv - The former secretary of Nazi businessman Oskar Schindler credited with saving more than 1,100 Jews from death camps immigrated to Israel this week at the age of 92, the Israeli Ha'aretz daily reported Friday.
Mimi Reinhardt arrived in Israel from New York Tuesday to join her son and grandchildren who live in Israel.
She became Schindler's secretary in October 1944 and helped him type the list of 1,100 Jews whom the German businessman took westwards to avoid them being sent to death camps as the Red Army was approaching and the Germans began retreating.
Schindler persuaded the Nazis to allow him to take the Jews who had been working for him in his enamelware factory in Krakow, as well as their friends and relatives and several hundred other Jews, to a new ammunition factory he was to built in Brnenec-Bruennlitz in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.
At the time she was enlisted by Schindler, the 29-year-old Reinhardt had been working as a stenographer in a labour camp near Krakow.
Reinhardt was born in Vienna in 1915, but at the age of 21 married a Jew from Krakow and moved to the Polish city. The couple had a son in June 1939, but three months later the war broke out. Son Sascha was smuggled with his grandmother to Hungary, where he survived the war, but her husband was shot while trying to escape the Krakow Ghetto and she sent to a labour camp.
'I only typed the list,' Reinhardt told Ha'aretz Friday. 'I did what I was told.'
She said hers' and others' decision to join Schindler in his new factory had been a 'gamble.'
'I wanted to go with Schindler, because of his reputation (that he treated his Jewish workers well). But there were many other people who didn't want to be on that list.'
The gamble almost proved fatal, when the Nazis sent the train with the 1,100 workers to the Auschwitz death camp, where she spent 10 days that she described as 'straight from the hell of Dante.'
But Schindler went out of his way to persuade the camp authorities to release his workers to his new ammunition factory, threatening to accuse them with Nazi authorities in Berlin of 'sabotaging the war effort.'
Reinhardt rejected speculation by some that his motivations were opportunistic, being driven initially by money while his eventual rescue operation was an attempt to better himself as it became clear the Germans were about to lose the war.
'He wasn't an angel,' she told Ha'aretz, pointing out he was a member of the SS and at nights had drinks with the highest ranks of the Nazi force.
But, she added, 'I saw a man who constantly risked his life for what he did. 'He was a Mensch. He must have had a heart of gold.'
Reinhard said she chose not to watch Steven Spielberg's 1993 Academy Award-winning Schindler's List, which narrates the factory owner's rescue effort, and saw it only years later.
'It was still fresh for me. I just couldn't. I didn't want to relive it,' she said.
About her new life in Israel, Reinhardt said she should have immigrated at a younger age, but she had hesitated.
'I couldn't decide,' she said. 'Afterwards I understood that I should have come much earlier.'
Reinhard moved into a home for the elderly in the town of Herzliyya, north of Tel Aviv. After landing at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport Tuesday, she told reporters: 'I'm excited to be here.
'Schindler would have been proud of me' had he known she immigrated to Israel, she said.
But, she added to Ha'aretz, 'to start a new life at 92, it's not a simple thing.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur