Last week I saw a piece of history.
In the midst of the Nazi steamroller, and himself a Nazi, Oskar Schindler showed that true heroes do exist.
Schindler sheltered more than 1000 Jews via the cover of his factory in Poland between 1939 and 1945; using bribery and contacts in the Nazi regieme - he saved their lives. To be on his list of enamel factory workers was to be given a chance at life when the alternative was likely death in a camp.
Light first shone on the story of Oskar Schindler and the list of his factory workers when Thomas Keneally wrote his book Schindler's Ark (Schindler's List in the USA market) which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and gained a much broader audience via the 1993 film Schindler's List.
In early 1945, as the Soviet Army began to edge across Poland, the Nazis permitted Schindler to move his factory workers to Brněnec (then Brünnlitz) in what is now the Czech Republic. He compiled a list of his workers who were required to transfer to the new location for submission to the government in 1945.
The original lists were submitted to the government as required, and no originals have been discovered since. A few carbon copies of the list are believed to exist in the world, and one was recently rediscovered by Dr. Olwen Pryke amongst Tom Keneally's literary papers at the State Librry of New South Wales. It was found by Dr. Pryke whilst she was examining six boxes of papers relating to Keneally's book. The papers were acquired by the library in 1996, but nobody had recognised the significance of the flimsy pices of yellowing paper.
Tom Keneally was reunited once again with his manuscript and papers relating to his book at the State Libraryof New South Wales, and is shown here with the rediscoverer, Dr. Olwen Pryke.
(above) Dr. Olwen Pryke and Thomas Keneally discuss the copy of Schindler's List arrayed on the table in front of them. ML MSS 6154/6
(photograph courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales)
The List is on display at the Nelson Meers Foundation Heritage Collection in the State Library of New South Wales. It is accompanied in the display by the original manuscript of Keneally's book. Until November 2009.
You can also see it online here.