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Schindler’s grave

Jerusalem

 

Schindler's grave

Oskar Schindler’s grave (Seetheholyland.net)

One of the most-visited graves in Jerusalem belongs to Oskar Schindler, the German factory-owner and Nazi Party member credited with saving the lives of 1098 Jews during the Second World War.

His grave in the Catholic cemetery on the southern slope of Mount Zion is visited by Jews, Christians and people of no religious faith.

A complex and conflicted man, Schindler was an unlikely candidate for heroism that involved risking his life to save others.

Born into a Catholic family in Moravia, he was unfaithful to his wife with a succession of mistresses. As a businessman he engaged in black-market dealings and bribery. An ethnic German but a Czech citizen, he worked as a counterintelligence agent for the Nazi armed forces (for which he was jailed by Czechoslovakia) and also collaborated in the German strategy for the invasion of Poland.

Ironically, Schindler’s less endearing character traits equipped him to ingratiate himself with Nazi officials for the sake of his Jewish employees.

 

At least nine lists were drawn up

Schindler's grave

Oskar Schindler in 1947 (Freeinfosociety.com)

After Germany occupied Poland in 1939, the opportunistic Schindler moved to the Polish city of Krakow and took over a Jewish-owned enamelware factory.

Because the factory was close to the Jewish ghetto he was able to witness the brutal German oppression at firsthand. “And then a thinking man, who had overcome his inner cowardice, simply had to help. There was no other choice,” he said after the war.

Schindler built up his workforce with Jewish forced labourers from the Plaszow labour camp, bribing officials to ensure their wellbeing. He and his wife Emilie especially cared for those who were old or weak.

Schindler's grave

Part of Schindler’s Krakow factory in 2009 (Jongleur100 / Wikimedia)

In 1944, when the inmates of Plaszow were destined for deportation to death camps such as Auschwitz, Schindler obtained approval (after paying the necessary bribes) to move his factory to Brünnlitz in Czechoslovakia, on the pretext of making armaments.

The names of the workers chosen to move to the new factory formed the “list” made famous in Thomas Keneally’s 1982 Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler’s Ark and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award-winning movie Schindler’s List.

In fact, according to Schindler’s definitive biographer David M. Crowe, at least nine lists, constantly changing, were drawn up in late 1944 and 1945, and they were drawn up by other people — although Schindler had given guidelines as to who he wanted included. However, without Schindler’s efforts there would have been no Jewish workers to be listed.

 

Declared Righteous Among the Nations

Schindler's grave

Schindler’s Brünnlitz factory in 2004 (Miaow Miaow / Wikimedia)

By the time the war ended, Schindler’s considerable wealth had been spent on bribes and black-market supplies for his workers and he was reduced to receiving handouts from Jewish organisations.

In 1949 he emigrated to Argentina with his long-suffering wife, his current mistress and some Jewish friends. After a farming venture failed he returned alone to Germany and established a cement factory that went bankrupt.

In the 1960s he began annual visits to Israel, where he was feted as a hero, but he was in poverty when he died in 1974, aged 66, in Hildesheim, Germany. It was his own wish to be buried in Jerusalem.

Schindler's grave

Emilie and Oskar Schindler in 1946 (Wikimedia)

Emilie Schindler remained in Argentina, living on a pension. She died in 2001 during a visit to Berlin, aged 94.

In 1962 a tree was planted in Oskar Schindler’s honour in the Avenue of the Righteous at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. But it was not until 1993 that both Oskar and Emilie were officially recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

Visitors leave stones on grave

Schindler’s grave in the Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery — not the Protestant Cemetery further west, as some guidebooks have it — is within easy walking distance of the Old City’s Zion Gate.

Schindler's grave

Entrance to Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery (Yoninah / Wikimedia)

Walk out Zion Gate towards the bus parking lot. Take the road on the left until it joins a major road called Ma’aleh Hashalom. Follow this road down the slope of Mount Zion until you come to a high stone wall on the left with a wrought-iron gate. High on the gate is small sign reading “To Oskar Schindler’s Grave”.

For times when the cemetery is closed, the Muslim custodian’s phone number is painted roughly on the gate.

The cemetery is on two levels, with circular steps leading down to the lower level where Schindler is buried. Many of the graves are of Franciscan monks and nuns. Others, as their Arabic inscriptions indicate, belong to Arab Catholic families whose family trees date back hundreds of years.

At the edge of the top level stands a large cross. Facing the cross, look down on the lower level at about 2 o’clock. The flat slab of Schindler’s last resting place stands out from the other graves because of the stones left on it by visitors — a Jewish custom that is also followed by many others who come to pay their respects.

The stones often partly cover the inscriptions, which read (in Hebrew) “Righteous Among the Nations” and (in German) “The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews”.

 

Open: Usually 8-12am (closed Sunday)

Tel.: 0525-388342

 

 

References

Burkeman, Oliver, and Aris, Ben: “Biographer Takes Shine off Spielberg’s Schindler”, The Guardian, November 25, 2004
Crowe, David M.: Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of his Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List (Westview Press, 2004)
Keneally, Thomas: Schindler’s Ark (Hodder and Stoughton, 1982)
Rubenstein, Danny: “A Sign Points to the Grave”, Haaretz, July 19, 2007
Smith, Dinitia: “A Scholar’s Book Adds Layers of Comploexity to the Schindler Legend”, The New York Times, November 24, 2004

 

External links

Oscar Schindler (Louis Bülow)
Oskar Schindler (Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team)
Oskar Schindler (Encyclopedia of World Biography)
Oskar Schindler (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
The Real Oskar Schindler (Herbert Steinhouse)

 

Herodium

West Bank

Herodium

Herodium (David Pishazaon / Wikimedia)

 

Looking south-east from Bethlehem, the skyline is dominated by a volcano-shaped mountain on which Herod the Great built the fortress-palace he dedicated to himself.

Constructed within two huge concentric walls, the seven-storey Herodium palace was “private, intimate, exotic and protected”, according to archaeologist Ehud Netzer — who in 2007 announced he had discovered Herod’s long-lost tomb on the mountain’s north-east slope.

But to the Bethlehem parents whose infant sons Herod had massacred in a desperate attempt to eliminate the newborn “King of the Jews”, the presence of Herodium less than 6 kilometres away would have been a daily reminder of the king’s brutality.

 

Murderer and visionary builder

Herodium

Inside the ruins of Herodium (© Deror Avi / Wikimedia)

The “Massacre of the Innocents”, following the visit of Wise Men from the East to pay homage to the baby Jesus, is recorded only in Matthew’s Gospel.

Other sources record that the murderous Herod had two of his sons strangled, executed one of his 10 wives for treason, killed numerous in-laws and on his deathbed ordered his eldest son beheaded.

Herod, who ruled Judea on behalf of Rome from 37 to 4 BC, was also a man of great architectural vision. His projects included the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the desert fortress of Masada and the city and massive harbour works at Caesarea.

He chose the site of Herodium because it was near the scene of a crucial battle victory against a bitter rival, Antigonus, the last Hasmonean king.

 

Pleasure palace and small city

Construction of Herodium began around 25 BC. Using thousands of slaves, Herod reshaped the summit of the hill to create an almost impregnable pleasure palace, the third largest in the Roman world.

Herodium

Herodium from the air (Asaf T. / Wikimedia)

The historian Josephus described it as “a hill raised to a height by the hand of man and rounded off in the shape of a breast . . . . Within it are costly royal apartments made for security and for ornament . . . .”

At its base stood a small city. Its architectural focus was a huge artificial pool, more than twice the area of a modern Olympic swimming pool, and deep enough to accommodate boats. An aqueduct brought water from spring nearly 6 kilometres away.

Four towers gave a commanding view of the Judean desert and as far as the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab. Using mirrors to reflect the sun, Herod could convey messages from Jerusalem to Herodium to Masada.

 

Grave was undiscovered until 2007

After Herod’s time, the Romans used the fortress against the insurgents during the First Jewish Revolt in AD 70. In AD 132-135 the Jewish Zealot leader Bar Kokhba converted it into his headquarters in the Second Revolt.

Herodium

Herod’s tomb (© Deror Avi / Wikimedia)

In succeeding centuries, the abandoned Herodium was occupied by monks. In the lower part, three different churches have been excavated, all with mosaic floors.

The location of Herod’s grave continued to puzzle archaeologists until 2007. Thirty-five years after he began excavating Herodium, Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported success when he and his team uncovered pieces of a large sarcophagus made of pink Jerusalem limestone and decorated with expertly carved floral motifs.

These were found among the ruins of a lavish, two-storey mausoleum about 25 metres high.

“The location and unique nature of the findings, as well as the historical record, leave no doubt that this was Herod’s burial site,” Netzer told reporters.

While continuing excavations, Netzer suffered fatal injuries when a wooden railing at the site gave way in October 2010.

 

Other sites in the Bethlehem area:

Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity

Grotto of the Nativity

St Jerome’s Cave

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

Milk Grotto

Shepherds’ Field

Tomb of Rachel

Field of Ruth

 

In Scripture:

The massacre of the Innocents: Matthew 16-18

Administered by: Israel National Parks Authority

Tel.: 050-623-5821

Open: 8am-5pm (4pm Oct-Mar)

 

 

References

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Maier, Paul L. (trans. and ed.): Josephus: The Essential Writings (Kregel Publications, 1988).
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Herodium (BiblePlaces)
Herodium (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Tomb of King Herod discovered at Herodium (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Bethany

West Bank

The little village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 3km from Jerusalem, was a favourite place of rest and refuge for Jesus.

Bethany

Entrance to the Tomb of Lazarus (Seetheholyland.net)

Here he knew the intimacy and friendship of his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And here, in the cemetery just below the village, he raised Lazarus from the dead.

When Lazarus was dying, as John’s Gospel (11:1-44) recounts, his sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus delayed his arrival until four days after Lazarus had been buried, “so that the Son of God may be glorified”.

Arriving at the tomb, Jesus called: “Lazarus, come out!” To the amazement of mourners who had witnessed the burial, the dead man walked out. This miracle confirmed the determination of the religious leaders in Jerusalem to have Jesus put to death.

Bethany (not to be confused with Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Christ was baptised) is also associated with two other events:

• While Christ was visiting his friends’ home, Martha complained that her sister Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to him, had left all the work to her. Christ replied: “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her”. (Luke 10:38-42)

• At dinner in the house of Simon the Leper, a week before the crucifixion, Mary took a jar of expensive ointment and poured it over Christ’s feet — an act he saw as the anointing of his body for burial. (John 12:1-8).

 

Pilgrims since early centuries

Bethany

View of Bethany, with, from left, the Catholic Church of St Lazarus, the Al-Ozir Mosque and the Greek Orthodox church (© Welcometohosanna.com)

The present Arab village, on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, is called Al-Azariyeh, an Arabic version of Lazarus. The original village was probably higher up the hill to the west of the tomb of Lazarus.

The Franciscan Albert Storme says the reason why pilgrims have been drawn to this place is not based on “some ‘casual’ wonder. In their eyes, Lazarus’ resurrection prefigured that of Christ, and heralded their own return from the grave.”

Christian churches have been built here since the early centuries. In AD 333, the Anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux reported seeing “the crypt where Lazarus had been laid to rest”.

By the 14th century the churches were in ruins and the original entrance to the tomb had been turned into a mosque. In the 16th century the Franciscans cut through the soft rock to create the present entrance.

 

27 steps to burial chamber

Bethany

Inside the Tomb of Lazarus, with the burial chamber at lower right (© Welcometohosanna.com)

Today’s pilgrims enter from the street down a flight of 24 well-worn and uneven steps to a vestibule. Three more steps lead to the burial chamber, little more than 2 metres long. Tradition says Jesus stood in the vestibule to call Lazarus from the grave.

The present Catholic church, with mosaics depicting the events that occurred here, was built in 1954. Architect Antonio Barluzzi contrasted the sadness of death with the joy of resurrection by designing a crypt-like, windowless church, into which light floods from the large oculus in its dome.

A Greek Orthodox church, dedicated to Simon the Leper, is to the west of the tomb.

Since 2005 Bethany, in the West Bank, has been cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation wall. The wall actually cuts across the main street, making a serious impact on the live of residents and on the town’s economy.

What used to be a 10-minute drive from the Mount of Olives to Bethany now requires a lengthy detour, so the Tomb of Lazarus has become isolated from the normal pilgrim and tourist route.

In Scripture:

Jesus raises Lazarus to life: John 11:1-44

Jesus visits Martha and Mary: Luke 10:38-42

The anointing at Bethany: John 12:1-8

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-2799291

Open: Apr-Sep 8-11.25am, 2-6pm, Oct-Mar 8-11.25am, 2-5pm

 

References

Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)
Storme, Albert: “Bethany”, Holy Land, Winter 2000 and Summer 2003

 

External links

Bethany (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Traces of history in Bethany, where Lazarus was resurrected (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
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