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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)

 

Mount Zion

Jerusalem

Mount Zion

Mount Zion, crowned by the Dormition Abbey (© Deror Avi)

Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is the broad hill south of the Old City’s Armenian Quarter.

Also called Sion, its name in Old Testament times became projected into a metaphoric symbol for the whole city and the Promised Land.

Several important events in the early Christian Church are likely to have taken place on Mount Zion:

• The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, both believed to have been on the site of the Cenacle;

• The appearance of Jesus before the high priest Caiaphas, believed to have been at the site of the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu;

• The “falling asleep” of the Virgin Mary, believed to have occurred at the site of the Church of the Dormition.

• The Council of Jerusalem, around AD 50, in which the early Church debated the status of converted gentiles (Acts 15:1-29), perhaps also on the site of the Cenacle.

The mountain that moved

In the Old Testament period, Zion was the eastern fortress that King David captured from the Jebusites and named the City of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9).

A psalmist described Mount Zion as God’s “holy mountain, beautiful in elevation . . . the joy of all the earth” (Psalm 48).

And again, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125).

Ironically, by the time this psalm was composed, the name of Mount Zion had already moved from its original location at the Jebusite fortress — and would move again.

First, perhaps at the time Solomon built his Temple, the Temple Mount came to be called Mount Zion. Then in the first century AD, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the name was transferred to its present location across the Tyropoeon Valley.

 

Early Christians built synagogue-church

Mount Zion

Hagia Sion sign at Dormition Abbey (Glenn Johnson / Wikimedia)

In the time of Christ, Mount Zion was a wealthy neighbourhood, densely populated and enclosed within the city walls.

There was also a community of Essenes, a group who lived a strict interpretation of Mosaic Law. They are better known for their community at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

The first-century Christians met on Mount Zion, where they built a Judaeo-Christian synagogue-church that became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Over the centuries a succession of churches were built on the site and later destroyed. These included the great Byzantine basilica Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), known as the “Mother of all Churches” — which covered the entire area now occupied by the Church of the Dormition, the Cenacle and the Tomb of David.

 

David’s tomb is empty

The Old Testament (1 Kings: 2:10) records that King David was buried in the city of David, which was on the original Mount Zion.

King David's Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

King David’s Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

Because the name of Mount Zion had moved to its present location, as described above, Christian pilgrims in the 10th century developed a belief that David’s burial place was there too.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present memorial on Mount Zion called the Tomb of King David. However, three of the walls of the room where its empty cenotaph stands are apparently from the synagogue-church used by the first-century Judaeo-Christians.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims.

 

Architects beheaded for excluding Mount Zion

The respect with which Muslims held King David is illustrated by a legend relating to the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls by the Turkish conqueror Sulieman the Magnificent in the mid-16th century.

As the story goes, the sultan was furious when he discovered that the new walls did not encompass Mount Zion, leaving the Tomb of David unprotected.

He summoned the two architects responsible for the project and ordered that they be beheaded. Two graves in the inner courtyard of Jaffa Gate are said to be those of the architects.

Another place of interest on Mount Zion is the grave of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved nearly 1200 Jews in the Holocaust and has been declared a Righteous Gentile. The grave is in the Catholic cemetery near Zion Gate.

Related sites

Cenacle

Church of the Dormition

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Tomb of King David

Schindler’s grave

 

In Scripture:

The Last Supper: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 13:1—17:26

The coming of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4

Jesus appears before Caiaphas: Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-14, 19:24

The first Church Council of Jerusalem: Acts 15:1-29

 

 

 

References

Anonymous: “Christian Mount Sion”, Holy Land, spring 2003
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D.: The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: “Church of Apostles found on Mt Zion” (Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1990)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Century One Foundation)
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