Friday, April 29, 2011

How I Met Oscar Schindler

Nearly two years ago I was beginning a trip to Europe from Vietnam and our first stop was Frankfurt and a meeting with Oskar Schindler - you know, the one from Schindler's list fame - but not exactly in person. For me, I would meet Mr. Schindler through the gift of a friend, Erika, and even have a short visit to his last apartment. Finally this year I got around to reading that gift, a book by David Crowe entitled 'Oskar Schindler - The untold account of his life, his wartime activities and the true story behind the list.', and as you might have guessed, it's not the same story told in the Speilberg film. In this telling, David Crowe, a historian and President Emeritus of the Association for the Studies of Nationalities at Columbia University brings us a less than riveting portrait of a man who was both conflicted and complex in his wartime work and personal life. A lover of wine, women and song, a spy, a man playing both sides in more than two sides of his life, Schindler is presented by Crowe as more of a historical study and much less is revealed about his motivations. Given this document of study and a Hollywood film we still know little about the man himself.

But I learned a little more that day. I learned that given the internet and new ways to communicate, that a jazz singer from L.A. living in Germany and a man from New York living in Vietnam who had never met could meet and find common ground over a man named Oskar Schindler - so still, even in death he has an impact. A positive one.

Schindler's wife was less charitable. At his grave, she had this to say, "Well, Oskar, we meet again. But this is not the time for reproaches and complaints. It would not be fair to you or to me. Now you are in another world, in eternity, and I can no longer ask you all those questions to which you would have given evasive replies...and death is the best evasion of all. I have received no answers. my dear. I do not know why you abandoned me...but what not even your death or my old age can change is that we are still married. This is how we are before God. I have forgiven you everything, everything."

Now, two years after a trip that had too many unknown unknowns, I understand that I may not ever understand what really happened - that I may never have many answers. My mother would die with many secrets and one day my father will too. And the rest of us are left to piece together what they left us for a life. And that in turn will become our own personal suspension of disbeliefs - the book of our own lives that we alone may write..

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