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Recordings about Emilie Schindler's life to be auctioned

Steven Spielberg mistook Oskar Schindler’s wife for a Jew she saved

Filmmaker angered Emilie Schindler with 1993 letter inviting her and her ‘spouse’ to ‘Schindler’s List’ epilogue

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, February 28, 2019. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, February 28, 2019. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

While US filmmaker Steven Spielberg was creating “Schindler’s List,” he mistook Emilie Schindler — who together with her husband, Oskar, saved some 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust — for a Jew she saved, newly published documents reveal.

In a bureaucratic faux pas, Spielberg sent a hand-signed letter to Schindler in 1993 inviting her to participate in the movie’s epilogue as a Jew saved from death camps, even inviting her spouse to take part in the scene, British media reported Monday.

In later interviews, Schindler expressed her anger at the letter, as well as at being sidelined in the film and other historical accounts, which attribute the rescue of Jews solely to her husband.

Emilie Schindler died in 2001. Her friend and biographer, Erika Rosenberg, says Oskar and Emilie in fact had a “50-50” role in saving the Jews during the Holocaust by bribing Nazi officials to secure their freedom.

Emilie Schindler, widow of German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved many Jewish lives during the Nazi era, at a visit to the Oskar Schindler School in Berlin, July 12, 2001. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil)

Rosenberg is auctioning a unique set of 48 cassette tapes with recordings and interviews with Emilie Schindler. They reportedly give a detailed account of her life, including her childhood and marriage, her actions during World War II and her later life.

They go up for sale on Wednesday at Lyon & Turnbull, where they are expected to fetch £8,000-10,000 ($10,000-12,500), according to the Daily Mail.

Spielberg’s letter to Schindler, dated May 7, 1993, is not part of the sale, but a copy of it was included in the reports.

“You are part of a remarkable part of history,” the letter said. “I first read about Oskar Schindler’s improbable rescue of you and more than 1,300 Jews from the threat of Nazi death camps more than ten years ago, and it has taken me until now to bring this important piece of history to the screen.

“The story of how your lives were saved will be shared with people all over the world as a major motion picture by the end of this year.

“I will be traveling to Israel with my crew to film an epilogue scene at Oskar Schindler’s grave site. I would be deeply honored if you would appear in the scene and allow me to include your important face in the film.

“You and your spouse are invited to come to Jerusalem as my guests May 25-May 30, 1993.”

Speaking with the Daily Mail from her home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Erika Rosenberg said last week that “what is unique about the invitation is that Spielberg wrote to Oskar’s widow as a Jew whom Oskar would have saved.

“But the amazing thing is in the last paragraph he also invites Emilie’s husband. This made Emilie very angry and it is also one of the things which she relates to in the tapes,” she added.

Visitors walk past a portrait of Oskar Schindler at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2015. (photo credit: AFP / GALI TIBBON)

Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member, along with Emilie saved Jews by employing them in his enamelware and munitions factory in Krakow. During the war years, he spent his entire fortune on bribes of Nazi officials and supplies his workers needed to survive, emerging from the war a destitute man. Emilie is also said to have sold her jewels to buy food, clothes and medicine.

Oskar died in 1974. He is buried on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the only member of the Nazi party Israel has allowed to receive such an honor, and has a tree planted in his name at Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous.

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