Just like in the final haunting scene of Schindler's List, a group of Holocaust survivors who owe their lives to the German industrialist, and their descendants, paid a visit to the gravesite of Oskar Schindler Thursday in preparation for International Holocaust Remembrance Day this coming Saturday.
The scene shown in the movie was filmed 25 years ago and the number of survivors is decreasing each year, but the families keep the memory alive and continue to pay respect to the man to whom they owe their lives.
Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of 1,200 Polish Jews and was recognized as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, is buried on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Dozens of survivors, together with rabbis, representatives of the Vatican and of the Franciscan Order of Jerusalem visited the site Thursday.
Visitors placed small stones on Schindler's grave in the Catholic-Franciscan cemetery and recited prayers for his soul. Afterwards, they held a small ceremony in the nearby Chamber of the Holocaust museum where they dedicated a plaque to Schindler.
The event was initiated by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), an organization dedicated to revitalizing and restoring Jewish identity and learning; the Claims Conference against Germany (for Holocaust restitution); the March of the Living and the Chamber of the Holocaust museum on Mount Zion.
"This event is especially emotional for me," said Bronia Shkolnik, 86, a Holocaust survivor, during the candle lighting ceremony. "To be here, in the State of Israel, and pay tribute to those who saved so many lives—it cannot be taken for granted."
Lily Heber, Director of the Organization for Survivors of Cracow, grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. Her father, Yaakov Lazar was saved by Schindler. She stressed that Schindler also saved the thousands of descendents of those 1,200 Jews he saved and that we must remember the heroes who risked their lives to save Jews.
Lazar was born in Austria-Hungary and was transported to the Cracow Ghetto with his family in 1941. With the liquidation of the ghetto, he was transferred to the Plaszow camp where he was lucky enough to find work at Schindler's factory, together with two siblings, that saved his life.
Rabbi Yitzhak Goldstein, Rabbi of Mount Zion and Director of The Chamber of the Holocaust read the El Malei Rachamim (Oh God full of mercy) prayer and laid flowers on the grave. "If not for him those Jews would have been killed. His soul is very special," said Goldstein.
When Schindler passed away in 1974, he was buried, as per his request, in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion next to the country's first Holocaust museum. The cemetery became a pilgrimage point for the survivors who decorated the walls of the museum with plaques commemorating their communities destroyed by the Nazis. The ashes of 250,000 victims were also brought there from 20 different concentration camps.
Father Alberto, the representative of the Franciscan Order told Ynet the group "wants to remember the Christians who understood the importance of rescuing Jews and overturning history."
Chaim Chesler, the founder of Limmud FSU said: "(Schindler) was the biggest rescuer of Jews. The goal of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is that we do not forget the non-Jews who saved Jews."