As a self-serving businessman and a member of the Nazi party during World War II, Oskar Schindler is the least likely hero of any story. But, despite his controversial background, Schindler’s actions during one of history’s darkest periods have become a source of inspiration for many. In fact, his legacy is one of the key drivers behind our approach to ethical, compassionate business practices here at Veshin.
Schindler is proof that it’s never too late to take action. That we can change our course, no matter the circumstances. And that when something’s not right, we must lead from the heart. Because the actions of just one person can ripple out for generations to come.
Oskar Schindler’s complex life
Born in 1908 in what’s now Czech Republic, a young Schindler began life in a fast-changing world. His youth was marked by the influence of his father, a man with a wavering moral compass. Schindler grew up to be much better in business dealings than he was in academics. So much so that his attempts to cheat the system ended with a forged report card and expulsion from school.
Refusing to accept this as a setback, Schindler continued to hone his innate business sense and natural cunning. He was actually known as a kind man. But his pursuit of hedonistic pleasures and penchant for bending the rules earned him his initial reputation as a scoundrel. It would be a few more years until these traits would save the lives of over 1,200 Jewish people.
But before his transformation, Schindler´s controversial character led him to join the Nazi Party in 1939 as an undercover agent. He soon found himself in Kraków, Poland, tasked with supporting Germany’s conquest of Poland.
By this time, Poland’s persecuted Jewish population had lost the familiar way of life they’d known just a year before. Ever the opportunist, Schindler capitalised on the availability of Jewish-owned businesses and cheap labour. He used his profits to bribe Nazi officials and further his advantage, something that would later prove crucial to the survival of his employees.
An unlikely hero: Schindler’s role in World War II
At first, Schindler’s main concern was the success of his business ventures. But, as the horrors of the Holocaust unfolded, the injustice of the war, and his part in it, revealed itself.
Schindler was compelled to make some kind of positive change. He acquired a factory and employed Cracovian Jewish workers. Making enamelware at Schindler’s factory meant they could avoid being forcibly taken to the Nazis’ concentration camps.
As time passed, the factory switched from making enamelware to making weapons. This was a guise, as by this time, Schindler’s support for the Nazi regime was long gone. But this display of patriotism meant the factory and its employees mostly flew under the German military’s radar. Meanwhile, Schindler’s bribes and gifts to the Nazi officials ensured their continued cooperation. They turned a blind eye to his attempts to keep his workers out of danger.
You may have heard of “Schindler’s List”, a document with over 1,200 of his Jewish employee’s names. Although Schindler didn’t actually write the list himself, he was the overall protagonist.
Schindler’s list changed the course of history for generations to come. It classed his employees as “essential workers”. So, thanks to his status and connections, Schindler was able to provide them safe passage to neighbouring Czechoslovakia, where they would relocate their operations. Here, Schindler made sure they had access to the food, healthcare, and overall security they were refused in German-occupied Poland.
“I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That’s all there is to it. Really, nothing more.” – Oskar Schindler
Embracing Schindler’s Legacy of Change and Compassion
Schindler’s actions are a powerful reminder of the importance of conscience, empathy, and the capacity for change. He’s proof that individuals can rise above their past and make significant contributions, even in the most difficult circumstances.
And this is why Oskar Schindler is an inspiration for Veshin. The fashion industry has caused environmental and social harm on a colossal scale. But, we believe in finding a way forward. In creating a path where there isn’t one. In pushing the boundaries of traditional business models to create a positive impact, just like Schindler did.
We are committed to honouring Schindler’s spirit by promoting ethical, more sustainable, and compassionate business practices across all industries. And, ultimately, in working collaboratively to build a kinder, greener world for future generations.
SourcesJackson, M. W. (1988). Oskar Schindler and Moral Theory. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 5(2), 175–182.
Krammer, A. (2006). Review of Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story behind the List, by D. M. Crowe. Central European History, 39(3), 523–525.
Wundheiler, L. N. (1986). Oskar Schindler’s Moral Development During The Holocaust. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 13(1/2), 333–356.