April 13th 2014
It might surprise you to know that one of the most frequently visited graves in Jerusalem belongs to a non-Jew. Oskar Schindler, the man who saved the lives of over 1,000 people during the Holocaust, is buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, a brief walk from the Zion Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.
His grave is generally covered with piles of stones placed by visitors, Jews and non-Jews alike, in accordance with the custom of leaving a stone as a marker on a grave. The piles of stones are generally pushed to the side to reveal the inscription which includes a cross, names and dates in English, a Hebrew inscription that means “Righteous among the Nations” and a German inscription that means “The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews”.
Oskar Schindler’s famous story is told in the movie Schindler’s List, a 1993 Academy Award-winning film by Steven Spielberg. Schindler was a factory owner in Germany during the Second World War and was officially a member of the Nazi Party. He was neither a particularly honest businessman nor a particularly faithful husband. The irony is that his somewhat unsavory character enabled him to save so many of his Jewish employees because of his ability to fool the Nazis about his true intentions. After the war, Schindler admitted that his eyewitness experience of German cruelty in the ghetto in Krakow convinced him that he had to take some action to save Jews.
Approximately 15 years after the end of World War II, Oskar Schindler started visiting Israel every year, where his actions were greatly lauded. The once-wealthy man died in 1974 in Germany, impoverished and subsisting on help from Jewish organizations. It was his desire to be buried in Jerusalem.
The grave is not always easy to find, despite the sign on the decorative iron of a stone archway that reads “To Oskar Schindler’s Grave” in English. Located on the lowest level of the Catholic cemetery, the grave can often be identified thanks to the aforementioned mound of stones, which can be seen from a distance. The cemetery is generally open in the mornings every day except Sunday. To make it possible to visit during other times, the phone number of the cemetery’s Muslim caretaker is painted informally on the gate.