Shalom Life | March 11, 2015

Schindler’s Lists Are Going To Court

A court battle between Erika Rosenberg and the Yad Vashem over ownership of Oskar Schindler’s documents is set for April 15

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: March 10th, 2015 in News » World

Photo: A version of Schindler's list from the film ' Schindler's List'


The private and personal documents of Oskar Schindler are the topic of an upcoming court case in Israel, set for a preliminary hearing on April 15. The papers, which include his own personal copies of the lists of Jews he saved from the Holocaust by keeping them safe at his factory, are currently being held at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, a national institue which gathers and examines materials concerning the Holocaust.

However Erika Rosenberg, from Argentina, claims to be the rightful owner of the documents and believes that the Yad Vashem institution obtained them illegally.

After World War II, Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of countless Jews by bribing members of the Nazi party to let him employ them at his factory, rather than have them sent to death camps, moved to Argentina with his wife. However he returned to Germany alone in 1958, and passed away there in 1974. Emilie, his wife, remained in Argentina after his passing. Upon his death, his personal documents ended up in the home of a close friend, Annemarie Staehr. According to Rosenberg, Staehr was his lover and took the documents without permission, although the Yad Vashem’s legal team denies that Staehr and Schindler were anything more than friends, and that he gave the briefcase to her as a gift.

The Yad Vashem institute claims the documents were found in Staehr’s house by her children following her death, and were passed along to the German National Archives and German newspaper back in 1997. When the story was made public, Emilie Schindler pursued legal action to have the documents retrieved, but by the time her legal team took action in 1999 the forms had already been sent to the Yad Vashem.

Emilie Schindler moved back to Germany not long before she passed away in 2001. She’d never had any children, and made Rosenberg, who was both her close personal friend and biographer, her heir. Which meant that any of Oskar Schindler’s documents that had rightfully belonged to Emilie, were now considered the property of Rosenberg.

However the Yad Vashem doesn’t believe the papers ever belong to Emilie, and according to a report by The Times of Israel, they believe Rosenberg to be a “serial suer” who is looking to exploit the memory of Oskar Schindler for personal gain.

And, if Rosenberg wins this case, she stands to gain a lot.

According to the report, blueprints for the expansion of Schindler’s factory sold at auction back in 2013 for over $63,000. A letter of introduction by Schindler also sold for almost $60,000. And although the original “Schindler’s lists” no longer exist, copies of them which were made shortly after World War II are highly valued. One private collector has attempted to sell his copy for a starting price of $3 million.

“I’ve no doubt that the issue of ownership is very clear,” said Naor Yair Maman, Rosenberg’s attorney, in the report. “Even if you believe that from the historical-academic perspective, it would be preferable that the documents remain in the Yad Vashem, you have no right, whatsoever, to claim title to someone else’s property.”

The Yad Vashem institute, however, believes that the documents retrieved in 1999 belong to the public, not to Rosenberg.

“Yad Vashem holds the documents lawfully and has acted the whole time openly and publicly,” they said in the report. “We will hold our debate with Rosenberg in court to ensure these documents do not reach private hands, of those who are not their legal owners and whose interests are unclear.”

To date, Rosenberg has yet to announce what she plans on doing with the documents should she win.


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