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Schindler list survivor recalls saviour

Dr Jonathan Dresner
Dr Dresner says he owes his life to Oskar Schindler
As Israel marks its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, one of those whose lives were saved by German businessman Oskar Schindler has spoken of his lasting gratitude.

Mr Schindler is credited with rescuing nearly 1,200 Jews, whom he employed in his enamel and munitions factory in Krakow, in German-occupied Poland, shielding them from deportation to death camps.

Dr Jonathan Dresner, 85, who has lived in Israel since 1949, was one of those on Mr Schindler's list of Jewish workers protected from the SS.

"All those who were on Schindler's list were lucky people and we felt it at that time," he said.

"When we saw Schindler walking around we felt safe. It was everything for us. It is the main reason why I am alive today, how I was able to build a new life after the war."

Dr Dresner says he remembers Mr Schindler as a "very handsome, charming man" who naturally engendered trust.

"He used his charm especially on women, and he used it very well, and when you looked at him his face told you that you could rely on him," he said.

'Nazis bribed'

Along with his sister and parents, Dr Dresner was sent from Krakow's Jewish ghetto to work in Mr Schindler's factory.

"Everybody who was young enough and strong enough had to work and mostly people were working for the Germans - we were forced to do it, but this was the way that we thought at that time that we could survive," he said.

My grandchild was [once] asked what she thought of Schindler and she said she felt that he saved her also
Dr Jonathan Dresner
Mr Schindler saved his workers, known as the Schindlerjuden, from the camps by using charm and guile and by bribing Nazi officials.

"He bribed everybody in Berlin and he got his permission," recalled Mr Dresner.

"He told them he needs special men and women who will do the work he needs... 800 men and 300 women, and this was how Schindler's list was born."

The story was immortalised in the book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally and the film Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg.

Mr Dresner's family was one of only four which worked for Mr Schindler and survived.

'We owe him'

By the end of the war, Mr Schindler was virtually destitute and spent the following decades drifting from one failed business venture to another.

"We [Schindler's surviving Jewish workers] decided to give him a monthly pension," said Mr Dresner.

"[But] it wasn't enough for him because he was what he was - a drinker and a womaniser. When he got $100 he spent $110. He went bankrupt and he was left with a lot of debts.

"At that time we, the survivors, especially those who were living in Israel, organised ourselves and we decided that we'd take care of him," he said.

Mr Schindler died in 1974, aged 66, and was buried in Jerusalem in accordance with his wishes.

Mr Dresner - one of only about 60 Jews saved by Mr Schindler still alive - says the legacy of his actions continues to be felt.

"My grandchild was [once] asked what she thought of Schindler and she said she felt that he saved her also," he said.

"We feel all the time that we owe him and we want him to know that we owe him."

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