March 20, 1913
Kraków, Grand Duchy of Cracow, Austro-Hungarian Empire
|Died||March 9, 2001 (aged 87)|
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Other names||Leopold Page|
|Alma mater||Jagiellonian University, Kraków|
|Known for||motivating creation and production of Schindler's List|
Ludmila Lewison (m. 1941)
Leopold "Poldek" Pfefferberg (March 20, 1913 – March 9, 2001), also known as Leopold Page, was a Polish-American Holocaust survivor who inspired the Australian writer Thomas Keneally to write the Booker prize-winning novel Schindler's Ark, which in turn was the basis for Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List.
Pfefferberg was born into a Jewish family in Kraków, then Austro-Hungarian Empire. He gained a master's degree in philosophy and physical education from the Jagiellonian University. Pfefferberg was a high-school teacher in Kraków until 1939 and the physical education professor at Kościuszko Gymnasium in Podgórze.
In 1939 he joined the Polish Army and took part in the defense of Poland against the German invasion. He later explained to the Australian novelist Thomas Keneally how he was wounded on the San River where his life was saved by his sergeant major, who carried him to a field hospital.
As a prisoner at Płaszów, near Kraków, Pfefferberg used a German-issued document to visit his soldiers in a military hospital, and also to visit his mother. In this way he met Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten-German businessman who was taking over an enamelware factory that had been confiscated from Jews. Schindler employed Pfefferberg's mother, an interior designer, to decorate his new apartment.
Through this connection Pfefferberg was employed in Schindler's factory near the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp outside Kraków. This enabled him to survive the extermination of 3 million Polish Jews, during which his parents, sister, brother-in-law and many other relatives were murdered. Pfefferberg described Schindler as "a modern Noah," who was able to save a number of Kraków Jews from deportation to the nearby extermination camp at Auschwitz. Those he saved became known as Schindlerjuden or "Schindler's Jews".
After the war Pfefferberg settled first in Budapest, then in Munich where he organized a school for refugee children. In 1948 he emigrated to the United States. He and his wife settled in Los Angeles in 1950, eventually opening a leather goods business in Beverly Hills. In the United States he used the name Leopold Page, although in later years he apparently reverted to Pfefferberg. He tried on a number of occasions to interest the screenwriters and film-makers he met through his business in a film based on the story of Schindler and his actions in saving Polish Jews from the Nazis, arranging several interviews with Schindler for American television. Schindler's death in 1974 seemed to end any possibility of a film.
In 1980 when Thomas Keneally went into Pfefferberg's shop to ask about the price of briefcases, Pfefferberg learned that Keneally was a novelist and showed him his extensive files on Schindler. Keneally was interested, and Pfefferberg became an advisor for the book, accompanying Keneally to Poland where they visited Kraków and the sites associated with the Schindler story. Keneally dedicated Schindler's Ark to Pfefferberg: "who by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written."
Pfefferberg explained the reasons behind his efforts to have the Schindler story told as:
Schindler gave me my life, and I tried to give him immortality.
After the publication of Schindler's Ark in 1982, Pfefferberg worked to persuade Steven Spielberg to film Keneally's book, using his acquaintance with Spielberg's mother to gain access. Pfefferberg claimed to have called Spielberg's office every week for 11 years. When in 1992 Spielberg agreed to make the film, Pfefferberg worked as an advisor, again making the trip to Poland to show Spielberg the sites; he appears in the film's epilogue and is listed in the end credits as a consultant, under the name Leopold Page. Pfefferberg and his wife were Spielberg's guests on the night Schindler's List won seven Academy Awards. In his acceptance speech Spielberg thanked "a survivor named Poldek Pfefferberg ... I owe him such a debt. He has carried the story of Oskar Schindler to all of us."
Pfefferberg was a founder of the Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation, which recognises acts by individuals and organizations, regardless of race or nationality. He remarked on the Foundation:
Only when the foundation is a reality will I say I have fulfilled my obligation. Because when I am no longer here, when the Schindler Jews are not here, the foundation will still go on.
Pfefferberg died on March 9, 2001, aged 87, in Beverly Hills.
Schindler's original list
- Holocaust in Poland
- Polish contribution to World War II
- Sikorski–Mayski agreement
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- HON. TOM LANTOS, in the House of Representatives. 21 April, 1994 Library of Congress. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
- Poldek Pfefferberg – A Schindler Survivor Louis Bülow, www.auschwitz.dk. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
- Thomas Keneally (July 1, 2004). "The Handbag Studio". Granta Magazine 86. Granta Publications. Retrieved June 17, 2017.(subscription required)
- Fighting Prejudice Through Education is Topic of Speech Archived 2005-02-10 at the Wayback Machine. Joshua Ruppert, 4 April 1995. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
- Schindler Exhibition at MonDak Heritage Center Archived 2011-05-20 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
- Poldek Pfefferberg www.oskarschindler.com. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
- Kate Connolly. Emilie Schindler Guardian Unlimited. 9 October 2001. Retrieved 8 September 2006.
- Tom Tugend. "Survivor who spread word of Schindler's list dies at 87." Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 16 March 2001. Retrieved 9 September 2006.
- http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2009/04/08/index.php?section=espectaculos&article=a09n2esp (In Spanish)
- The Oscar Schindler Story
- Schindler's List on IMDb Retrieved 8 September 2006.
- BBC news report "Schindler's List found in Sydney"
- "Oskar? He was a God. Thomas Keneally tells how he stumbled on the story that became Schindler's List." The Guardian. 18 June 2004.
- Oskar Schindler at Jewish Virtual Library