sheet of paper, a photocopy, is folded and faded. The original meant the
difference between life and death for those fortunate to have their names
on it more than 50 years ago. Schindler`s List.
Anna Duklauer Perl was one of them. One column of numbers and names, No.
76235, Anna Duklauer, "Metallarbeiterin" or metalworker it says
in German next to her name.
Long before Steven Spielberg ever heard of him and decided to make his
movie, Oscar Schindler`s name was kept nearly as close to Anna Duklauer
Perl`s heart as the names of her own children and grandchildren. For
almost five decades, she never said much about the horrors of Holocaust or
the salvation of becoming one of Schindler`s Jews. Neither to her family
nor her friends.
She kept it inside. She didn't want her family to go through it, too. She
later said:"I just told them that, without a man named Oscar Schindler,
I wouldn't be here." But she didn't tell them the whole story until
Spielberg`s movie was made.
And overnight everyone was interested in the subject - people were eager
to hear from someone who had actually been there. She found herself
talking about and sharing a part of her life that was locked inside her
for so long. Anna Duklauer Perl, a shy, petite woman who quietly raised
three children and worked as a seamstress, found that everyone wanted to
hear her story.
She spoke to thousands of school children in Virginia about her own sad
experiences as a teenager, she was Hillary Clinton's guest at the White
House, she was interviewed by newspapers and magazines, she was on TV, she
took part in the Holocaust Memorial day program in New Orleans, she was
quoted in Newsweek just as she was the guest speaker at special screenings
of "Schindler`s List".
Anna was barely 20 years old in Nazi-occupied Poland when she became one
of 1,200 Jews saved by German industrialist Oscar Schindler. To more than
1200 Jewish people Schindler and his factories were all that stood between
them and death at the hands of the Nazis. But Schindler remained true to
his "Schindlerjuden", the workers he referred to as "my
children". He kept the SS out and everyone alive.
In 1943 Anna Duklauer was working in the
laundry room at Plaszow concentration camp in Poland. She didn't think she
would survive very long, she was beaten regularly - her life had been
almost unbearable for the past three years.
Before the war the Duklauer family was living high in the mountains of
Poland, in the ski resort town of Zakopane. Here Sofia and Julius Duklauer
led a happy life, highlighted by the births of their three children, Erna,
Morris and Anna.
The Duklauer family's feelings of security collapsed, however, when in
1939, Germany invaded Poland, and the brutality of the Nazis accelerated
with murder, violence and terror. The Duklauer family was herded into
Cracow's Jewish Ghetto into a one-room apartment and then torn apart.
Morris was about 14, blond and blue-eyed, looking like a Christian. He had
a chance of surviving, so the family told him to escape out of the ghetto.
He did, but one day he came back. "He said he missed us too
much", said Anna. "When the Nazis found him they beat and
dragged him off to a truck." Anna's mother Sofia ran after her only
son and climbed onto the truck. Anna never saw them again ...
In 1942 Anna, Erna and her father were sent to the forced labor camp of
Plaszow. Here the conditions of life were made dreadful by the SS officer
Amon Goeth, the commandant of Plaszow.
Then one day in the laundry, in the spring of 1943, she was approached by
a small Jewish man who told her he needed women to work in the factory.
Oscar Schindler`s factory. "I don't know why I was chosen that
day," she later said, "It's a question I've asked myself
hundreds and hundreds of times. Why me ? Why was I chosen to live
At first, Anna did not want to go and leave her sister Erna. "But she
begged me. `Go. With Schindler,
there is life. You must go`", Anna later said.
At Schindler`s enamelware factory DEF
Anna worked 12 hours a day, alternating her time between making pots and
pans and working in the kitchen preparing meals. But she was away from
harassment and the killings. At Schindler`s factory, nobody was hit,
nobody murdered, nobody sent to death camps.
Anna Duklauer worked at Schindlers
factory until the Liberation. "Schindler was a good man. You could
tell that ... Schindler and us grew together. And in the end, he gave away
all his money." Anna later said.
In May, 1945, it was all over. At five after midnight - certain that his Jews
finally were out of danger - Oscar Schindler left the factory. "I
must leave now" Schindler said, "Auf Wiedersehen".
Anna Duklauer lost no time heading for Zakopane to seek her family.
Wearing patched cloths, she walked in her broken shoes for a week to
Cracow and Zakopane, with a glimmer of a hope to find her lost friends and
She found none, and only heard stories of how her mom and brother were
sent to the gas chambers, how her sister was drowned, her dad poisoned,
and her childhood friends were shot. Her worst fears came true, as she
learned that she lost everyone and everything precious to her. She was
left with no family, no home, claiming only a comb and a worn out
toothbrush as her only possessions.
One day Anna heard that her father
had been killed only days before the Liberation. Later she found out what
happened to her sister, Erna. "Someone told me they put her on a boat
with 300 other young girls and took it out and sank it. It was near the
end, and they were trying to kill as many Jews as they could."
Soon after the war Anna met Jano Perl, another Holocaust survivor trying
to rebuild his life. They fell in love, settled in Slovakia, married and
started a family. Life continued to be hard. In 1965, the family
immigrated first to Israel, and then finally settled in the United States.
Thirty years after the start of the war, freedom, peace, prosperity and
comfort finally arrived.
Anna told the family a little bit about her war experiences, about
Auschwitz and about Oscar Schindler, but she never showed hatred towards
anyone. She chose to burry her pain mostly inside, working hard to nurture
her young family.
Anna’s final call in life came
after the movie Schindler’s List was made. The spotlight came upon her,
and despite the fact that she did not like talking much about her war
experiences, she felt that it was time to speak up, to let people know
that it really all happened, to tell them to renounce violence and
Over the years Anna heard bits of
news about Oscar Schindler from others on "The
List". Unloved and unrecognized at home, he reached for the
bottle. He had become an alcoholic during the war and struggled to wean
himself off the habit. "He was like in the movie", Anne said,
"Very handsome. A ladies`man. And he had this huge ring. We used to
say you could see him coming from the light of his ring."
She didn't remember the exact day, but it was sometime in 1974 when she
heard that Oscar Schindler had died. "I think a little bit of us all
died, too", she said, "If it weren't for Oscar Schindler,
we wouldn't be here."
Yael, Olivia, Michelle, Tali, Dany, Joseph, Deborah, Joshua, Ariel,
Anna and Jano Perl were blessed with
three children and she survived to see all her ten grandchildren. Thirteen
of the six thousand Schindler survivors ...
Anna Duklauer Perl died in March of 1997.