Mietek Pemper died. The World War II Jewish secretary to Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth. The brave man who repeatedly risked death to type up the names we know as Schindler’s List.
Pemper used his wartime job from hell to gain access to classified documents, then, putting his photographic memory to work, he recorded them and passed the information on to Schindler.
If you saw Stephen Spielberg’s movie, you may remember this distraught exchange between Oskar Schindler and Itzhak Stern (a composite character of Stern and Pemper):
Schindler: “I could have gotten more out. I could have… If I’d just… I could have got more.”
Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.”
Schindler: “If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…
Stern: “There will be generations because of what you did.”
My first husband Larry spent the last couple years of his life in a care facility. Even as his abilities decreased, he stayed active and involved, thanks to the tireless efforts of a striking middle-aged woman I’ll call Miriam. I remember one special evening near the end of Larry’s life, a balloon-and-carnations bedecked candle-light dinner Miriam arranged for residents and their families. That night Miriam, dressed up in a bright red evening dress, ate dinner with Larry and me. “I’d think you’d have other ways you would prefer to spend your Friday evenings,” I told her. Miriam smiled and said no, actually this was exactly where she wanted to be.
It wasn’t until later that I found out about Miriam’s father: His name was on Schindler’s list. Which is why he survived to marry, which is why Miriam was born. Which is why we were able to sit together at so lovely an occasion. Which is why Larry had one last special evening.
Other people owe huge debts of gratitude to Mietek Pemper. Mine seems very small and unimportant. Oh, but it’s so very significant to me.
Thank you, Mietek Pemper, for all the generations.
“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”