Today Murray Pantirer – was the only one of his family to survive. He lost both his parents, two sisters and four brothers during the war, all murdered by the Nazis.
He himself was saved because Oskar Schindler gave him work at his factory, provided him with food and protected him from the Nazi reign of terror. Murray Pantirer later recalled the time a prisoner stole some potatoes:
“An SS man put a potato in his mouth. He had to stand outside like that in the cold weather, and it was written on him ‘I’m a potato thief.’ When Schindler saw it, he took the potato out of his mouth, and said to the guy, ‘go back to your work.’ And he told the SS man: In my camp you don’t do those things.”
During World War 2 Abraham Zuckerman spent his teenage years in Nazi concentration camps, never hearing about Oskar Schindler until he was sent as a worker to his factory, known as Emalia, at Plaszow in 1943.
“The moment that I arrived, I knew that my life had changed,” Abraham Zuckerman later recalls. “There was food and mountains of potatoes. One never went hungry …”
“The movie showed one thing, but there were other things that he did in camp, little things,” says Zuckerman. “He was a chain smoker, so he used to take a puff and throw it away. For the survivors, the people who were smoking, it meant a lot to them to pick it up and have a puff. He would do it on purpose, knowing that people would pick it up.”
He couldn’t just give them cigarettes or extra food because there were Nazi guards in the factory who might squeal if they witnessed behavior deemed too humane; indeed, says Zuckerman, Schindler was arrested a couple of times because somebody reported him.
Despite the conditions, Oskar Schindler was always a perfect gentleman to the inmates, he says. “He bowed to you, and he said good morning to you,” Zuckerman says, which may not sound like much of a favor, but to those beaten-down Jews, that small acknowledgement of their dignity gave them enormous hope.
Abraham Zuckerman has devoted himself to memorializing Oskar Schindler. Zuckerman published his memoirs in 1991. His “A Voice in the Chorus” is a moving and powerful addition to the library of works on the holocaust.