(Editor’s note: This is a revised version of the story posted to this website earlier in the week.)
Two weeks ago, an auction house offered for sale on eBay one of Oskar Schindler’s original lists of Jews whom he would ultimately save from the concentration camps. The minimum opening bid was set at $3 million.
Bidding closed for that list this past Sunday night. It did not sell.
But another Schindler’s list — Roger Schindler’s list — fared better, going for $152.50 to a buyer in Tucson, Ariz.
Roger Schindler’s list, a simple “to-do” list scribbled on the back of a laundry ticket, might seem mundane — he needs to buy milk and eggs and arrange for an eye exam — but 100 percent of the proceeds of the sale of his list will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for Children, according to its seller, Siusan O’Rourke, an Irish-Catholic musician from Saginaw, Mich., who grew up in the 1960s in Brooklyn, N.Y., and who was “shocked” to see the real Schindler’s list being auctioned to the highest bidder.
“I grew up in neighborhoods filled with folks that barely survived the Holocaust and had lost many of their family members,” she said. “I was sickened that such a list of names would be owned, bought and sold, and I hope my small gesture here will send a message that will somehow make it better for others that also feel sickened by it.”
A 10-year eBay veteran who mostly sells vintage items, O’Rourke invented Roger and his list to make a point.
“It appalls me,” she said. “I can’t believe that people don’t have a line in the sand anymore.”
Having grown up hearing the stories of how her Holocaust-surviving neighbors and their families were forever changed and affected, she was astonished that someone could seek monetary gain from a document that preserved the names of those who suffered through the anguish and loss and devastation inflicted by the Nazis.
“I just had such a sinking feeling about the names being sold,” she said. “And people are being able to profit by it. In Brooklyn, a lot of the older generation had been through the Holocaust. You’d see their tattoos. That was a common thing for us as kids. The baker down the street had lost his wife and his two children. It’s horrifying to see that as a child.”
The Oskar Schindler list on eBay was one of four remaining lists, and the only one ever to be for sale on an open market, according to its description on the auction site. The 14-page list, dated April 18, 1945, emanates from the family of Itzhak Stern, Schindler’s accountant and right-hand man. It lists 801 male names, and “is guaranteed authentic.”
Cantor Moshe Taube, cantor emeritus of Congregation Beth Shalom, was one of the 1,200 Jews saved by Oskar Schindler, and was “number 22” on his list. If the list does ultimately sell on the open market, he said, those whose names are on the list who are still alive should be compensated.
“There are some people who are still alive from the list,” Taube said. “They should get some sort of a stipend. That would be the right thing to do. But the original list should be in a museum, it should be observed, it should be cherished. Whoever put the price on it knew if was a very precious document.”
Shelly Schapiro, of Upper St. Clair, whose father was saved by Oskar Schindler, agreed that the list should be historically preserved, and not just auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“As the daughter of a survivor of Oskar Schindler, I can not possibly attach a monetary value to that document,” Schapiro wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “Schindler’s List deserves a place of honor in a Holocaust museum where it would be viewed by museum visitors. It is unknown as to whose hands Schindler’s List would fall into by auctioning it off. In honor and memory of Oskar Schindler, and those on the list, it should be valued and respected.”
While O’Rourke routinely donates a percentage of her eBay sales to various charities, all of the proceeds from the sale of Roger Schindler’s list will go to St. Jude’s.
“One hundred percent will be going to kids fighting for their lives,” said O’Rourke. “Maybe people will realize that’s what Oskar Schindler’s experience should be about. He gave us that legacy to do for others, not to make money on what we could do for others. This list … should be kept and archived by a museum for future generations to view and remember.”
If Oskar Schindler’s list should re-appear on eBay, O’Rourke plans to counter with more lists from Roger.
“I will re-post lists by Roger Schindler if I should see this list come back up,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe a little good will come of it, and a little good can sometimes go a long way.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)