Mimi Reinhard, secretary who typed ‘Schindler’s List’, dies at 107
Ms Reinhard, then known as Carmen Weitmann, typed in the names of more than 1,000 Jewish people – including her own and those of two friends – to create what became known as “Schindler’s List”. She said to herself “schreibkraft», or typist.
“The only practical thing I learned in my life was shorthand, but I never learned to type,” Ms. Reinhard told The New York Times in 2007. “I typed with only two fingers.”
As a result, she and more than 1,000 other Jews were saved from near certain annihilation in the Nazi death camps of World War II.
Ms. Reinhard, who later became Schindler’s secretary, died in Israel at the age of 107. Israeli and European news agencies reported his death, citing an April 8 statement from his granddaughter. The exact date, location and cause of Ms. Reinhard’s death were not immediately known. She had lived near Tel Aviv since 2007.
Schindler, an ethnic German who lived in what was then Czechoslovakia, was a member of the Nazi Party. Yet he cajoled and sometimes threatened German military authorities in his efforts to protect his Jewish workers.
In 1944, as the Russian Red Army marched towards Krakow, the Germans withdrew and sent many Jewish prisoners to the nearby Plaszow concentration camp – where Ms. Reinhard was held – to their death in Auschwitz. Schindler persuaded German officials that Jewish workers at his enamel factory near Kraków should be transferred to another concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, where they were needed to produce munitions. Ms Reinhard was among those who boarded a train for the journey in October 1944.
“It was a gamble as far as we were concerned,” she told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in 2007. “Leaving with Schindler was no guarantee of anything. We didn’t think Schindler would really succeed in saving us. He was just taking us to a different camp. Who knew? We took a chance only because we believed in Schindler.
On the way to Czechoslovakia, Ms. Reinhard’s train detoured to Auschwitz, where they were held for two weeks. She described the scene as “straight out of Dante’s ‘Inferno’. … We were sure we were screwed.
Schindler threatened to accuse German officers of “undermining” the war effort if they did not allow his Jewish workers to leave Auschwitz. In Czechoslovakia, Schindler submitted false reports from his arms factory to confuse Nazi officials. The factory only produced one wagon of ammunition before the end of the war in May 1945 and the liberation of the camp. An estimated 1,100 Jewish lives were saved.
Schindler died, impoverished and in obscurity, in 1974. Australian author Thomas Keneally told his story to the public in the 1982 novel “Schindler’s List” (or “Schindler’s Ark” outside the states -United). The book was followed by Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed 1993 film, “Schindler’s List,” which Ms. Reinhard avoided seeing for several years.
“It was still fresh in my mind,” she told Ha’aretz. “I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to go through that again.
The same year that Spielberg’s film was released, Schindler and his wife, Emilie, were named “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center.
“He was no angel,” Ms. Reinhard said of Schindler. “We knew he was an SS; he was a member of the highest ranks. They went out drinking together at night, but apparently he couldn’t stand to see what they were doing to us. …I saw a man who was always risking his life for what he was doing.
Carmen Koppel was born on January 15, 1915 in Vienna, then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, dissolved at the end of the First World War in 1918.
Not much can be learned about her early life except that she studied languages and literature at the University of Vienna. In 1936 she was married and living in Krakow. She and her husband had a son in 1939 and later smuggled him to Hungary to live with relatives during the war.
She and her husband were arrested and confined to the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. Her husband was killed as he tried to escape. Ms. Reinhard was then placed in the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp.
After the war, she reunited with her son, lived for several years in Morocco, remarried and had a daughter. She moved to New York in 1957 and lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for 50 years. She maintained her ties with other “Schindlerjudenor Jews saved by Schindler, but never told strangers about his previous life.
Her daughter, Lucienne Reinhard, died in 2000. Her second husband, Albert Reinhard, died in 2002. Five years later, when Ms. Reinhard planned to move to Israel, where her son was a professor of sociology, members of a Jewish resettlement agency interviewed him about his wartime experiences. It was only then that his connection to Schindler was revealed.
Survivors include his son, Sasha Weitman, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
More than a dozen years after the end of the Second World War, Ms Reinhard was walking down a street in Vienna with her aunt when she heard someone shouting her old name, Carmen Weitmann. It was Schindler, sitting in a cafe.
“He had recognized me,” Ms. Reinhard later recalled. “He sat in the café with other Jews who had worked for him. My aunt asked me irritably how I had known this man.