Nearly Discarded Schindler Artifact Now on Display at Jewish Holocaust Center in Australia
The model for a signet ring given to Holocaust rescuer Oskar Schindler by Jewish workers he saved is now on display at the Jewish Holocaust Center in Melbourne, after almost being thrown away by its owner, Australia’s ABC News reported on Sunday.
Melbourne resident Louis Gross found the ring model inside a box of “knick knacks” given to him by his late father, Jozef Gross, a master jeweler who worked in Schindler’s factory during the Holocaust alongside 1,200 Jews whom the German businessman hid from the Nazis. To express their gratitude, they gathered bits of gold from tooth fillings, copper and a silver coin, which Jozef then melted down into a gold ring for Schindler.
“[My father] made a model out of lead pipe, used cuttlefish to make the mold, with a channel to pour the lead into the cuttlefish,” Louis told ABC Radio.
No one knows what happened to the ring itself, but Jozef took the model with him when he migrated to Australia in 1949 with his second wife and 2-year-old son, according to The Age. Jozef’s first wife, their 4-year-old son, Jozef’s mother and his seven siblings were all killed in concentration camps.
Jozef kept the ring model in a razor box for 30 years and never told Louis the story behind it. When the jeweler died in 1997, Louis took the box to his father’s long-time business partner, Andrew Belza, to help him examine its contents. Belza recognized the ring model and told Louis about Schindler’s connection to it, according to ABC News.
Although Jozef kept the model for many years, Louis said his father was “a bit ambivalent” about Schindler.
“He had seven brothers and sisters, most married with children, he was married with a child, and no one survived [the Holocaust] other than my father,” Louis said. “That was very traumatic, so he had trouble saying [Schindler] was a German who deserved praise.”
Louis said he believes Schindler was “a bit of a saint and a bit of a sinner.” Nevertheless, he thought it was the right decision to donate the ring to the Jewish Holocaust Center. He told ABC News, “The largest group of Schindler’s survivors are in Melbourne and we’ve decided now, because my father lived in Melbourne, to give it to the Melbourne Holocaust museum. It’s been an emotional process.”
He also said he believes that displaying the ring model “shows people’s spirit in the face of adversity” and is a tribute to his father’s craftsmanship.
Museum curator Jayne Josem said the ring model is one of the few physical artifacts from Schindler’s factory. She said most survivors walked away with only their personal testimonies.
“People don’t take photos of being hidden, they don’t have mementos. This is rare is because it’s an item that connects to a specific story that’s a very well known story,” she said. “Visitors come to the Holocaust center and they learn a lot of really distressing information. So to be able to talk about hope, and acts of courage, it shines a light and leaves people thinking about the good they can do in the world.”