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Mimi Reinhard, Oskar Schindler's secretary whose typing helped save hundreds of Jews, dies at 107

She played a small but important role in one of the great heroic stories to emerge from the Holocaust.

Mimi Reinhard, Oskar Schindler's secretary whose typing helped save hundreds of Jews, dies at 107
Cover Image Source: A carbon copy of the original Schindler's List is seen at The State Library Of New South Wales on April 7, 2009, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images)

Mimi Reinhard, an Austrian Jew who typed the names of more than 1,000 Jews for Oskar Schindler—the Nazi intelligence officer and war profiteer who would go on to help them escape Nazi execution—has died aged 107. Born on January 15, 1915, in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, as Carmen Koppel, Reinhard was held prisoner at a concentration camp near Krakow, Poland, during World War II in 1944. According to The New York Times, although she wasn't much of a typist, she knew shorthand and spoke flawless German, leading to her being recruited for a job in the camp's administrative office by Schindler.


It was there that she went on to play a small but important role in one of the great heroic stories to emerge from the Holocaust, one in which the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish prisoners—including hers—were saved from near-certain death. Schindler, who ran an enamelware factory near Krakow, initially exploited the Jews as a source of cheap labor. However, as he witnessed the horrors of the murderous Nazi regime, he reportedly risked his life and fortune to become their protector. Schindler's acts of subterfuge included creating a list of workers whom he deemed "essential" for the Nazi war effort but in reality, were those he wanted to spare from all but certain annihilation.


The now-famous Schindler's list—which included children, women, a girl dying of cancer, rabbis, friends of his and anyone else whose name he could remember—started with about 400 names. He recruited Reinhard to type up the names while visiting the Plaszow labor camp where she worked, and the list kept growing as he and others added more names. "It was very informal, and every day someone handed her more names, and the list had to be typed again and again," said Reinhard's son, Sasha Weitman. She even put her own name on the list and those of three friends, he added.


Reinhard, who never learned to type beyond using two fingers, produced the final clean manifest of names that would be presented to Nazi officials. Instead of being shipped to the gas chambers, the people listed were all sent to a Schindler munitions factory in an area of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland at the time, where their lives were spared. Reinhard was 107 years old when she died on Friday in an assisted living facility in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, Israel, her son revealed.


The story of the so-called Schindler Jews—the Schindlerjuden—was made public in 1982, when the Australian author Thomas Keneally published a meticulously researched novel, "Schindler’s Ark," which appeared in the United States as "Schindler's List." The saga reached even more people in 1993 through the much-acclaimed Steven Spielberg movie by the same name, which won seven Academy Awards, including best picture. Although Reinhard was never secretive about her role, it did not come to light publicly until 2007 when the then-92-year-old moved to Israel from New York (where she had settled after the war) and told of her Schindler connection to the Jewish Agency for Israel. She became an instant celebrity when she landed in Israel, where she was mobbed by the news media.


In addition to her son, Reinhard is survived by three granddaughters, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. Speaking to Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz in 2007, she revealed the two sides of Schindler she witnessed. "He was no angel," she said. "We knew that he was an SS man; he was a member of the highest ranks. They went out drinking together at night, but apparently he could not stand to see what they were doing to us... I saw a man who was risking his life all the time for what he was doing."

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