Archive for the ‘God forsees nothing in the sinner’ Category

Why did Oskar Schindler save Abraham Bankier?

January 4, 2013

On June 3, Abraham Bankier, Oskar’s office manager, didn’t turn up at Lipowa Street. Schindler was still at home, drinking coffee in Straszewskiego Street, when he got a call from one of his secretaries. She’d seen Bankier marched out of the ghetto, not even stopping at Optima, straight to the Prokocim depot. There’d been other Emalia workers in the group too. There’d been Reich, Leser … as many as a dozen.
Oskar called for his car to be brought to him from the garage. He drove over the river and down Lwowska toward Prokocim. There he showed his pass to the guards at the gate. The depot yard itself was full of strings of cattle cars, the station crowded with the ghetto’s dispensable citizens standing in orderly lines, convinced still—and perhaps they were right— of the value of passive and orderly response. It was the first time Oskar had seen this juxtaposition of humans and cattle cars, and it was a greater shock than hearing of it; it made him pause on the edge of the platform. Then he saw a jeweler he knew.

Seen Bankier? he asked. “He’s already in one of the cars, Herr Schindler,” said the jeweler. “Where are they taking you?” Oskar asked the man. “We’re going to a labor camp, they say. Near Lublin. Probably no worse than …” The man waved a hand toward distant Cracow.
Schindler took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, found some 10-zloty bills and handed the pack and the notes to the jeweler, who thanked him. They had made them leave home without anything this time. They said they’d be forwarding the baggage.
Late the previous year, Schindler had seen in the SS Bulletin of Budget and Construction an invitation for bids for the construction of some crematoria in a camp southeast of Lublin. Bel@. Schindler considered the jeweler. Sixty-three or comfour. A little thin; had probably had pneumonia last winter. Worn pin-striped suit, too warm for the day. And in the clear, knowing eyes a capacity to bear finite suffering. Even in the summer of 1942 it was impossible to guess at the connections between such a man as this and those ovens of extraordinary cubic capacity. Did they intend to start epidemics among the prisoners? Was that to be the method? Beginning from the engine, Schindler moved along the line of more than twenty cattle cars, calling Bankier’s name to the faces peering down at him from the open grillwork high above the slats of the cars. It was fortunate for Abraham that Oskar did not ask himself why it was Bankier’s name he called, that he did not pause and consider that Bankier’s had only equal value to all the other names loaded aboard the Ostbahn rolling stock. An existentialist might have been defeated by the numbers at Prokocim, stunned by the equal appeal of all the names and voices. But Schindler was a philosophic innocent. He knew the people he knew. He knew the name of Bankier. “Bankier! Bankier!” he continued to call.
He was intercepted by a young SS Oberscharf@uhrer, an expert railroad shipper from Lublin. He asked for Schindler’s pass. Oskar could see in the man’s left hand an enormous list—pages of names.
My workers, said Schindler. Essential industrial workers. My office manager. It’s idiocy.
I have Armaments Inspectorate contracts, and here you are taking the workers I need to fulfill them. You can’t have them back, said the young man. They’re on the list. … The SS NCO knew from experience that the list conferred an equal destination on all its members. Oskar dropped his voice to that hard murmur, the growl of a reasonable man, well connected, who wasn’t going to bring up all his heavy guns yet. Did the Herr Oberscharfuhrer know how long it would take to train experts to replace those on the list? At my works, Deutsche Email Fabrik, I have a munitions section under the special protection of General Schindler, my namesake. Not only would the Oberscharfuhrer’s comrades on the Russian Front be affected by the disruption of production, but the office of the Armaments Inspectorate would demand explanations as well. The young man shook his head—just a harassed transit official. “I’ve heard that kind of story before, sir,” he said. But he was worried. Oskar could tell it and kept leaning over him and speaking softly with an edge of menace. “It’s not my place to argue with the list,” said Oskar. “Where is your superior officer?”
The young man nodded toward an SS officer, a man in his thirties wearing a frown above his spectacles. “May I have your name, Herr Untersturmfuhrer?” Oskar asked him, already pulling a notebook from his suit pocket. The officer also made a statement about the holiness of the list. For this man it was the secure, rational, and sole basis for all this milling of Jews and movement of rail cars. But Schindler got crisper now. He’d heard about the list, he said. What he had asked was what the Untersturmf@uhrer’s name was.
He intended to appeal directly to Oberfuhrer Scherner and to General Schindler of the Armaments Inspectorate.
“Schindler?” asked the officer. For the first time he took a careful look at Oskar. The man was dressed like a tycoon, wore the right badge, had generals in the family. “I believe I can guarantee you, Herr Untersturmfuhrer,” said Schindler in his benign grumble, “that you’ll be in southern Russia within the week.”
The NCO going ahead, Herr Schindler and the officer marched side by side between the ranks of prisoners and the loaded cattle cars. The locomotive was already steaming and the engineer leaning from his cabin, looking down the length of the train, waiting to be dispatched. The officer called to Ostbahn officials they passed on the platform to hold up.
At last they reached one of the rear cars. There were a dozen workers in there with Bankier; they had all boarded together as if expecting a joint deliverance. The door was unlocked and they jumped down—Bankier and Frankel from the office; Reich, Leser, and the others from the factory. They were restrained, not wanting to permit anyone to detect their pleasure at being saved the journey. Those left inside began chattering merrily, as if they were fortunate to be traveling with so much extra room, while with emphasis in his pen strokes, the officer removed the Emalia workers one at a time from the list and required Oskar to initial the pages. As Schindler thanked the officer and turned to follow his workers away, the man detained him by the elbow of his suit coat. “Sir,” he said, “it makes no difference to us, you understand. We don’t care whether it’s this dozen or that.”
The officer, who had been frowning when Oskar first saw him, now seemed calm, as if he had discovered the theorem behind the situation. You think your thirteen little tinsmiths are important? We’ll replace them with another thirteen little tinsmiths and all your sentimentality for these will be defeated. “It’s the inconvenience to the list, that’s all,” the officer explained.
Plump little Bankier admitted that the group of them had neglected to pick up Blauscheins from the old Polish Savings Bank. Schindler, suddenly testy, said to attend to it. But what his curtness covered was dismay at those crowds at Prokocim who, for want of a blue sticker, stood waiting for the new and decisive symbol of their status, the cattle car, to be hauled by heavy engine across their range of vision. Now, the cattle cars told them, we are all beasts together.

Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s Ark, 136

Why did Schindler pull Bankier out of a cattle wagon full of Jews headed to the gas chambers? Schindler knew him. Schindler chose him. Bankier was no more or less deserving than the others but it was Schindler’s choice and nothing in Bankier that is vital to understand.

So too, God elects the undeserving to eternal life of His own good pleasure because he sets His love upon some (foreknowledge) and passes over others. God alone is free; we deserve nothing but His wrath. We should not ask why some are overlooked but why some are saved at all when justice demanded them also being left to their fate.

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We were not chosen because of our goodness

April 25, 2010

“You did not choose me,” Christ says, “but I chose you” (John 15:16). Such grace is beyond description. What were we, apart from Christ’s choice of us, when we were empty of love? What were we but sinful and lost? We did not lead him to choose us by believing in him; for if Christ chose people who already believed, then we chose him before he chose us. How then could he say, “You did not choose me,” unless his mercy came before our faith? Here is the faulty reasoning of those who say that God chose us before the creation of the world, not in order to make us good, but because he foreknew we would be good…We were not chosen because of our goodness, for we could not be good without being chosen…salvation is not by grace if our goodness came first; but it is by grace – and therefore God’s grace did not find us good but makes us good.

Augustine of Hippo, Commentary on John 15:16 quoted N.R. Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power : Part 1, Grace Publications 2002, p.261-2