Wie is the name of the square in front of Frankfurt Central Station? The correct answer is: He has no official name. What should the place be called in the future? If the participants in a panel discussion in the Chagall Hall of the opera have their way, only one name comes into question: Oskar-und-Emilie-Schindler-Platz.
Frankfurt is the right city for such a prominent tribute to the two Jewish rescuers, because Oskar Schindler lived in the Main metropolis after the war from 1957 until his death in 1974, opposite the main station. Sybille Steinbacher, the director of the Fritz Bauer Institute and the moderator that evening, as well as her two guests, the publicist Michel Friedman and David Dilmaghani, the head of the office of the head of the culture department, Ina Hartwig, were in complete agreement.
Oskar Schindler included more than 1,200 Jewish forced laborers employed at his Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik in Kraków, Poland, during the war before being murdered in the Nazi death camps, including Friedman’s grandmother and parents. “Without Schindler, I can’t say it,” said the publicist when asked what Schindler means to him.
In Germany, the rescue of the Schindlers was only known to insiders for a long time. It was not until Hollywood director Steven Spielberg created a cinematic memorial to the entrepreneur in 1993 with “Schindler’s List” that people in Germany became aware of Schindler’s feat. The German premiere of the film took place in Frankfurt, Spielberg made the trip in person, and Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker also attended.
Friedman: Germany needs such role models
In the meantime, interest in Schindler has waned again. Steinbacher believes that the “soldier of fortune”, who initially made a lot of money as an entrepreneur in Poland thanks to his good connections to the Nazis and because of the cheap Jewish labor force and then gradually transformed into a courageous lifesaver, has almost been forgotten.
In Friedman’s opinion, Germany urgently needs role models like Schindler, who in his eyes stands for the idea that everyone can do something to make the world a better place, even in difficult or apparently hopeless situations. Schindler, the publicist believes, has been ignored in Germany for so long because he was living proof of the falsity of the claim “One could do nothing”.
Friedman finds it completely incomprehensible that two years after an initiative by Local Council 1 to name the station forecourt after the Schindlers, the matter is still pending. “Let’s finally do it,” he called out and called on the magistrate and city councilors to speak out in favor of a “Schindler-Platz”. The naming is not a local matter, but a national one, because Schindler is a symbol of what Germany was like back then and what the Germans could have been like.
Pandemic prevents faster action
Dilmaghani pointed out that the cultural department was in favor of an “Emilie-und-Oskar-Schindler-Platz” in front of the train station and that the naming should not take place after the square was beautified in a few years, but now. However, the local advisory board, which has the sovereign right to name streets and squares in Frankfurt, must first approve the plan. And you have to make the deeds of the Schindler couple better known to the population, especially in the station district.
What does the local council want? According to the mayor Michael Weber (CDU), the committee did not want to delay the matter. “We all have reservations about honoring Oskar Schindler,” Weber clarified. After the local elections, however, one first had to sort oneself politically, and the pandemic also prevented faster action. Weber suggested a meeting with the culture department, where the open questions could be clarified.
In the end, however, the naming largely depends on Deutsche Bahn. There, it was said, the matter was viewed positively. The railways, the local advisory board, the magistrate, the city councilors, they can all obviously get a lot out of a “Schindler-Platz”. “Where,” Friedman asks, “is the problem?”