Irving (Irv) Glovin was my uncle, my mom’s younger brother. The first time I remember him was July or August of 1944. He was a student at Columbia University in NY, and he had just learned he had been drafted. World War II was on everyone’s mind. The D-Day landings had occurred in Europe, Casablanca had won the Academy Award for best picture, and on April 4th, the world had first heard of Auschwitz via aerial photos taken by a British aircraft. By November 1944, Irv was a Lieutenant in the US Army. He was what they called “a 90 day wonder”: college to army commission in just over 90 days after reporting for the draft. He was soon on his way to Europe. When his unit arrived they were inexperienced and untested. In an effort to give them time to “learn” they were sent to what was considered the safest part of the American lines, a patch of forest in Belgium called the Ardennes. No one knew the Nazis were planning a counter attack. And so, this green and untested unit became the first US force to have contact with German Panzer divisions thrusting into the Allied lines at a fight which became known as the Battle of the Bulge. It was here that US Gen. McAuliffe uttered the immortal word “Nuts” to a German offer to surrender. It was here that Gen. George Patton drove his tanks to an amazing rescue of the armed forces in Bastogne. It was here that Irv became a German prisoner of war within days of landing in Europe. Being Jewish, Irv was a prime candidate for execution by the Nazis. He was forced to use the dog-tags of a fellow soldier who had been killed in action. So, our family received a telegram saying that he was “Missing in Action” as he had literally disappeared. Irv remained in the camp for nearly a year, eventually being moved to Germany itself and ultimately freed by a Russian infantry unit. According to Irv, the commander of that unit pointed west and told all the prisoners – “Americanskis – Go.” By that time, the war in Europe had ended and so it was much safer to be wandering through Germany. He made contact with US troops at a place called Dachau which had been liberated by the Japanese-American Nisei division, one of the most decorated groups of men ever to fight for the United States – many with relatives who had been in internment camps at home.
Having been at Dachau, Irv had seen firsthand what the Holocaust meant. When he returned to the US in mid-1945 to be discharged, he and his wife Rhea left New York and went west, where he enrolled in the University of Southern California Law School. Rhea was an artist and quickly got a job working for Looney Tunes studio drawing the gelatin cells used in making cartoons in those days. Two children and several years later, Irv had opened a law practice in Brentwood, a city just on the edge of Hollywood, allowing him to make excellent contacts with the film community. Sadly, Rhea developed a virulent form of breast cancer and passed away. Irv continued his law practice and worked hard to raise his family. He met and married Jeanne Kallen, an actress involved in stage, TV and movies.
As his life and law practice was progressing, the German government realized it had a debt to many people, and so it began to pay repatriations to survivors of the Holocaust who had lost families and property. Several of them now lived in the U.S. and approached Irv to represent them in their claims against Germany. One name kept coming up as a person he should contact – and that name was Oskar Schindler.
Oskar Schindler was a Nazi. He was an alcoholic. He was a womanizer. He bribed his way through business. He seemed to represent all the negative sides of humanity. But as Irv said of him:
“He drank, yes, he drank. He liked women. He bribed. But he bribed for a good purpose. All of these things worked. If he were not this kind of person he probably wouldn’t have succeeded. Whatever it took to save a life he did. He worked the system extraordinarily well. He was a true human being in the best sense of the word.”
Most of us are aware of what Oskar Schindler did. But for those who are not, suffice it to say that he owned a factory in Krakow, Poland which used Jewish slave labor from a nearby concentration camp. Through his efforts, a list of names was developed from his factory workers and other prisoners in the camp (“Schindler’s List”), which saved over one thousand Jews from the Holocaust and from extermination at Auschwitz.
When the war ended, Schindler was broke. He had a letter from his factory workers telling how he had saved them, but he was a Sudeten German living in what was then called Czechoslovakia. His only hope for survival was Germany and so he moved first to Regensburg and then to Munich. His primary source of income was from Jewish organizations who knew his story and from gifts he received from some of those he had saved in his factory. In 1948, Schindler and his wife Emilie moved to Argentina. While they were in Argentina, one of the “Schindler People” approached MGM and several producers to consider making a film about the events surrounding the Schindler factory and the Jews he had saved. Eventually MGM bought the Schindler story for $50,000, but the story was never made into a film. In 1957, with the relationship between Emilie and Oskar very strained, and their financial situation dire, Oskar moved back to Germany alone, never to see Emilie again.
In the early 1970’s Irv had enough information about Schindler from those applying for repatriation that he flew to Germany to get written documentation directly from Oskar to support the claims of his clients. Oscar and Irv met. They bonded. They became hard fast friends, corresponding regularly. Eventually Irv became Oskar’s attorney, handling all his legal work and claims and assisting him in contacting people in the United States, Germany and Israel. Schindler had already been honored by Yad Vashem, the Memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, as a person considered “Righteous Among Nations”. There is a tree in his name along the Avenue of the Righteous. Irv also contacted MGM and, with Oskar’s encouragement and approval, bought the rights to Oskar’s story from them.
Schindler moved to Hidesheim, Germany in 1971 and died there in 1974 at 66. His body was transported to Mt Zion in Jerusalem, Israel. He is buried there in a simple grave which serves as a meeting place for Holocaust survivors and their families. Irv frequently pointed out that the Schindler story is remarkable because Oskar acted at one of the worst times in history, in one of the worst places in history, and he did it for total strangers.
In October 1980, Thomas Keneally, a highly respected Australian author, visited a luggage shop in California run by a man named Leopold Pfefferberg, one of the Schindler’s List survivors. Pfefferberg, whom Keneally called Poldek, wanted the Schindler story told, and when he heard that Keneally was an author, he set about convincing him to write it. Eventually Pfefferberg set up a meeting with Thomas Keneally and Irv Glovin. As a result of that meeting, Keneally agreed to write the story. Irv said he “hired” or “commissioned” Keneally to do it since he (Irv) owned the rights to the story having bought them back from MGM with Oskar’s encouragement and permission. Keneally used materials from Pfefferberg, Irv, and many others to write a wonderfully compelling book in 1982 called Schindler’s Ark in most of the world, but Schindler’s List in North America.
Steven Spielberg had worked for many years on something called the Shoah Foundation Project, which recorded testimony from Holocaust survivors to preserve them for posterity. Irv told me that he knew Spielberg through various contacts in Hollywood, and he knew of the Shoah Foundation as some of his clients were part of the project. Through a variety of contacts, Spielberg had become interested in making Schindler’s List into a film. Irv was instrumental in selling the rights to the Schindler story to Spielberg in the early 1980s. In 1993, Spielberg adapted the Keneally novel into a film which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. When the film opens you will see the name Irving Glovin as Associate Producer. Oskar Schindler, Leopold Pfefferberg and more than a thousand others lived the story. Thomas Keneally brought it to everyone’s attention. Steven Spielberg and his cast brought it to the world. Irving Glovin was the glue that united all the parts.
Irving and Jeanne Glovin felt they needed to give back to the world some of what they had gained as a result of their contact with Oskar Schindler. His story belongs to the world and they wanted to carry on his ideals and his message. Accordingly, they formed the Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation Endowment Fund, which has provided support to Dalhousie University, University of New Haven and the University of Southern California as well as other groups. Each program has a unique approach ranging from an endowed teaching chair to student scholarships to assistance in film making.
When Irv and Jeannie came to Halifax to present the Foundation award to Dalhousie, Irv presented his idea of the question at hand – “What constitutes good human behavior?” He pointed out that Oskar Schindler was far from the perfect human being – and yet he is revered for his efforts. Irv used an interesting analogy to describe his question. Suppose your government passes a law which is, at best, controversial. For example, suppose they said you can no longer wear a shirt with the name Dalhousie University on it. It is now illegal. You, as a proud alumnus of Dalhousie, decide to ignore such a ridiculous law. You live in a corner house and proudly wear your Dalhousie shirt out on the street as you mow the lawn (or in Nova Scotia – shovel the snow!). Your neighbor on the adjacent corner sees you, and is a law-abiding, honest person. He knows that you are violating a law and so he notifies the authorities that a law is being broken. Another neighbor on the opposite corner also sees you, knows you are violating the law, but believes that the law is wrong and foolish. He decides to ignore it and simply not report you or do anything to support an unreasonable and inappropriate piece of legislation. On the third corner, your neighbor sees you, dislikes the law and is afraid of what might happen to you if you persist in violating it. So, he brings over a light jacket for you to put on over the shirt – hiding it. That is, not asking you to stop wearing the shirt, but simply protecting you from government action in response to your situation. Irv asked, “Which of these people is displaying good human behavior? The first neighbor who enforces and obeys the law? The second neighbor who ignores a bad law? The third neighbor who protects you from a bad law?” Irv wanted us to talk about it and to help to define an answer to the question, “What is good human behavior?” He also believed that once we had determined a way to answer that question (if there really is such an answer) it was important that we develop tools to teach it to our children. For, as Irv believed, each generation must discuss and learn the answer to the question and put that answer into practice.
The Dalhousie University project began in 2003. In part, the Dalhousie documentation reads:
“The Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation established The Irving and Jeanne Glovin Award in 2003, to foster research into the meaning and underlying principles for “good human conduct.” The Foundation is interested in stimulating scholarly work that defines “good human conduct” with which all persons could agree; to explore its sources; and to develop pragmatic educational strategies and ways of teaching children, to show by action, respect and acceptance of others by peoples of the world regardless of circumstances or background. The spirit of the research may be illustrated by the words of Confucius: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Researchers are encouraged to demonstrate the importance of acceptance and mutual respect of others.”
The award winner is asked to make a public presentation of their research. This volume is a compilation of the Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation scholarship winners. One of the ideas Irv and Jeanne had was to follow the Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation winners over the years to see how they develop and specifically, how they have applied what they had written as a part of the competition. Where possible we have included a brief synopsis of the winners’ answers to these questions.
Irving and Jeanne Glovin are now both deceased. Their legacy does live on in what they have created and how that influences the way we treat each other. In the spirit of Oskar Schindler and Irv Glovin, this text is dedicated to Good Human Conduct, something which we all want to practice as we “do unto others as we would have others do unto us”.