Schindler’s ring donated to Melbourne museum



Louis Gross nearly threw away a box of apparent “knick knacks” his father left him, until he discovered one of the items inside was a famous piece of Holocaust history.

Since making the discovery, Mr Gross has donated the item – a lead model of a ring for Oskar Schindler – to the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne.

Mr Gross’s father, Jozef Gross, was a master jeweller in Schindler’s factory during the Holocaust, along with 1200 Jews who Schindler protected.

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Jozef created the model for a gold signet ring workers presented to Schindler as a symbol of their gratitude, as pictured in a famous scene from the 1993 movie Schindler’s List.

“[My father] made a model out of lead pipe, used cuttlefish to make the mould, with a channel to pour the lead into the cuttlefish,” Mr Gross told ABC Radio.

Ring model stayed in unassuming box for 30 years

The workers managed to scrounge together bits of gold from tooth fillings, some copper, and a silver coin which Jozef melted down to make the final ring for Schindler.

That gold ring has long been considered lost, with no clear explanation of what Schindler did with it after the war.

Jozef’s model remains the only memento of the gesture between the Jews and Schindler, but one Mr Gross said may not have been as meaningful to his father.


Jozef Gross (front) with business partner Andrew Belza, in their Melbourne jewellery workshop after the war. Photo: Supplied/ABC

The model ring was left in its unassuming box for 30 years before Jozef passed it down to his son, with no mention of the story behind it.

It was only because a former business partner, Andrew Belza, recognised the model that Mr Gross learnt of its significance.

“My father was a bit ambivalent about Schindler,” he said.

“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.

“That was very traumatic, so he had trouble saying [Schindler] was a German who deserved praise.”

While the Schindler’s List film painted Oskar Schindler as a hero, Mr Gross said the truth was more complicated.

“I think he was a bit of a saint and a bit of a sinner,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said the decision to donate the ring to the Jewish Holocaust Centre seemed fitting.

“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,” Mr Gross said.

“It’s been an emotional process.”

Rare memento of a world-famous story

Curator at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Jayne Josem, said the ring was one of only a few physical artefacts from Schindler’s factory.

She said most survivors were left with not much more than their testimonies.

“People don’t take photos of being hidden, they don’t have mementos,” Ms Josen said.

“This is rare is because it’s an item that connects to a specific story that’s a very well known story.”

She said the ring would also provide a source of hope and light in a museum dominated by horror and tragedy.

“Visitors come to the Holocaust centre and they learn a lot of really distressing information,” she said.

“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.”


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