One of the people who knew him best was his long-time wife, Emilie Schindler. She’s portrayed in the movie by Caroline Goodall, but before her death in 2001 (via The Telegraph), the real Emilie was incredibly outspoken about the history behind the Hollywood.
Born Emilie Pelzl in 1907, she was 20 when she met her future husband. He was working alongside his father, and they had stopped by the Pelzl household to sell motors that would harness the power of electricity for them. They were married not long afterwards, but she was very vocal about how it was never an easy relationship. Even Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindler’s Ark, later admitted that if he had met her before writing his book, he would have written it very differently.
During interviews (via the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum), Emilie gave some candid insights into the man she met before the war, saying, “Herr Schindler was very sympathetic. He knew very well how to talk. He talked a lot, even if it was not the truth… he knew how to influence people.”
She painted a picture of polar opposites within the same person, saying his actions began out of a definite self-interest and a desire for cheap labor to run his factory. She called him a coward fond only of liquor and women, while also asserting he was never, ever anti-Semitic and truly counted Jewish workers among his friends… and mistresses.