Schindler’s ListThomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List is the historical account of Oskar Schindlerand his heroic actions in the midst of the horrors of World War II Poland. Schindler’s List recounts the life of Oskar Schindler, and how he comes toPoland in search of material wealth but leaves having saved the lives of over1100 Jews who would most certainly have perished.
The novel focuses on howSchindler comes to the realization that concentration and forced labor camps arewrong, and that many people were dying through no fault of their own. Thisrealization did not occur overnight, but gradually came to be as the businessman in Oskar Schindler turned into the savior of the Jews that had brought himso much wealth. Schindler’s List is not just a biography of Oskar Schindler, butit is the story of how good can overcome evil and how charity can overcomegreed. Schindler’s List begins with the early life of Oskar Schindler. The noveldescribes his early family life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and hisadolescence in the newly created state of Czechoslovakia.Order now
It tells of hisrelationship with his father, and how his father left his mother. His mother isalso described in great detail. Like many Germans in the south, she was a devoutCatholic. She is described as being very troubled that her son would take afterher estranged husband with his negligence of Catholicism. Oskar never forgaveHans, his father, for his abandonment of his mother , which is ironicconsidering that Oskar would do the same with his wife Emilie. In fact Hans andOskar Schindler’s lives would become so much in parallel that the noveldescribes their relationship as “that of brothers separated by the accidentof paternity.
” Oskar’s relationship with Emilie is also described in detailas is their marriage. The heart of the novel begins in October 1939 when OskarSchindler comes to the Polish city of Cracow. It has been six weeks since theGerman’s took the city, and Schindler sees great opportunity as any entrepreneurwould. For Schindler, Cracow represents a place of unlimited possibilitiesbecause of the current economic disorder and cheap labor. Upon his arrival inCracow he meets Itzak Stern, a Jewish bookkeeper.
Schindler is very impressedwith Stern because of his business prowess and his connections in the businesscommunity. Soon Schindler and Stern are on their way to the creation of afactory that would run on Jewish labor. Around this time, the persecution of theJews of Poland begins with their forced relocation into ghettoes. This turns outto be timely for Schindler as now he is able to get very cheap labor. The nextfew years would go well for Schindler and his factory for they turned a greatprofit.
In fact he made so much money that he is quoted as saying, “I’vemade more money than I could possibly spend in a lifetime. ” His workerswere also very happy. This is because “Schindler’s Jews” were treatedas humans as opposed to being treated as animals. For them, working inSchindler’s factory was an escape from the ghetto and from much German cruelty.
They loved Schindler so much that his factory became known as a haven throughoutthe Jewish community. However, things began to go sour for Schindler, when theGermans ordered the liquidation of the ghettoes. Soon all of the Jews in theCracow ghetto were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp. By this time Schindlerhad grown so affectionate toward his Jewish workers that he refused to hirePoles, and instead sought of a way to keep using the Jews that he had grown soaccustomed to.
As the Cracow Jews were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp,Oskar Schindler came into direct dealings with the camp’s director, Amon Goeth. He did not like Amon, but he tried to get in on his best side in order to keepusing his Jews in his factory. Amon agreed to let Schindler use them, and thussaving his Jews from some of the harshness of the Plaszow labor camp. As the warbegan to go badly for the Germans, they decided to accelerate their “finalsolution” by sending the Jews to more sinister concentration camps such asAuchwitz.
This is when Oskar Schindler finally comes to the realization that hehad the power to help his people. The now enlightened Schindler decides to usehis entire fortune to buy the lives of the Schindlerjuden in order to save themfrom the gas chambers of Auchwitz. This is how Schindler’s list came to be. 1100Jewish names that had in some way touched his life were put on a list andbought.
His plan was to send the 1100 Jews to his newly created ammunitionsfactory in his native Czechoslovakia. However, Schindler’s plan does not gosmoothly for an entire train load of his women were accidentally shipped toAuchwitz instead of to his factory. Schindler then uses more of his diminishingfinancial recourses to try to get his Jews out of Auchwitz. He succeeds in doingthis, and thus the Schindlerjuden have escaped the worse. Meanwhile inCzechoslovakia his plan continues in that he tricks the Germans into thinkingthat they were going to produce quality ammunition, but instead not one goodshell was ever produced to help the German army.
Gratefully, within a few monthsHitler was dead and the Germans were defeated. Unfortunately, Oskar Schindlerwas now penniless for he had given everything in order to save as many Jews aspossible. Thomas Keneally wrote Schindler’s List to be more than just the storyof a man and his heroic deeds, but also to show today’s world of the dangers ofhatred. He emphasizes this latter point through his descriptions of how cruellythe Nazis treated the Jews. Keneally also tries to point out how one man canmake a difference as is the case with Oskar Schindler.
However, perhapsKeneally’s greatest objective with Schindler’s List is that the world shouldnever forget Oskar Schindler and what he did for the Jews as well as formankind. Schindler’s impact is so great that even the numerical facts areastonishing. In fact if one compares the number of direct descendants of theSchindlerjuden to the number of Jews alive in Poland after 1945, it is evidentthat there are more Schindlerjuden today than the total number of Jews in 1945Poland. This statistical fact shows how greatly Schindler, who died in 1974,will be missed. Perhaps Keneally shares the Schindlerjuden’s remorse for theirsavior by the way he ends his novel.
Keneally ends the novel with the somberline, “He was mourned on every continent. ” Schindler’s List had agreat effect on me personally. I thought that Thomas Keneally did an excellentjob in making the reader feel the events of the time. Perhaps what I found to bemost interesting in Schindler’s List is a question of morality. I began askingmyself the question, would I be as heroic as Oskar Schindler if I were in hisshoes? I think that this is exactly what Keneally wanted us to do; he wanted usto look at ourselves and analyze what’s inside. Historically, I find Schindler’sList to be very important not only because it is tells of a shameful time inwestern civilization, but also because the events that took place in the noveloccurred only yesterday.
After all fifty years is almost nothing in historicalterms. Perhaps the novel’s greatest strength is this feeling that the eventsthat transpired in Schindler’s List are in fact modern history.