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Schindler's List ()

Booker Prize Winners (1982)

    Oskar had done nothing astounding before the war and been unexceptional since.  He was fortunate,
    therefore, that in that short fierce era between 1939 and 1945 he had met people who summoned
    forth his deeper talents.
                    -comment by Emilie Schindler to a German TV documentary crew

This, of course, is the essential mystery of Oskar Schindler.  How was it that this charismatic but morally ambiguous man, a failure in every other endeavor he ever engaged in, was both willing and able to save over a thousand Jews from Nazi predation?  And, if someone like him was willing and able, why were other, arguably "better", Germans unwilling or unable to do the same?

These are the questions that Thomas Keneally's raises, but, despite the use of fictional techniques to tell the story, Keneally does not seek to answer them.  Instead, he lays out the facts of the story (in thrilling fashion) and leaves the reader to search for answers.  The result is an immensely human and interesting portrait of an enigmatic hero--infinitely more interesting than the simplistic black and white ubermensch of Spielberg's vapid movie.

Perhaps the greatest import of the book is that resistance was possible, even in Nazi Germany.  In the face of this fact, those Germans who went along with the Nazis must be judged even more harshly.  This book and Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners (see Orrin's review) combine to make a powerful case for the view that the Final Solution was perpetrated by the German Nation as a whole and that most Germans were willing to see it happen.  More than that, they raise the question of whether it is appropriate to consider the citizenry of totalitarian states to be merely innocent victims of the regimes, or whether we need to hold every citizen responsible for even the silent capitulation that enables a reign of terror to continue.

I know that Spielberg has made a big deal out of making his movie available to schools and young people; it would be much better to give them copies of this book.  That a man like Oskar Schindler necessarily seems so remarkable to us, should be troubling to every person of conscience.  This book forces us to look within and ask ourselves whether we too would have done the right thing.  The answer is not as starkly clear as Hollywood would have us think.


Grade: (A)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Schindler's List Teaching Guide
    -The "List" That Saved Jews (Kris Koka, Cold Spring Harbor High School)
    -Schindler's List Provides a Moral Message (Jason Marsh, Cold Spring Harbor High School)

    -Thomas Keneally (brief bio, biblio)
    -ESSAY : A new chant for Jimmy Blacksmith : Who owns the story? It's a sensitive question when whites write about blacks. Tom Keneally tried climbing into Jimmie Blacksmith's skin to tell that sorry tale. He explains why he wouldn't do it now. (Sydney Morning Herald, August 2001)
    -PROFILE : A wizard from Oz : Thomas Keneally has written dozens of books, mostly about big human issues. But he knows he'll be remembered for one: Schindler's Ark. He tells Emma Brockes about bravado, pom-bashing and dreaming of sheep (Books Unlimited uk)
    -PROFILE: Thomas Keneally (Linda Richards, January Magazine)
    -INTERVIEW: (Book Ends)
    -PROFILE : Our star storyteller (CORRIE PERKIN, The Age)
    -REVIEW : of Bettany's Book, by Thomas Keneally (Amanda Lohrey, The Age)

    -Oskar Schindler's Grave Site
    -Oskar Schindler (1908-1974)(Jewish Student Resource Center)
    -The Story of Oscar Schindler
    -Holocaust Essays: Oskar Schindler: The Man and the Hero (April N. Aberly)
    -"The Real Oskar Schindler" (Herbert Steinhouse)
    -Oskar Schindler (Rob Bilson)


    -ESSAY : Catholic Heroes of the Holocaust (Elizabeth Altham)
    -Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation
    -The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    -Literature of the Holocaust (Al Filreis, English 293, U of Penn)
    -Holocaust Denial : Jewish Student Online Research Centre
    -Holocaust Educational Trust (UK)
    -Imperial War Museum's Holocaust Exhibition (UK)
    -REVIEW: Was the Holocaust a unique evil that must be studied for its lessons, or a promotional tool used to mobilise support for Israel? David Cesarani weighs up two points of view: THE HOLOCAUST AND COLLECTIVE: The American Experience By Peter Novick & THE NAZI TERROR: Gestapo, Jews & Ordinary Germans By Eric Johnson (London Times)
    -REVIEW: of Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Convicted of the Wrong Crime  (John J. Reilly, Culture Wars magazine)


Oskar Schindler was a very amazing man.

- Breanna

- Apr-19-2006, 13:02