Schindler's List by Thomas KeneallySchindler's List by Thomas Keneally

Schindler's List

byThomas Keneally

Paperback | December 1, 1993

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The acclaimed bestselling classic of Holocaust literature, winner of the Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, and the inspiration for the classic film—“a masterful account of the growth of the human soul” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).

A stunning novel based on the true story of how German war profiteer and factory director Oskar Schindler came to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other single person during World War II. In this milestone of Holocaust literature, Thomas Keneally, author of Daughter of Mars, uses the actual testimony of the Schindlerjuden—Schindler’s Jews—to brilliantly portray the courage and cunning of a good man in the midst of unspeakable evil.

About The Author

Thomas Keneally was born in 1936 and raised in the rugged expanse of Australia. As a young man, he planned to join the priesthood, but by 1960, on the verge of the Vietnam War, Keneally found the church in such moral turmoil that he decided it was impossible to go through with his ordination.Keneally received his formal education in Sy...
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Details & Specs

Title:Schindler's ListFormat:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 0.9 inPublished:December 1, 1993Publisher:Touchstone

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0671880314

ISBN - 13:9780671880316

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Read from the Book

From Chapter One General Sigmund List's 5 armored divisions, driving north from the Sudetenland, had taken the sweet south Polish jewel of Cracow from both flanks on September 6, 1939. And it was in their wake that Oskar Schindler entered the city which, for the next five years, would be his oyster. Though within the month he would show that he was disaffected from National Socialism, he could still see that Cracow, with its railroad junction and its as yet modest industries, would be a boomtown of the new regime. He wasn't going to be a salesman anymore. Now he was going to be a tycoon. It is not immediately easy to find in Oskar's family's history the origins of his impulse toward rescue. He was born on April 28, 1908, into the Austrian Empire of Franz Josef, into the hilly Moravian province of that ancient Austrian realm. His hometown was the industrial city of Zwittau, to which some commercial opening had brought the Schindler ancestors from Vienna at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Herr Hans Schindler, Oskar's father, approved of the imperial arrangement, considered himself culturally an Austrian, and spoke German at the table, on the telephone, in business, in moments of tenderness. Yet when in 1918 Herr Schindler and the members of his family found themselves citizens of the Czechoslovak republic of Masaryk and Benes, it did not seem to cause any fundamental distress to the father, and even less still to his ten-year-old son. The child Hitler, according to the man Hitler, was tormented even as a boy by the gulf between the mystical unity of Austria and Germany and their political separation. No such neurosis of disinheritance soured Oskar Schindler's childhood. Czechoslovakia was such a bosky, unravished little dumpling of a republic that the German-speakers took their minority stature with some grace, even if the Depression and some minor governmental follies would later put a certain strain on the relationship. Zwittau, Oskar's hometown, was a small, coal-dusted city in the southern reaches of the mountain range known as the Jeseniks. Its surrounding hills stood partly ravaged by industry and partly forested with larch and spruce and fir. Because of its community of German-speaking Sudetendeutschen, it maintained a German grammar school, which Oskar attended. There he took the Real-gymnasium Course which was meant to produce engineers—mining, mechanical, civil—to suit the area's industrial landscape. Herr Schindler himself owned a farm-machinery plant, and Oskar's education was a preparation for this inheritance. The family Schindler was Catholic. So too was the family of young Amon Goeth, by this time also completing the Science Course and sitting for the Matura examinations in Vienna. Oskar's mother, Louisa, practiced her faith with energy, her clothes redolent all Sunday of the incense burned in clouds at High Mass in the Church of St. Maurice. Hans Schindler was the sort of husband who drives a woman to religion. He liked cognac; he liked coffeehouses. A redolence of brandy-warm breath, good tobacco, and confirmed earthiness came from the direction of that good monarchist, Mr. Hans Schindler. The family lived in a modern villa, set in its own gardens, across the city from the industrial section. There were two children, Oskar and his sister, Elfriede. But there are not witnesses left to the dynamics of that household, except in the most general terms. We know, for example, that it distressed Frau Schindler that her son, like his father, was a negligent Catholic. But it cannot have been too bitter a household. From the little that Oskar would say of his childhood, there was no darkness there. Sunlight shines among the fir trees in the garden. There are ripe plums in the corner of those early summers. If he spends a part of some June morning at Mass, he does not bring back to the villa much of a sense of sin. He runs his father's car out into the sun in front of the garage and begins tinkering inside its motor. Or else he sits on a side step of the house, filing away at the carburetor of the motorcycle he is building. Oskar had a few middle-class Jewish friends, whose parents also sent them to the German grammar school. These children were not village Ashkenazim—quirky, Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox—but multilingual and not-so-ritual sons of Jewish businessmen. Across the Hana Plain and in the Beskidy Hills, Sigmund Freud had been born of just such a Jewish family, and that not so long before Hans Schindler himself was born to solid German stock in Zwittau. Oskar's later history seems to call out for some set piece in his childhood. The young Oskar should defend some bullied Jewish boy on the way home from school. It is a safe bet it didn't happen, and we are happier not knowing, since the event would seem too pat. Besides, one Jewish child saved from a bloody nose proves nothing. For Himmler himself would complain, in a speech to one of his Einsatzgruppen, that every German had a Jewish friend. " 'The Jewish people are'going to be annihilated,' says every Party member. 'Sure, it's in our program: elimination of the Jews, annihilation—we'll take care of it.' And then they all come trudging, eighty million worthy Germans, and each one has his one decent Jew. Sure, the others are swine, but this one is an A-One Jew." Trying still to find, in the shadow of Himmler, some hint of Oskar's later enthusiasms, we encounter the Schindlers' next-door neighbor, a liberal rabbi named Dr. Felix Kantor. Rabbi Kantor was a disciple of Abraham Geiger, the German liberalizer of Judaism who claimed that it was no crime, in fact was praiseworthy, to be a German as well as a Jew. Rabbi Kantor was no rigid village scholar. He dressed in the modern mode and spoke German in the house. He called his place of worship a "temple" and not by that older name, "synagogue." His temple was attended by Jewish doctors, engineers, and proprietors of textile mills in Zwittau. When they traveled, they told other businessmen, "Our rabbi is Dr. Kantor—he writes articles not only for the Jewish journals in Prague and Brno, but for the dailies as well." Rabbi Kantor's two sons went to the same school as the son of his German neighbor Schindler. Both boys were bright enough eventually, perhaps, to become two of the rare Jewish professors at the German University of Prague. These crew-cut German speaking prodigies raced in knee pants around the summer gardens. Chasing the Schindler children and being chased. And Kantor, watching them flash in and out among the yew hedges, might have thought it was all working as Geiger and Graetz and Lazarus and all those other nineteenth-century German-Jewish liberals had predicted. We lead enlightened lives, we are greeted by German neighbors—Mr. Schindler will even make snide remarks about Czech statesmen in our hearing. We are secular scholars as well as sensible interpreters of the Talmud. We belong both to the twentieth century and to an ancient tribal race. We are neither offensive nor offended against. Later, in the mid-1930s, the rabbi would revise this happy estimation and make up his mind in the end that his sons could never buy off the National Socialists with a German-language Ph.D.—that there was no outcrop of twentieth-century technology or secular scholarship behind which a Jew could find sanctuary, any more than there could ever be a species of rabbi acceptable to the new German legislators. In 1936 all the Kantors moved to Belgium. The Schindlers never heard of them again. Copyright © 1982 by Serpentine Publishing Co., PTY Ltd.

Bookclub Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points Schindler's List, while based on the true story of Oskar Schindler and the Schindler Jews, is fiction. At what point does this novel depart from the merely factual? What "liberties" does Thomas Keneally take that a non-fiction author could not? At the start of the book, Keneally lets us know that his protagonist, Oskar Schindler, is not a virtuous man, but rather a flawed, conflicted one, who makes no apology for his penchant for women and drink; yet he gambles millions to save the Jews under his care from the gas chambers. How does Keneally reconcile these two distinctly different sides of Oskar Schindler? How do you, the reader, reconcile them? Keneally writes, "And although Herr Schindler's merit is well documented, it is a feature of his ambiguity that he worked within or, at least, on the strength of a corrupt and savage scheme, one that filled Europe with camps of varying but consistent inhumanity." What abiding differences were there between Oskar Schindler and men like Amon Goeth, who operated the controls of this system? To what extent did Schindler remain in partnership with them? Where did he draw the line, and how did he keep himself separate while living among them? Schindler and his mistress, Ingrid, ride their horses to the hill overlooking the Cracow ghetto, where they witness an Aktion. Trailing alone at the end of a line of people being marched off, Oskar and Ingrid spot a little girl in red, "the scarlet girl." What is it about her presence on this early morning that is instrumental in Oskar Schindler's sudden and terrible understanding of what is happening in Europe and of his responsibility to mitigate it? "I am now resolved to do everything in my power to defeat the system," Schindler says after witnessing this Aktion. Do Schindler's subsequent actions defeat the system, or does he merely help to perpetuate it? Keneally follows many other characters throughout the book: the prisoners, Itzhak Stern, Helen Hirsch, Poldek and Mila Pfefferberg, Josef and Rebecca, the Rosner brothers -- all of whom, at points, rise above their circumstances and engage in acts of great courage and generosity. In contrast, characters such as Spira and Chilowicz engage in acts of cruelty and self-interest. Yet they have similar circumstances. How do you feel about these different characters and their choices? "All our vision of deliverance is futile. We'll have to wait a little longer for our freedom," Schindler says to Garde (a Brinnlitz prisoner) when they learn that the Fiihrer is still alive after an attempt on his life. Oskar speaks as if they are both prisoners waiting to be liberated, as if they have equivalent needs. What do you think Schindler means by "our freedom"? How might Schindler and other Germans have felt to be imprisoned? Is it fair for him to equate himself with Garde? After Brinnlitz is liberated, some of the prisoners take a German Kapo and hang him from a beam. Keneally writes, "It was an event, this first homicide of peace, which many Brinnlitz people would forever abhor. They had seen Amon hang poor engineer Krautwirt on the Appellplatz at Plaszow, and this hanging, though for different reasons, sickened them as profoundly." Why are so many of the prisoners sickened, in light of the atrocities committed against them? Do you feel the prisoners would have been justified in killing as many Germans as they could have? Why do you think there aren't more rampant acts of vengeance on the part of Schindler's Jews after their liberation? In a documentary made in 1973 by German television, Emilie Schindler remarked that Oskar had "done nothing astounding before the war and had been unexceptional since." She suggested that it was fortunate that between 1939 and 1945 he had met people who had summoned forth his "deeper talents." What are these "deeper talents" and what is it about war that elicits them? And what is it about peacetime that suppresses them? After the war, Schindler never reached the level of success he'd known during wartime. Both of his enterprises, a farm in Argentina and a cement factory in Frankfurt failed, and he was to fall back on Schindler's Jews time and time again. They became his only emotional and financial security, and they would help him in many ways until the day he died. Keneally suggests that Schindler remained, in a most thorough sense, a hostage to Brinnlitz and Emalia. What might he mean by this? Do you agree? What vision of human nature does Schindler's List express? Does it express the view of human beings as fundamentally good or evil? As immutable or capable of transformation? Does it leave you with any kind of a message, any vision for mankind? If so, what is it? Recommended Readings Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank Doubleday, 1967 Dita Saxova, Arnost Lustig Northwestern University Press, 1979 The Holocaust in History, Michael Marrus NAL/Dutton, 1989 The Jews: Stories of a People, Howard M. Fast Dell, 1968 Maus I and Maus II, Art Spiegelman Pantheon, 1991 Night, Dawn, and Day, Elie Wiesel Jason Aronson, Inc., 1985 One, By One, By One, Judith Miller Touchstone Books, 1990 Sophie's Choice, William Styron Vintage Books, 1979 Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1995 The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945, Lucy Dawidowicz Bantam Books, 1986 Winter in the Morning, Janina Bauman The Free Press, 1986

From Our Editors

You've seen the movie Schindler's List - now read the Booker-winning novel that inspired Steven Spielberg's epic movie. It's an account of courage and heroism during this century's darkest hour, and tells the story of the man who outwitted the Nazis and saved more Jews than any other single person during the Second World War. Deeply moving from beginning to end, this is one novel that will haunt you long after you've finished reading it.

Editorial Reviews

"A truly heroic story of the war and, like the tree planted in Oskar Schindler's honor in Jerusalem, a fitting memorial to the fight of one individual against the horror of Nazism."