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Schindler's List (1982)

by Thomas Keneally

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,882841,046 (4.16)1 / 332
In the shadow of Auschwitz, a flamboyant German industrialist grew into a living legend to the Jews of Cracow. He was a womaniser, a heavy drinker and a bon viveur, but to them he became a saviour. This is the extraordinary story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland and who was transformed by the war into a man with a mission, a compassionate angel of mercy.… (more)
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English (74)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
Incredible story, second-rate writing. ( )
  wildh2o | Jul 10, 2021 |

It's a great book, and the great film that was made from it inevitably cut out some important details. The core of the story is still the same - the sensualist Schindler, who succeeds in saving a few lives, with perhaps more of an emphasis on the people he saved as well as the people he opposed and the women he loved. But the book has time to show us the overall context. There's an interesting cameo in an early chapter from a policeman who complains that the entire railway system is being diverted to transporting Jews, rather than the soldiers who might actually help win the war. It made me wonder briefly if the Germans could have won the war if it had not been accompanied by a policy of genocide. But of course, if there had been no policy of genocide, there would probably have been no war.

There's another interesting moment in the book when Schindler goes to Budapest to brief the Jewish Relief Organization on what was happening to Jews in Poland. This again is based on fact. In these days of instant news, which I guess we've had more or less since the 1960s, we forget just how difficult it was to get information, even about mass murder to which there were hundreds or thousands of witnesses. By 1943, the first reports were already out there - the New Republic broke the story in December 1942, rumours had reached Anne Frank and her family in hiding a few months before that. But Schindler was able to provide a dangerous and direct link between the Zionist relief funds and the surviving Jews in his part of the world. I find this particularly brave. Budapest was not home territory, the Zionists were not people who he knew, in the same way that Poland and the Sudetenland were.

But the most striking difference between book and film is the detail of suffering which the book can describe but the film cannot. Actors in 1992 were able to convincingly portray the terror and trauma of fifty years earlier. They could not portray malnutrition and disease. It's a comprehensive and convincing account of what life was like both inside and outside the camps, when horror and tragedy were everyday occurrences. Really very much worth reading, whether or not you see the film. ( )
  nwhyte | May 17, 2021 |
I’m not sure what to say, that you may not already know about this book. Let’s be honest, if you haven’t seen the film or know the story ... well ... I guess get out from under that rock.
It’s a book every person should read. These voices and stories can not die, and it’s our duty to make sure we hear and remember them.
Do yourself a favour and read it. ( )
  rodpeterjr | May 7, 2021 |
Whover made the choice to market this book as a novel is an idiot, as it is very obviously a work of non-fiction. Some of the conversations and situations have been expanded (based upon logical assumptions and witness testimonies), but the large majority of the narrative is based upon fact. The linguistic style is also indicative of a non-fiction work, and it carries the same tone as many of the well-written historical books that focus on a single aspect of history. These books are based on facts and discussion of said facts, but they are written in a manner which is still highly readable and relies on narrative touches - such as conversations between characters, and speculation on a character's thoughts - to connect with the reade in the same manner as a novel with an omniscient narrator. When I was reading this book I definitely felt like I was back in my Holocaust seminar class, and I am surprised that it was not actually included on the reading list because it would have made an interesting addition to the memoirs of Holocaust survivors and a contrast to the book about the Polish Einsatzgruppen.

Besides the obvious lack of proper categorization, I did find this book to be extremely interesting. WWII is one of my favourite historical areas to study (because it influenced so much of 20th-century events), but rarely are German/Czech/Polish people who helped subvert the Nazi's Final Solution spoken about, unless they were part of the actual resistance movements. I don't remember a single mention of Oskar Schindler in any of my classes, and I guess the assumption is that no one needs to study him because there's a popular movie and book that chronicle his actions. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
I saw the movie Schindler’s List when it came out, and found it heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. I did not know that it was based on a book originally entitled Schindler’s Ark.

This is the only Booker winner so far in my project (I’m up to 1982 now) that is not pure fiction. And though Keneally says in the “Author’s Note” that he will use the “texture and devices of a novel” to tell the story, I did not find that it read like a novel. Keneally frequently reminds the reader that the conversations are recreations, and tells us the source or sources for every incident. It’s really a very documentary-like retelling, and I think that is the right choice. We must continue to remind ourselves and the world that the horrors of the Holocaust really happened, and not romanticize them by letting them sound like fiction.

It’s the highly interesting tale of Oskar Schindler, who started out as a war profiteer, then became disgusted by the Nazi policy of Jewish extermination. There are many harrowing individual stories here, of families who watched loved ones die for the most whimsical of reasons. But one of the most harrowing has to be that of Schindler himself, when the tables are turned after the Allied victory. He must wear prison garb to sneak out of formerly German territory. He never regains his old Midas touch, and comes to depend on those who once depended on him.

It’s a wonderful read for the repeated lesson that it is always possible to do the right thing. I have to wonder, though, if Keneally’s other work is worth reading. For example, nearly every time that Oskar Schindler speaks, he “growls.” It’s not the writing that makes this an extraordinary book; it’s the story. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
THE versatile Australian novelist, Thomas Keneally, tells the true story of Schindler's rescue effort in this remarkable book which has the immediacy and the almost unbearable detail of a thousand eyewitnesses who forgot nothing. The story is not only Schindler's. It is the story of Cracow's dying ghetto and the forced labor camp outside of town, at Plaszow.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Keneally, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Laing, TimIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
In Poland's deepest autumn, a tall young man in an expensive overcoat, double-breasted dinner jacket beneath it and - in the lapel of the dinner jacket - a large ornamental gold-on-black enamel Hakenkreuz (swastika) emerged from a fashionable apartment building in Straszewskiego Street, on the edge of the ancient center of Cracow, and saw his chauffeur waiting with fuming breath by the open door of an enormous and, even in this blackened world, lustrous Adler limousine. [Prologue]
[Author's Note] In 1980 I visited a luggage store in Beverly Hills, California, and inquired the prices of briefcases.
General Sigmund List's armored divisions, driving north from the Sudetenland, had taken the sweet south Polish jewel of Cracow from both flanks on September 6, 1939.
[Epilogue] Oskar's high season ended now.
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Disambiguation notice
This is the novel Schindler's Ark, also published as Schindler's List. It is neither Schindler's List / Piano Solos nor the movie Schindler's List. Despite similar titles, the three media are separate works and should not be combined with each other. Only the novel Schindler's List (Schindler's Ark) should be combined here.
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In the shadow of Auschwitz, a flamboyant German industrialist grew into a living legend to the Jews of Cracow. He was a womaniser, a heavy drinker and a bon viveur, but to them he became a saviour. This is the extraordinary story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland and who was transformed by the war into a man with a mission, a compassionate angel of mercy.

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