Schindlers List Essay

Schindler’s List
Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List is the historical account of Oskar Schindler
and 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 to
Poland in search of material wealth but leaves having saved the lives of over
1100 Jews who would most certainly have perished. The novel focuses on how
Schindler comes to the realization that concentration and forced labor camps are
wrong, and that many people were dying through no fault of their own. This
realization did not occur overnight, but gradually came to be as the business
man in Oskar Schindler turned into the savior of the Jews that had brought him
so much wealth. Schindler’s List is not just a biography of Oskar Schindler, but
it is the story of how good can overcome evil and how charity can overcome
greed. Schindler’s List begins with the early life of Oskar Schindler. The novel
describes his early family life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his
adolescence in the newly created state of Czechoslovakia. It tells of his
relationship with his father, and how his father left his mother. His mother is
also described in great detail. Like many Germans in the south, she was a devout
Catholic. She is described as being very troubled that her son would take after
her estranged husband with his negligence of Catholicism. Oskar never forgave
Hans, his father, for his abandonment of his mother , which is ironic
considering that Oskar would do the same with his wife Emilie. In fact Hans and
Oskar Schindler’s lives would become so much in parallel that the novel
describes their relationship as “that of brothers separated by the accident
of paternity.” Oskar’s relationship with Emilie is also described in detail
as is their marriage. The heart of the novel begins in October 1939 when Oskar
Schindler comes to the Polish city of Cracow. It has been six weeks since the
German’s took the city, and Schindler sees great opportunity as any entrepreneur
would. For Schindler, Cracow represents a place of unlimited possibilities
because of the current economic disorder and cheap labor. Upon his arrival in
Cracow he meets Itzak Stern, a Jewish bookkeeper. Schindler is very impressed
with Stern because of his business prowess and his connections in the business
community. Soon Schindler and Stern are on their way to the creation of a
factory that would run on Jewish labor. Around this time, the persecution of the
Jews of Poland begins with their forced relocation into ghettoes. This turns out
to be timely for Schindler as now he is able to get very cheap labor. The next
few years would go well for Schindler and his factory for they turned a great
profit. In fact he made so much money that he is quoted as saying, “I’ve
made more money than I could possibly spend in a lifetime.” His workers
were also very happy. This is because “Schindler’s Jews” were treated
as humans as opposed to being treated as animals. For them, working in
Schindler’s factory was an escape from the ghetto and from much German cruelty.

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They loved Schindler so much that his factory became known as a haven throughout
the Jewish community. However, things began to go sour for Schindler, when the
Germans ordered the liquidation of the ghettoes. Soon all of the Jews in the
Cracow ghetto were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp. By this time Schindler
had grown so affectionate toward his Jewish workers that he refused to hire
Poles, and instead sought of a way to keep using the Jews that he had grown so
accustomed 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 keep
using his Jews in his factory. Amon agreed to let Schindler use them, and thus
saving his Jews from some of the harshness of the Plaszow labor camp. As the war
began to go badly for the Germans, they decided to accelerate their “final
solution” by sending the Jews to more sinister concentration camps such as
Auchwitz. This is when Oskar Schindler finally comes to the realization that he
had the power to help his people. The now enlightened Schindler decides to use
his entire fortune to buy the lives of the Schindlerjuden in order to save them
from the gas chambers of Auchwitz. This is how Schindler’s list came to be. 1100
Jewish names that had in some way touched his life were put on a list and
bought. His plan was to send the 1100 Jews to his newly created ammunitions
factory in his native Czechoslovakia. However, Schindler’s plan does not go
smoothly for an entire train load of his women were accidentally shipped to
Auchwitz instead of to his factory. Schindler then uses more of his diminishing
financial recourses to try to get his Jews out of Auchwitz. He succeeds in doing
this, and thus the Schindlerjuden have escaped the worse. Meanwhile in
Czechoslovakia his plan continues in that he tricks the Germans into thinking
that they were going to produce quality ammunition, but instead not one good
shell was ever produced to help the German army. Gratefully, within a few months
Hitler was dead and the Germans were defeated. Unfortunately, Oskar Schindler
was now penniless for he had given everything in order to save as many Jews as
possible. Thomas Keneally wrote Schindler’s List to be more than just the story
of a man and his heroic deeds, but also to show today’s world of the dangers of
hatred. He emphasizes this latter point through his descriptions of how cruelly
the Nazis treated the Jews. Keneally also tries to point out how one man can
make a difference as is the case with Oskar Schindler. However, perhaps
Keneally’s greatest objective with Schindler’s List is that the world should
never forget Oskar Schindler and what he did for the Jews as well as for
mankind. Schindler’s impact is so great that even the numerical facts are
astonishing. In fact if one compares the number of direct descendants of the
Schindlerjuden to the number of Jews alive in Poland after 1945, it is evident
that there are more Schindlerjuden today than the total number of Jews in 1945
Poland. This statistical fact shows how greatly Schindler, who died in 1974,
will be missed. Perhaps Keneally shares the Schindlerjuden’s remorse for their
savior by the way he ends his novel. Keneally ends the novel with the somber
line, “He was mourned on every continent.” Schindler’s List had a
great effect on me personally. I thought that Thomas Keneally did an excellent
job in making the reader feel the events of the time. Perhaps what I found to be
most interesting in Schindler’s List is a question of morality. I began asking
myself the question, would I be as heroic as Oskar Schindler if I were in his
shoes? I think that this is exactly what Keneally wanted us to do; he wanted us
to look at ourselves and analyze what’s inside. Historically, I find Schindler’s
List to be very important not only because it is tells of a shameful time in
western civilization, but also because the events that took place in the novel
occurred only yesterday. After all fifty years is almost nothing in historical
terms. Perhaps the novel’s greatest strength is this feeling that the events
that transpired in Schindler’s List are in fact modern history.


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