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Schindler's Ark

A book released 1994 by Thomas Keneally

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Gambler, sentimentalist, anarchist, businessman?

  • Dec 8, 2012
Every one who is serious about life and movies has already seen Spielberg's classic film--seemingly every one but me, that is.  I have resisted tearing off the scab of recent history and horror.  But when I saw this book at a used book sale I decided it was time to face the pain. 

The tale that Keneally tells so well here is full of pain, but the edge is dulled by a sliver of hope and even most improbably of joy.  Millions died; 1,300 were saved by Schindler's list.  The fraction saved was so small, the action risked so unique, the reaction shared so strong that only joy of a deep spiritual kind can account for it.  Indeed, in the dark pages of human history only a heart yearning for God can account for the presence of joy.

Keneally unfolds the tale so quietly that it feels like a whispered remembrance from an acquaintance we haven't seen in years.  The author's note calls it a "true story" told using 'the texture and devices of a novel," and it reads like the best of a classic without embellishments.  It is tempting to say the story writes itself, until you compare it to other attempts at the genre, and until you realize that no one had told this story in the 35 years since it happened.   So the book earns its classic rating on both the power of the story and the power of the telling of it.

At different points of the story, Keneally steps outside the account and asks the question of motive, for the Oscar  Schindler of history and this story is neither saint nor hero.  He is a German business man who profits from his Jewish slave labor and his SS contacts, he is a corrupt business man who bribes and parties with his Nazi suppliers and buyers, and he is an immoral man who cheats openly on his wife with multiple women at once.  Yet he gambles his business and his life for his workers, arrested and jailed three times even as he promises them safety and life after the madness ends.  He openly faces down the bureaucracy that enriches him, rejoicing in his anarchic victories large and small.  He is a clear-eyed business man who sabotages his factory output to deprive the German war machine of the material it needs to finalize its ultimate solution.

At most and best it must be said he was the right man in the right place with the right abilities and contacts to make a difference--and he did.  He promised his workers life, and he gave it to them.  At the very end, as the German army scattered, the feared Russians approached from the east, and the Americans paused to the west, when the risk was at its greatest because of the vortex of fear in the center, Schindler managed his transition from boss to prisoner and coached his workers in how to survive the coming freedom his list had won for them.  "Though no one quite understood it, it was the instant in which they became themselves again."

That was the gift worthy of the pain and the joy and makes this book and movie such classics.

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More Schindler's List (book) reviews
review by . July 03, 2010
Reading Schindler's List brought to me a whole new perspective of the Holocaust and the war in general. Coming from the perspective of a business man like Schindler showed me a  whole new light on how drawn out and gradual the atrocities committed against the Jewish really were. The way this novel was written makes it hard to believe that this is a real historic account of what happened.      This story revealed how unaware most German people really were about what …
review by . July 04, 2010
 It started out as a selfish act to find workers to make a profit during the war and ended up a personal journey to help as many as he could survive he atrocities of World War Two.       Schindler's List was a rollercoaster ride of emotions to me. A man who wanted to take advantage of the war for his own greed changed everything after meeting Iztahk Stern, a man who helped Oskar Schindler help himself. Itzahk Stern showed Schindler that the Jews were just people. …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
"Schindler's Ark" was a heartbreaking experience for me. I read this book as research and preparation for my review of Spielberg's film and I was already fairly familiar with the history of the Holocaust, but even I was unprepared for how emotionally devastating this book was. A powerful, stark, enlightening read that offers as much hope to its readers as it offers insight into the atrocities of the Nazis.
Quick Tip by . July 07, 2010
Sickening but real, a needed read for social development, obviously with this topic ignorance would be bliss but since it did happen we need to learn from it so a necessary read to not forget and to take whatever actions to amend and move forward from it to not recreate this or similar horrors.
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
A truly, truly, inspiring story of the strength of the human spirit.
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Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this book


The book, which was originally titled Schindler's Ark was later changed to Schindler's List for its American publication. Although written in novel format, the book is an historical account of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party, who used his manufacturing plant as a front for saving over 1,100 Jews from the death camps.
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ISBN-10: 0340606517
ISBN-13: 978-0340606513
Author: Thomas Keneally
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Biography
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Date Published: 1982 (original publication) 1994 (U.S. publication)
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"Moving story"
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