Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally 9/10 Penelope Spurr

There is a reason why Schindler’s List shows up as #1 for Holocaust books. It is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, who saved over one thousand Jews during the Holocaust.

The book begins with Oskar’s childhood and family ties. He then moves to Cracow, Poland, to prove his own success in business to his father. He buys an enamelware factory and utilizes it to support the Germans in WWII. This business brings him extraordinary wealth-so much so that he is able to reinforce positive relationships with Nazi and military officials with Vodka and jewels. Meanwhile, he develops ties to Zionist parties and is able to extract classified information from senior German military personnel. However, Amon Goeth, a malicious and sadistic Nazi commander, is assigned to oversee Cracow. He constructs a labor camp, and soon Schindler’s Jewish employees are taken. Oskar is returned his employees after excessive cajoling, bribery, and agreements. The remainder of the book illustrates Schindler’s efforts in order to save his one thousand workers from the lethal hands of Auschwitz and the Nazi party.

I have read numerous books focusing on the Holocaust, and no book has painted such a picture as Schindler’s List. The imagery made me feel like I, too, was watching each scene. I could see the families torn apart, the suffering, and desperation. I was given a sense of how much stress Schindler was under, whether he was constructing an agreement or smuggling an extra family into his factory.

Thomas Keneally’s style of writing either kept me on the edge of my seat (or on my couch, crying). In many instances, Keneally purposefully writes about concepts with little explanation, so that when the realization hits, it comes less like a swell and more like a tidal wave. It would crash into my emotions and leave me feeling helpless. Keneally also weaves together an intricate timeline of not only Schindler’s story, but also his employees’. Numerous families, like the Rosens, developed close relationships with Oskar, and knew his many personalities. These stories illustrated the situations of Cracow Jews and juxtaposed them to Schindler’s bystander perspective.

Schindler’s List is like no other. It would appeal most to readers who enjoy historical nonfiction. It may take time to get engrossed in the plot, but once you do it is hard to put the book down. The story itself is so unpredictable, which may be because it is true. Reading the story was truly a perspective-changing experience.

 

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