I think this book is the first that’s really blown me away of all the Booker winners I’ve read so far. I was (& still am) a bit confused as to why it won the Booker prize for fiction when it is based upon historical events, but I think the fiction comes from not being able to fully verify all that’s in the book and the specifics of some parts. But really don’t let that stop your reading this.
The story of ‘Schindlers Ark’ is more famously known by the film title of ‘Schindlers List’ (which I’ve never seen but will do now) and even if you’ve not read the book or watched the film you won’t have missed what happened in ww2.
When I was a student I visited Cracow and Auschwitz while backpacking around Europe. It chilled me then, but the descriptions by Keneally in this book really brought it home to me what the Jewish people went through during ww2. Oskar Schindler’s story wasn’t one I was familiar with, a German man, initially set on maximising the economic opportunities of industry in the war, but soon enough focused on protecting the Jews who work in his factory.
“Oskar would lay special weight on this day. “Beyond this day,” he would claim, “no thinking person could fail to see what would happen. I was now resolved to do everything in my power to defeat the system.”
The presence of his factory of munitions workers becomes almost legendary amongst the prisoners swept up into the concentration camps, and people find endless ways to try and get themselves or their family members into Oskar protection. Despite his German nationality and position of respect and authority with the German authorities the Jews trust him implicitly to do what he can to keep them alive and protect them from the Nazis.
“For a second it seemed ridiculous for her, a girl whose father had paid fifty thousand zloty for Aryan papers, to say it without a pause, to give it all away to a half ironic, half worried Sudentendeutscher with a glass of cognac in his hand. Yet in some ways it was the easiest thing she’d ever done.”
You know how it ends, but the stories and impact Schindler made, whilst a drop in the ocean of death during ww2, was the ultimate gift, of life to those individuals and hope for families. I think the book is summed up perfectly by this sentence in the prologue.
“This is the story of the pragmatic triumph of good over evil, a triumph in eminently measurable, statistical, unsubtle terms”