Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Oskar Schindler, a Czech manufacturer and factory owner, is on his way to dine with Amon Goeth, Nazi commandant of the Paszów labor camp outside Kraców, Poland, in 1943. Schindler’s car travels on the broken Jewish gravestones that pave the road to Goeth’s villa. Inside the villa, as Jewish musicians play unobtrusively, Goeth is surrounded by local police and prostitutes. Schindler encounters Goeth’s maid, Helen Hirsch, who has been severely beaten by Goeth; terrified, she confides to Schindler about Goeth’s frequent brutality and begs Schindler to find and save her younger sister.
It is now 1908, and Schindler is born in Zwittau, Austria (later part of Czechoslovakia), a small industrial town where people speak German. Schindler, whose favorite hobby is motorcycles, studies engineering and expects to take over his father’s farm-machinery company. Soon, he marries Emilie, a farmer’s daughter, but he is never faithful to her.
In the fall of 1939, Schindler moves to Kraców and meets Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant who has many valuable business insights and contacts. In November, Jews are required to register with the Nazis, and the restrictions and brutality against Jews begin. With Stern’s advice, Schindler purchases an enamelware and cookware company called Deutsche Emailwaren Fabrik (Emalia) and initially employs 150 Jewish slave laborers. By the end of 1939, Schindler is often seen socializing with high-ranking Nazi...
(The entire section is 977 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
After the release of Steven Spielberg’s enormously successful film in 1993, it is unlikely that many people do not know the story of Oskar Schindler, a Sudetan German confidence man who uses his connections with the German SS military organization to feather his own nest. He sets himself up as a military supplier in Kracow, Poland, in 1939, in order to take advantage of the expropriation of Jewish businesses, staffing his factory with Jews whom he can use as slave labor. Little by little he takes responsibility for the workers’ lives, with a minimum of interference from the German authorities. First, he houses them in his own compound to save them from constantly being taken out of the ghettoes for other work, which would interfere with their factory time. What starts out as effective business practice becomes a peculiar kind of cruel paternalism. Everything changes, however, when the workforce is threatened with transfer to the extermination camps. Schindler, seemingly without much thought or moral intent, begins to thwart the SS in its attempts to drag his workers into the boxcars. He does not save them all; in fact, he saves only a few of the hundreds who pass through his shop, but the Jews who survived the war never forgot him. This feckless, morally dubious, and often unsavory confidence man became one of the most beloved heroes of the Holocaust.
Keneally found this true story by chance, when a Jewish survivor, Poldek Pfefferberg, told him about...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Schindler's List first appeared in Britain as Schindler's Ark. The word "ark" in the original title is in reference to the ark built by the biblical Noah, on God's instruction, to rescue people and animals from the Great Flood. Thus Schindler, simply from the original title of the work, is cast as a rescuer of men.
Schindler's List is made up of a series of stories about different people, which take place over a period of time. Keneally provides the details of the lives of many of the main characters. Events from their pasts, their experiences in the ghetto or labor camps, and their reactions to the history they witnessed are told in snatches over the course of the novel. But in the midst of these snippets there emerges the main story—of Oskar Schindler and his outrageous rescue of his Jewish workers. Keneally interrupts his storytelling periodically to offer historical commentary or to mention what happened to a character after the war was over. Thus the action of the novel does not proceed chronologically but moves back and forth in time. The summary of the plot that follows for the most part outlines the main events of the story of Schindler's rescue of his workers in chronological time, omitting the other story lines.
Keneally prefaces Schindler's List with a note describing the nature of his nonfictional novel and...
(The entire section is 2933 words.)