In Thomas Kenneally's Schindler's List, what is likable about Schindler himself, and why do the S.S. men like him?
In the "Author's Note" preceding his fictionalized biography of Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who ingratiated himself into the good graces of the German military hierarchy and who used his position in society to discreetly save hundreds of Jews from extermination, Schindler's List (originally titled Schindler's Ark), author Thomas Keneally pays homage to his titular figure calling him "the German bon vivant, speculator, charmer . . ." This description of Oskar Schindler is indicative of the reasons Schindler was so successful in maneuvering among the ranks of people who had no compunction about killing anybody they deemed inferior, which constituted a large percentage of the world's population. Schindler was indeed likable, and was liked by the German Schutzstaffel, or S.S. That was a product of his naturally affable personality combined with his innate ability to insinuate himself into otherwise impenetrable social circles. Schindler was possessed of numerous characteristics each of which would seemingly condemn him to a life of social ostracism. He was a serial philanderer and con man who was notoriously unreliable. Early in his book, Keneally describes his protagonist's methodology for infiltrating the otherwise rigid and deadly world in which he was forced to operate:
"Oskar despised [Herr Franz] Bosch and the two police chiefs, Scherner and Czurda. Their cooperation, however, was essential to the existence of his own peculiar plant in Zablocie, and so he regularly sent them gifts."
And, in further expanding upon the reason for Schindler's success in functioning among some of the most dangerous men in the world, Keneally again emphasizes this figure's tactics for success despite his more modest origins:
"There is no doubt that in their fashion the police chiefs and the Commandant liked Oskar. . . There were signs that he wasn’t right-minded, though he paid well, was a good source of scarce commodities, could hold his liquor and had a slow and sometimes rowdy sense of humor. He was the sort of man you smiled and nodded at across the room, but it was not necessary or even wise to jump up and make a fuss over him. It is most likely that the SS men noticed Oskar Schindler’s entrance because of a frisson among the four girls."
That passage pretty much sums it up. Schindler was adept at playing upon the vanities, greed and sexual picadilloes the S.S. officers from whom he sought favors and protection. These were men stationed far from home, in most cases, who were not above Schindler's skilled efforts at charming them in the context of being able to provide them the creature comforts that soldiers in occupied Europe tended to favor. Access to scarce commodities and beautiful women, to say nothing of cash and a demonstrated willingness to pick up the tabs in local taverns, were all instrumental in insinuating himself into S.S. ranks. Schindler was likable, but he was always scheming and it was this combination of character traits that made possible his efforts on behalf of the Jews he saved from extermination in German death camps.