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on 31 May 2008
I don't know how best to represent the Holocaust in popular culture. There is no doubt that the story of Oskar Schindler is a compelling one and Stephen Speilberg did very well with his sincere, though unmistakably Hollywood, take on the subject. I had been looking forward to reading the original `novel' by Thomas Keneally but this really wasn't what I expected. The author had set himself a mighty challenge by converting a true story into a fictional narrative, but I'm afraid it didn't quite work.
Oskar Schindler, a flamboyant, womanising, Sudeten-German businessman and enthusiastic member of the Nazi party, arrives in Cracow with a view to making himself a fortune using cheap Jewish labour. Disillusioned within a very short time by the behaviour of the occupying forces and utterly horrified by the treatment of the Jews he then sets about expanding and protecting his workforce from the excesses with a fidelity woefully lacking in his treatment of his wife. At great personal risk - he was arrested three times - he uses his undoubted charm and charisma, his considerable physical presence and courage, extraordinary, almost comical, bravado, palm-greasing, alcohol, endless gifts and bribes, and eventually his whole fortune to save those who became known as the Schindlerjuden - Schindler's Jews. His true motivation is never clear but there is little doubt that his natural rebellious streak, his love of hoodwinking the system and ridiculing the authorities played a considerable role. It is a story of horror, heartbreak and hope.
So why didn't the book work? With its endless testimonies, quotes and anecdotes, it read as a dispassionate populist biography on the one hand, but on the other - because it had been fictionalised - the characters lacked psychological depth and seemed fictional. So it wasn't quite up to scratch in either category. It seems that Thomas Keneally did not have the literary skills to pull this off, though it was an extraordinarily difficult task and he should be praised for the attempt. As a literary-minded person I feel my hands trembling as I write `the film is better than the book.' That said, I feel that is definitely worth reading.
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on 19 November 2014
Probably one of the most affecting and influential books I have ever read about the extremes of the best and worst humanity is capable of. Although many people may think they know Schindler's story from Spielberg's remarkable film, the original novel also fills in some of the bits that couldn't be shown or be added to the film because of length. It is an incredible story of human decency that Schindler, flawed like everyone, had a certain expectation of morality beneath which he would not go. He stood his ground whilst others fell as the true horror of The Final Solution erupted all around him. This is one of the most profound stories to emerge from the Holocaust and should be read as widely as possible. The story of the Holocaust in this book is one of humans, and this brings the human scale to this tragedy.
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on 23 February 2013
Second time I have read this and I found it moving and informative. Much better to read than the film as Keneally gives enough description to enable pictures to be painted in the mind. Schinler's List is a good film but the book is much better.
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on 24 December 2012
A truly convinxcing interpretation of a defining period in European history that I found grippingly readable.
Although only a teenager at the time, I knew people who escaped and others who were at the liberation of the concentration camps.
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on 20 April 2009
This book was captivating from start to finish. I was immediately drawn in to the harshness that the Jewish population had to go through. While this book does look at the general suffering of the people, it focuses in on the story of Schindler who, with his great sense of humanity saves over a thousand lives, and helped to create generations and generations of people who otherwise would have been non existant today. Thomas Keneally also tells the individual stories of a few of the Shindler Jew's and of their terrible plight and what they had to endure. At many times throughout the book I was filled with a sense of horror although Schindler and his efforts are simply outstanding. This is a must read, and I would definitely recommend.
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on 24 December 2012
I had read this book and seen the film years ago, but having recently visited Krakow, Aushwitz, Birkenau, the Jewish ghetto and Schindler's factory museum - I decided to re-read the book whilst the full horror of the holocaust was fresh in my consciousness.
I was captivated by the author's historical accuracy. The facts and figures are in total accord with data seen and read during the visit to Poland. The barbarity of one nations treatment of an entire race is chilling but is sensitively treated in the book. The emergent humanity of Oscar Schindler as the war progresses is humbling particularly his seeming disregard for his own safety, whilst helping his workers.
All in all, a superb read.
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on 12 March 2013
If you have ever watched and enjoyed the fil, you need to read this book. It's much more personal with the various stories, and I feel like I really got to know the true character of Schindler. Worth a read.
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on 9 January 2013
Anyone interested in world war two, the Nazis and what they did to the Jews. I watched the film after reading this as they say the books are ultimately better. Definitely true in this case.
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on 7 November 2014
This is the book which the film Schindler's List was based on. I would recommend anyone who has watched the film to read the book. It explains some of the scenes in the film more fully and is a gripping, but distressing read.
At the end I was left with the inevitable question, 'Why did he do it?' A man of dubious morals, little faith and yet he risked his own life to save so many Jews. Schindler presents an enigma, he is in no sense what we would call a 'good' man, and yet he stood against authority and worked the system for the sake of people who came to regard themselves as part of the Schindler family.
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on 28 July 2011
The film actually inspired me to read more about WW2, the atrocities and the Holocaust. This is by far one of the best books I have read, fiction or non-fiction. Oskar Schindler has been depicted as a enterprising, womanising, alcohol enthusiast with morals, a sense of justice and a believer in equality despite the fascist Nazi environment he is a part of. He may have started out to make money from a war, but somewhere along the line he began to put to put his feelings into actions and was involved in covert missions to save Jews. There could not be a better tribute to a truly great man.
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