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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 24 September 2002
This is Oskar Schindler' story. A story of determination, strength and courage in the face of adversity. Schindler was a German businessman and Nazi party member. Wealthy and successful, he decided to set up a factory in Poland producing supplies for the German army in Russia. He would employ Jews.
Initially, you do not picture Schindler as a philanthropist. He is an entrepreneur, his passion is money and the full enjoyment of life in luxury. As the story progresses, and he witnesses atrocities and acts of inhumanity towards the Jews, he uses his own money to bribe the SS and Police and to buy Jews to work for him, thus saving them from a very uncertain future in the hands of the SS.
As the rest of the world stood by and did little, we learn of one man's quest to do as much as he could for those in his care.
It is not fair to say that others did not help, but Schindler clearly went further than most. This is a moving and heartbreaking story. In the end, Schindler made an enormous personal sacrifice, and put himself in danger to save those his countrymen were murdering. He saved one thousand lives. The death of Oscar Schindler was mourned by Jewish communities worldwide.
This story was the inspiration for the acclaimed film Schindler's List' starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes. The film is as good as the book.
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on 7 August 2001
I first read this in 1985 and whilst a teenager. Since then I have probably read it another dozen or so times and it loses nothing of it's power however well you know the outcome. It is easily the one book that has had a profound impact on my life and hopefully Oskar's lessons have made me a better person. On the strength of Schindler's Ark I visited Kracow to see the ghetto, and Auschwitz, and when I could choose a history course to teach, chose one involving Nazism. Although unbearably sad, it remains an incredibly uplifting tale - everyone should read it!
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on 21 November 2001
I watched Schindlers List, and decided to read the book that inspired the film. The attention to detail in extraordinary, and Keneally draws you into the terrifying, upside down world of Cracow during WW2. What really gets to you is how the corrupt Nazi machine, slowly ratchet the Jews towards their awful fate, and how evil seems to be accepted and tolerated almost without question. Schindler's complex character dominates the story, as his sheer force of charisma keeps the hopes of the Pfferbergs, Sterns, Bankiers and the workers in his plant alive. A great book that can't fail to affect the reader very deeply.
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on 16 November 2000
This is actually one of my favourite films. Unfortunately, I had seen the film before I read this book which I always feel detracts somewhat from the emotional impact I get from reading. However, on actually reading the book I was surprised to find that none of the initial emotional spark discovered on watching the film had gone. On the contrary, Keneally's writing seemed to further intensify the vividness of the stories and events portrayed in the film. I actually felt that I was there, eavesdropping on conversations. I could see all the events unfolding before my eyes.
I have actually visited both the concentration camps in Auschwitz and the description that Keneally gives of them in his novel is quite remarkably. He seems to be able to convey the general feeling of melancholy surrounding them as well as their chilling visual impact. This is a true story and the way Keneally is able to piece together the feelings and anecdotes of the survivor's into one hermetically sealed book is quite remarkable.
This book was the first that I read concerning the holocaust and since then it has given me a vivacious appetite to find out more, look deeper into the accounts of the survivors. I would recommend this book to everyone. Very powerful.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 20 November 2013
4.5 stars.

This is not a book to read on a beach. Not unless you want other sunseekers to potentially see your weeping face and open mouth as you delve into the true story of Oskar Schindler and the 1000+ Jewish men, women and children he almost literally dragged from out of the hands of the Nazis.

Keneally tries very hard to keep his portrait of Schindler unbiased. Not afraid to recount his womanising and (what we'd call now) 'playboy' ways, the reader sees Oskar from the many perspectives of eyewitnesses who have collaborated with the author to bring this tale to life.

Yes, he had affairs. He may also have occasionally been heavy-handed with employees and other men. But yes, he also spent his own money and contacts saving Jewish people from right out of the concentration camps and kept them alive to the very end of the war, to his own bankruptcy.

It's incredibly tense, moving, upsetting and just horrific. No details seem to be spared. There are a lot of names and families, among them the almost unbelievable Goeth, sometimes seen by the author as Schindler's dark twin. Their relationship is so dark and twisted, you can see how Spielberg was able to make it the heart of his film.

As a Jewish reader, one lucky enough to not have had family in Europe at this time in history, the implications of what happened in this book really hit home for me. And though a lot of detail wasn't new, the post-war world Schindler had to navigate was quite an eye-opener, from his letter signed by Jews vouching for him to having to travel in prisoners' clothes to avoid being taken for a fleeing Nazi officer. Nothing they cover in GCSE history.

An amazing account full of detailed testimony written into an engaging and thrilling narrative, the book really is powerful. Both this and the film cover an essential man, story and period that should be remembered. Flaws only make a man imperfect, they don't limit him. I found the ending of Oskar's story very touching, his downward path after performing some of the most selfless acts of bravery I'd ever heard of.

Really an essential read.
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on 12 March 2001
I too read the novel (which won the 1982 Booker Prize) after I saw the film. I too usually find that this detracts from reading the book, but it didn't in this case. The book is depressing because you wonder how can anyone act in that way, yet uplifting because there are some people willing to act against evil - at great cost. Everyone should read the book AND see the film.
My only quibble about the book is the ugly, small typeface.
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on 29 May 2016
Not a story which I need to recap in the broad strokes thanks to Mr Spielberg, but well worth picking up even if you think you're familiar with it. The novel stands without the sentimentality of the movie, and in the detail highlights in some ways the absolute mundanity of it, from the exploitable corruption of the Nazi's to the very capitalist nature of Schindler's own achievements in salvation.

Far more affably narrated by Keneally than you might imagine, there is little apparent effort made here to lionise the titular protagonist or turn the Nazi officers into automatic beasts. The history is ordered, presented, and allowed to stand. A remarkable book about a man who achieved little before the war, almost nothing after it, but who was enabled in a few short years to save over a thousand lives. For all of the failings on display, it's impossible not to be moved by the closing chapters.
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on 29 September 2000
From the pen of one of Australia's finest authors, Schindlewr's Ark is a compelling and powerful novel based on the life and remakable deeds of a roguish businessman with a conscience. A man who takes it upon himself to employ his cunning and tenacity to the full in order to save 1000 jews from the death camps during the war. The research that went into this book is impressive, and the writing as ever, eloquent. The true story is extraordinary in itself; in the hands of Keneally it is gripping. One can't help feeling that it is works of this calibre that help keep the memories of the The Third Reich's innocent victims alive today.
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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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