1001 Group Read: November, 2011: Schindler's Ark (aka. Schindler's List)
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I am in fact half-Jewish but this was the only time in my life when I felt keenly that this meant something immediate, to other people, about me. It was a very uncomfortable experience, but a very appropriate one.
I was totally hooked by this book - although it was uncomfortable and Spielberg for me certainly did it justice with the novel. I had always assumed that the red coated little girl was a bit of hollywood spin - apparantly not and that really stunned me.
One thing that I didn’t realise when watching the film though: praise is often showered on Spielberg for the use of a colour at just one point. A small girl in red is seen wandering aimlessly through the crushed ghetto of Cracow. This is entirely Keneally’s creation and he should get the credit for inspiring Spielberg.
is from my review. http://johnandsheena.co.uk/books/?p=1257 for the rest of it.
The ending (Schindler's later life in Frankfurt) made me sad. I read some books about post-war Germany this year and I had never realized before what a tabu issue the Holocaust has been until the early 70s and how much antisemitism had remained in the people. I was born in 1971, and must have been part of the first generation where the Holocaust was really discussed at school and where the national guilt was openly acknowledged.
I'll try and get the movie from the library this weekend, it has been a while since I last watched it. But I'd say it was a very good adaptation. Spielberg had to condense the plot a bit, leaving out some characters (or combining 2 or more character into one).
As for the larger view on the Holocaust, I find this book very chilling because it gives more of a sense of the enormity of the slaughter as a beaurocratically-sustained process. Usually you see a small corner of the atrocity from a single point of view. In Schindler, it's so big. This tension between the enormity of the whole episode and the smallness of one good person is the heartbreaking point of the book. The movie felt more upbeat in this sense. So far, in the book, it's just terrible; but perhaps that is because I have gotten older than when I saw the movie, and know even more about the holocaust than I did then.
I found this one of the most emotionally draining books I have ever read - and I would be interested to know what people have chosen to read after. I needed some real chick lit and chose 600 pages of Ceclia Ahern to lighten my mood. I still don't feel ready to tackle anything too emotional - how is everyone else getting on?
I must say that I found Schindler's Ark easier to read that the other Holocaust books from the list, like If this is a Man or This Way to the Gas. It might also have helped that I had seen the movie several times.
I can't tell you how often I racked my brains to find the motivation behind all that. In the book there turns up the very practical question of how a country that was already spending so much money on a hopeless war, was at the same time able to invest such enormous amounts of both money and effort on the extinction of a complete people.
Maybe the very simple answer is really that antisemitism (an idea I just can't understand but that obviously had a long tradition in Europe at that time) was so deeply rooted in the German leaders that they believed in the rightness of their doings. Otherwise, if there had been "only" material motives, they would have stopped after the dispossessions and ghettoisations, something that had happened before over the centuries. They must have been convinced of the idea of the Aryans being the "Herrenrasse", there is no other explanation. I once saw a documentation that showed that their ideology was almost like a religion, with rituals, really scary. It wasn't just some excuse/ propaganda to get to the power, the top level of Hitler's people really believed in that stuff. Then there were countless greedy people who were ready to look the other way as long as they could get some money out of it (not much has changed here), and then the population, most of them poor and totally occupied with their own worries, having been forced into obedience in the early days, when all political enemies had been sent to concentration camps.
About the book: I liked that Thomas Keneally didn't try to make Oskar Schindler an ueber-hero. He showed him as a man with many faults, though great determination. More than the movie the book showed what an incredibly close call it was. Had the war lasted a little longer, he might not have been able to hold out. I feel ashamed for the treatment he received in Germany in the years after the war.
This was not a book I enjoyed, ever. The relentless beaurocratic murder combined with incessant, random acts of sadism just wore me down. It was too nightmarish. I've read other holocaust novels and I've been to numerous museums about the holocaust, in Germany and in the USA, and I've talked to relatives who were survivors. What I couldn't bear in Schindler's Ark was the multiplicity of viewpoints (so that there is always, always, another sudden moment of horrific cruelty just when you've let down your guard) and the prolongation of the brutality over years and years. Schindler's heroism is dwarfed by the enormity of what he was up against. 1,100 names on the list. There were almost 70,000 Jews in Cracow before the Holocaust, and in this book you feel as if you are involved with all of them, not the ones who are saved.
This account is smart and truthful and realistic in the sense that, every story of survival is an anomaly in the Holocaust, and the stories of the dead are the untold volumes. I've always been very aware of that. But for an author to try to repair that balance in some way results in an unbearable text.
I don't know why people say this book is "uplifting." The movie was kind of uplifting, as I recall. The book is upsetting.
Schindler's heroism has been deliberately understated, but that makes him all the more enigmatic as a character. Why was he, of all people, the one to stand up against the SS machine? I wonder if he asked himself that question.
The stories of sadism and brutality were not new, but brought to a more personal level in some instances than other books. What I did find surprising was the extent of corruption among the German civilian and military authorities.
I wouldn't call the novel uplifting either. That one man could rise above his nature to become surprisingly good does not offset the idea that so many could sink to such evil. I saw the movie, but too many years ago to compare it with the book in this regard.
Reading this thread, I was almost convinced to read the book. But now I think not. Not now, anyway.
Over the years I have read a lot of books about the Holocaust. It is a tough subject and totally shocking. We had Holocaust survivors come to our school and speak and show films from 7th grade. Now, I have to space out what I read, because it is so upsetting. I read this one because of the group read, and I am really glad that I did. His massive effort inspired me to believe that at least some people will stand up and do the right things even if it is hard.