Life, Death and War in Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark


Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published twenty five novels since,including “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith”,”Confederates”,and “Gossip from the Forest”,all of which were shortlisted for the Booker prize.He has also written several books of nonfiction,including his boyhood memoir “Homebush Boy”,”The Commonwealth of Thieves”,and “Searching for Schindler”.He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney,Australia.

Schindler’s Ark opens with a close-up of unidentified hands lighting a pair of Shabbat (Sabbath) candles, after which the sound of a Hebrew prayer blessing the candles can be heard aloud.This scene, one of a handful color scenes in the film, closes as the flames flicker out. The wisp of smoke from the dying flames fades into the next scene, now everthing is in black and white and there are no colors present in the scene, and flames become a plume of smoke from a steam engine.On a train platform,a folding table is set up where there is a jewish family standing and no one else is there,they register themselves as the jews.The single table turns into a lot of tables, and the single family mould into a very large crowd. A Close-up images of names being showed and there are names typed in the lists  which provide a sense of many number of Jews arriving in Kraków.

“The list is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.”quoted Stern to represent the life of Jewish race.


A guy named Oskar Schindler appears in the hotel room of his in Kraków. The face of his is hidden, and the focus is on his things which he has carried on himself as he puts on his expensive watch, cuff links, and Nazi Party pin, and takes many bills  from his night table which are present there. Schindler then enters a nightclub. After he takes a seat in the nightclub, a very high-ranking Nazi official at a very nearby table catches his attention. Attempting to ingratiate himself with the local Nazis in order to secure lucrative war contracts, Schindler calls the waiter and sends drinks to the table. Before long, he is treating a large table of Nazis and their friends to expensive food and a very fine wine. Schindler then comes near to them and takes the picture with everyone important present there at the table, as well as with dancers at the club who were giving pleasure to many high class people .

Schindler then goes on to visit the Judenrat, the Jewish council charged with carrying out Nazi orders in Kraków. He walks towards  the front of a seemingly endless line of Jews without any fear, where he finds his accountant, Itzhak Stern. Schindler goes on to stern and tells Stern that he want some investors, “Jews,” so that he can buy an enamelware factory. As on that time the Jews, by the law, were not elgible to own businesses, Schindler tells Stern that he will pay the investors in product, not money.Being a profiteer, Schindler knows that he will fully develope his profit if he does not have to pay the Jewish investors in hands or in money. He has the desire Stern to make the business run by Stern, but Stern startingly refuses the offer, by giving excuse to Schindler that the Jews will not be much interested in investing.


Life, Death and War in Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark

Schindler, however, does not give up. So he goes away and next, he visits a church where Jewish smugglers run their business. All of the smugglers, except one named Poldek Pfefferberg, are scared off. Schindler tells Pfefferberg he is gonna need lots of luxury things in next months, and Pfefferberg promises to arrange them somehow.

The scene then shifts to one of masses of Jews walking over a bridge. Their armbands stand out starkly.The date is March 20, 1941—the deadline for Jews to enter the ghetto. There is a little Polish girl standing in the street and start to shouts, “Good-bye, Jews,” over and over again just through the word of mouth .While Schindler arrives at his new luxury apartment, recently emptied by the Nussbaum family, the Nussbaums themselves have to go in the ghetto with thousands of other uprooted families.

Schindler after trying too hard  finally secures money from the Jewish investors, who somehow agrees to accept items as their payment, because, as Schindler makes a valid point for his profit that money will be worthless in the ghetto. Schindler starts to set up his factory with Stern’s help and hires Jews, rather than Poles, because they are very cheaper to employ. Workers at the factory will be marked “essential”—a status that saves them from removal to death camps. Stern’s mind track this awesome fact immediately without any delay and strats to fill the factory with many Jewish workers-male and female whom the Nazis would otherwise have deemed expendable.

So,all this shows the life of the Jewish people in the reign of Nazis.They were used  in the process of making items in factory without much wages,women were brutally tortured by Nazis and they used to neat them a lot just for their fun.They used to kill Jews people  because they didn’t like them at all!Basically they used to hate the Jews and all their frustration was overslapped towards the Jews.

“Is this the face of a rat? Are these the eyes of a rat? ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ I feel for you, Helen. No, I don’t think so. . . . You nearly talked me into it, didn’t you?”quoted Goeth when he had the urge to be intimate with his Jewish maid Helen but later realises that since she is a jew that is the reason why he cant touch her and blames her that she is filthy bitch who is trying to seduce her and then he beats her in distress!This tells that how the Jews were treated in that time by the German people and were considered as a slave for them who will do all their work without any wage or payment

For now,Schindler has no idea that Stern is using Schindler’s position in the factory to save Jews. He qucikly realises the fact that, however, when Stern goes to see Schindler a  man with just one arm who wants to thank Schindler for saving him by making him “essential.” Schindler gets angry and rejects the gratitude and chastises Stern for bringing the man to see him. Just a littel after the scolding,Stern goes to a death camp and Schindler has to rescue Stern himself from a train bound for a death camp.

On the other hand, the construction which was going on the Plaszów labor camp,when it starst to begin, Amon Goeth appears. Goeth is a sadistic Nazi and is charged with building and running the camp. When Plaszów is completed, the Jews are evacuated from the Kraków ghetto and sent to the camp. From a very hill high above the ghetto, Schindler and his girlfriend watch the destruction in a terrified manner. A little girl in a red coat can be seen from there and Schindler sees her when she was walking through the carnage.On the other hand,Schindler’s girlfriend tearful eyes begs him to go home, but Schindler is obviously moved by what he sees. Schindler then goes to Amon goeth and convinces Goeth to allow him to build his own subcamp so that he can give work to his factory makers

Schindler then starts to imdulge actively in saving the Jews when Regina Perlman, a Jewish girl passing as a gentile, visits his office. She begs Schindler to hire her parents because her ears from somewhere has heard that his factory is a haven for Jews. He in starting refuses to help and tell  her to stay away.After a while, he shouts at Stern and then he reminds him that he is not in the business of saving people. But when Schindler finishes his tirade, Stern gets a gold watch by Schindler and tells him to bring the Perlmans over. By this decision,he actively start to save Jews.Over the time, Schindler starts to give Stern a lots and lots of his own personal items to use for bribes to bring people to his factory.

Few days later,Goeth is found guilty and  charged with evacuating Plaszów and exhuming and burning the bodies of 10,000 Jews killed there and at the Kraków ghetto. Schindler then gets to know that his workers, Stern included, face a death note at the hands of the Nazis,so Schindler decides to spend all his money to save as many Jews people as he can. By this, Schindler begins to make his list which defines the title of the book.He urges Goeth to give him his workers in return of money, including the Goeth’s maid, Helen Hirsch, to work in his factory in Czechoslovakia. The men and women are transported to Czechoslovakia by the two separate trains,but,due to some politics,the women are unknowingly diverted to Auschwitz, where Schindler has to save them by buying them again.All the people are reunited at the factory, where they stay till the war is over.

As told in the book 10,000 jews had to give their life because of the situation of the war  at the kraków ghetto,the nazi people were very cruel and they didnt even think about anyone before killing,this was the time of holocaust and many Jews with no fault from their side had to sacrifice their life.


This book deals with the theme of life on both the sides as Schindler on one hand tries very hard to save Jews life by bribing officials,while on the other hand,the Nazis kill them endlessly giving us the anomaly of life as to how one side is saving,while other is destoying.The situation of war at that time was at peak and the war only led to so many innconet killings and the holocaust,murder of thousand of Jews people and refugee camps built at many places,Death is inevitable but the cruelty from the Nazis side was inevitable at the time of the war for the jews people!

But due to Oskar Schindler,many Jews got saved by the havoc created by Nazis and they were called Schindler’s Jews

When the war ends, Schindler went on to tell his workers that no one can harm them and they are now free but now he will be hunted everywhere as a war criminal and he should get away at midnight. When he says  his Schindlerjuden good-bye, a ring made from the gold tooth work of a factory worker, engraved with the Talmudic phrase, “Whoever saves one life saves the world” entire is given to him.Schindler breaks down,and starts to cry a lot as he shed tears by saying that he could have done more for Jews people,he could have saved more lives.Both of the people including Schindler and his wife flee.

On The next morning, the camp witness a single russian soldier coming in and tells the Jews they are free. As they walk toward a nearby town,and a group of Holocaust survivors walking across a field. They stand up in a queue andplace rocks on Schindler’s grave.

After understanding the themes of life,death and war in this novel,I feel pretty much thankful that I was born in this era and not at that time in that place,by just imagining the scenario,I feel devastated by thinking how was life at that time and how difficult was for the Jews to live there and work as a slave!A true story of how a German rescued the Jews and the factory direktor Oskar Schindler came to save more Jews from the gad chambers than any other single person in World War 2.In this milestone of Holocaust literature,Thomas Keneally,the author of this book,uses the actual testimony of the Schindlerjuden that is called Schindler’s Jews to brilliantly portray the courage and cunning of a good man in the middle of unspeakable evil.Hence,It is a masterpiece which is considered a growth of the human soul.


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