Happy fourth of July everyone! Being in NY for the fourth was quite the experience. My SURP group had a lovely time in Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens, where we camped out from about 3:30 pm till the fireworks started at 9:30 and had a fantastic picnic (all organized by us!). The fireworks themselves were awesome – we had a great view, and could see four sets going off down the river simultaneously (like synchronized swimming, only with fireworks!). Getting home was a trek in the crowds and coming from Queens back to Manhattan, but it was definitely well worth it!
On an entirely different, less American note, I’ve been meaning to compose a brief review about Schindler’s List, by Thomas Keneally. A famous book, and one I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time, it deals with the Holocaust. I am an avid reader of Holocaust stories, and think the Holocaust is an important piece of history for us all to read and know about, but this book tells a particularly unique and different story.
While many Holocaust books write from the perspective of Holocaust victims – especially Jews – this one writes from the perspective of Herr Schindler, a non-Jewish businessman rather prominent in – or at least with significant connections to – Nazi society. Keneally does an excellent job of illustrating Herr Schindler. Rather than representing him as a demigod – as would be somewhat easy to do, considering his incredible deeds during the war – Keneally describes him in very human terms, expounding upon both his human failings and his more heroic qualities. Through the story of Schindler and his actions, the readers gains perspective into the stories of many different people and groups during the Holocaust. Themes of fear and cowardice emerge, such as when the neighbor woman changes her mind about allowing her Jewish friend to hide in her wall, just as the Gestapo are walking down the street. One feels sad, maybe a bit angry, about this, but at the same time one can relate to the neighbor woman, to the fear she was feeling, to the impossible position she was in. Graphic scenes and utter brutality can also be found in the book through the descriptions of the Amon Goeth’s cruelty towards the poor, persisting Helen. Despite all of this revealing of the baseness of humanity, however, more uplifting themes are also found in the book. The heroic actions of Schindler and the many that help or work alongside him, such as Tisch, and Stern; the community created by the prisoners wherever they go; even the kindnesses of otherwise brutal people, such as the SS that help a favorite Jew or child escape.
The reader also gains a sense of the incredible power of chance in determining the courses of lives. Whether one was at the right place at the right time, whether one had the right connections, whether one got on the list or not – overall, chance and luck played enormous roles in determining who survived the Holocaust. At the same time, Schindler’s story proves that pure blind persistence, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, can make a difference and change history. No, Schindler did not save everyone. In all honesty, he barely made a dent in the overall product of the Holocaust. Still, his efforts saved a significant number of people, and are the reason for the existence of an even greater number of people living today.
This book has also been made into a movie! I have not seen it yet, but am planning to check it out soon. (If any of you have thoughts on the movie, versus the book or otherwise, I’d love to hear them!) Overall, I definitely recommend this book. Somewhat of a classic, and certainly a unique perspective on the Holocaust, it may not be a light or easy read, but it is certainly
a good one.