Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 16 | Summary



Schindler learns that more than 7,000 people were removed from the ghetto during the recent Aktion. He is also aware that crematoria are being used at the concentration camps. His contacts keep him informed, but the ghetto's remaining inhabitants live in ignorance of the larger situation.

The ghetto's residents remain ignorant until the improbable return of a young man named Bachner. The previous week, Bachner had been taken to the camp at Belżec, from which he escaped. He tells the residents the Nazis are using deadly gas to execute Jews at the camp. Bachner himself avoided this fate by hiding in a latrine pit.

Schindler acquires official ownership of the property where DEF sits. He builds a structure behind the factory that provides refuge for Jewish workers during an Aktion in October 1942. Schindler becomes acquainted with Oswald Bosko, an SS officer stationed outside the ghetto. Despite working for the SS, Bosko is a subversive who works to undermine the policies of his organization by smuggling children out of the ghetto and providing passes for members of resistance movements.

During the October Aktion, Danka Dresner and her mother go to a neighbor's house, intending to hide from the SS in a special compartment the woman has built to conceal her own parents. The neighbor allows Danka into the compartment but tells Mrs. Dresner there is not enough room for her. Danka hides in the compartment while her mother, resigned to her fate of being taken to the camps, nevertheless avoids capture by hiding under the stairs.

Meanwhile, Jewish partisan groups are fighting a guerilla war against the Nazis. Schindler plans to build another barracks behind his factory so that he can house more Jews.


For the time being, Jews who are deemed to have some economic value to the regime are still safe. But the axiom that a Jew with economic value to the regime can survive the war is beginning to lose its validity. As she hides under the stairs during the October Aktion, Mrs. Dresner reflects that the day will soon come when all Jews, no matter their age, skill, or level of health, will be discarded by the regime. She knows she and others in her position need some sort of savior but is at a loss for whom that might be.

The methods now employed by Nazis are so shocking as to be unbelievable. The news of the gas chambers at Belżec, brought back to the ghetto by one who has been there and witnessed the situation firsthand, presents such an overwhelming challenge to rationality and sensibility that some residents who hear Bachner's story refuse to believe it. To retain a degree of hope that makes life bearable, a person's mind can reject such information as false, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

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