Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 21 | Summary



Poldek Pfefferberg and his wife, Mila, spend liquidation day hiding in their attic. They plan to escape the ghetto through the sewers. When Pfefferberg finally leaves the house, he returns to find Mila gone. Hiding in a lumberyard, Pfefferberg watches the SS and their dogs move up his street, executing his neighbors. Knowing he will soon be discovered by the dogs, Pfefferberg boldly approaches Amon Goeth and lies that he has spent the day working to clear the road. Goeth, amused by Pfefferberg's confidence, restrains his dogs and sends Pfefferberg to stand with the group of prisoners awaiting shipment to the camps.

The jeweler Mordecai Wulkan attempts to secure his family's safety during the liquidation by bribing a guard with a diamond. At the end of the day, Wulkan and his family are smuggled out of the ghetto by the OD. Meanwhile, the SS go door to door, finding and executing the 4,000 Jews hiding inside their homes.


Both Pfefferberg and Wulkan have foreknowledge of the liquidation, and both men prepare for their family's safety differently: Pfefferberg and his wife plan to escape through the sewers, while Wulkan bribes an officer so that he can hide in the police station and then be smuggled out.

Pfefferberg demonstrates an astounding resiliency and ability to think and act quickly in the face of mortal danger. He is able to reformulate his plan several times over in the space of a few minutes: when he finds his wife gone, he hides in the lumberyard; when he sees the SS men approaching with their dogs, he confronts them and lies about what he has been doing. His boldness amuses Goeth, who is in a good mood —after a day of executions! By amusing Goeth, Pfefferberg avoids likely being ripped to shreds by the dogs.

Wulkan seeks safety by bribing the authorities. The Wulkans spend the day safe at the police station before being smuggled out by OD officers. As they are smuggled out, the Wulkans can hear "the nearly continuous sound of rifle and small-arms fire from the streets behind them." They avoid becoming victims of the violence but are still forced to listen to it.

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