Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 26 | Summary

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Summary

Raimund Titsch, the Catholic manager of Julius Madritsch's uniform factory inside Płaszów, placates Amon Goeth by purposefully losing during their chess matches. He takes many photographs of life at Płaszów and hides the undeveloped film in his Cracow apartment. The film remains undeveloped until Titsch's death, decades after the regime falls.

In late 1943 General Julius Schindler, head of the Armaments Inspectorate, visits Płaszów to evaluate whether the camp's contribution to the war effort justifies its continued existence. According to legend, Oskar Schindler and some Płaszów inmates conspire to undermine the general's inspection. Prior to the inspection, Schindler gets the general drunk, and during the inspection, inmates cut the lights. Handicapped by drunkenness and dim lighting, the general allows production to continue at Płaszów.

In January 1944 Płaszów is reclassified as a concentration camp and as such is now under the authority of officials in the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office in Oranienburg, near Berlin. Emalia, being a subcamp of Płaszów, also falls under the new authority. Schindler travels to Oranienburg, seeking reassurance that the regime will not interfere with his workforce.

Josef Bau, an artist who works at Płaszów as a draftsman, falls in love with fellow prisoner Rebecca Tannenbaum, who works as Goeth's manicurist. The two young lovers begin a proper and restrained courtship "with the permission of elders and as if there were world enough and time." One of the results of Płaszów's reclassification is that the men's and women's quarters are now separated by electric fences, making it harder for Bau and Tannenbaum to meet. Undaunted, Bau steals a dead woman's dress and begins to sneak into the women's compound to spend nights with Tannenbaum.

One night in February, the two are married in a makeshift ceremony inside the women's barracks. Immediately after the ceremony, the sirens begin to sound. Bau is certain he has been discovered missing from the men's barracks and that his absence will lead to the deaths of all those who were complicit in his romance. He runs out of the women's compound and hides in the men's latrine. Later, he learns that the sirens had nothing to do with his absence from the men's barracks.

Analysis

The events of this chapter highlight the various ways those inside Płaszów attempt to maintain normalcy within the abnormal conditions of a labor camp. These efforts are acts of resistance.

The ordinary game of chess takes on greater significance when Titsch realizes he can use the game to make life easier and safer for inmates at Płaszów. Although he could win every match against Goeth, he understands he can stroke Goeth's ego by losing deliberately. When Goeth wins at chess, he is less violent toward the prisoners.

The courtship between the young lovers Bau and Tannenbaum is characterized by an attachment to prewar ideas of respect, romance, and propriety. It contrasts with the usual manner of sexual relations inside Płaszów, where "young males mounted girls without ceremony." The conditions in Płaszów foster hopelessness and therefore a loss of dignity.

Bau and Tannenbaum draw strength and dignity from their courtship, as do other prisoners. Rather than seeing a traditional courtship inside a labor camp as absurd, the women in Tannenbaum's barracks encourage it, finding in it "a license to play their prewar ceremonious selves." The wedding is conducted in as much accordance with tradition as possible given the circumstances. Bau and Tannenbaum's courtship, with its careful attention to Jewish cultural norms, is an act of resistance to the dehumanizing experience of life at Płaszów.

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