Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 27 | Summary

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Summary

In April 1944 Schindler employs Henry Rosner to play the violin at the celebration for his 36th birthday. He confesses to Henry he is upset that the Russians have halted their advance. Poldek Pfefferberg recently smuggled Olek Rosner into Płaszów to be with his parents, Henry and Manci. Inmates at Płaszów are safer from Amon Goeth ever since the camp has come under the administration of the bureaucracy at Oranienburg.

As the regime prepares for the upcoming Russian offensive, camps in the east are being evacuated and their chambers and crematoria destroyed. Ordered to destroy the evidence of the dead, inmates at Płaszów begin recovering and burning all the bodies thrown into mass graves in the woods. The administration in Oranienburg has plans to build crematoria at Płaszów.

On a visit to Płaszów, overwhelmed by the stench of burning corpses and the falling ash from the pyres, Schindler recalls the executions of Symche Spira, former head of the OD Political Division, and David Gutter, last president of the Judenrat. Schindler makes an emphatic promise to Stern: "I'm going to get you all out." Stern is skeptical.

Analysis

Henry Rosner's musical ability protects his family from Goeth's violence since Goeth has a soft spot for music. Because of this, the Rosners feel it is safe for their son, Olek, to join them in the camp. However, all the inmates are now safer than before since the bureaucrats in charge hold camp officers accountable when they perform random executions. This is not because individual Jewish lives are considered valuable but rather because destroying the labor pool weakens economic production. As Schindler recalls the executions of Spira and Gutter, he reflects on the fact that even total complicity with the regime does not protect a Jew's life. Those who turn against their fellow Jews, as did Spira and Gutter, are also violently discarded once they have outlived their usefulness.

Fearful of the advancing Russian armies, the regime attempts to conceal its crimes by destroying the corpses of the murdered Jews. Officials at Płaszów have long been overzealous in executing prisoners and careless in their disposal of the bodies, and the enormous task of exhuming and burning the bodies now falls to the inmates.

While Schindler is disgusted by the stench of the fires, he notes that the camp officials "took the smoke as if [it] ... were some sort of honest and inevitable industrial fallout." The camp officials are so used to murder that they barely seem to notice the smoke and ash. Schindler, deeply moved, promises Stern he will get all the inmates out of Płaszów. As Stern points out, this is unrealistic. Schindler's grandiose promise is an expression of his frustration and recalls the Talmudic verse that the two men discussed during their first meeting, which Stern quoted: "He who saves the life of one man saves the entire world."

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