Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 34 | Summary

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Summary

Fearing the possibility of a typhus outbreak, Schindler has a delousing unit built. He also ensures the health of his workers by feeding them adequately. He encourages his workers in the drafting department to produce counterfeit versions of official stamps, which are used to forge travel permits and other official documents. In this way, food can be smuggled into the camp without trouble from the authorities.

While Schindler is away, a young worker named Janek Dresner accidentally breaks some machinery. The German supervisor writes an official report accusing Dresner of sabotage, a crime punishable by hanging. Upon returning to the factory, Schindler asserts that he, rather than Commandant Liepold, has the authority to preside over Dresner's hearing. Schindler aggressively interrogates Dresner, who is not in fact a skilled metalworker. After exposing Dresner's sincere ignorance, Schindler tricks the Nazis by punching him and expressing his frustration at the stupidity of Jews. He tells the boy to leave and invites the other members of the court to drink with him.

Analysis

Schindler's actions demonstrate his dedication to his prisoners' health. Knowing that typhus is grounds for a camp shutdown, he builds an expensive delousing unit. In the wartime food scarcity, the diet enjoyed by the Brinnlitz workers is no small feat. Food is obtained through collusion between Schindler and the workers, a partnership exemplified by Schindler's encouragement of his staff's talent for forgery. At Brinnlitz, the inmates are not forced into passivity. Rather, Schindler empowers his workers by encouraging them to use their talents to contribute to the camp's operations.

Schindler pushes his gift for dissembling to extremes to save Dresner's life. In a fine example of dramatic irony, Schindler theatrically rails against the stupidity of Jews. The implication is that since Dresner is a Jew, he is too stupid to sabotage anything. Schindler even punches Dresner in the face, a strategic act of violence meant to convince the Nazis in attendance of the sincerity of Schindler's anti-Semitism. The punch also serves as a substitute punishment for the hanging that Dresner would surely face were he to be convicted of sabotage. After punching him, Schindler winks at Dresner, a gesture meant to make the boy understand that the blow, although painful and unexpected, is merely a necessary part of the charade. Schindler skillfully brings this performance to a close by dismissing Dresner and encouraging the Nazi officials to have a drink and forget about the entire matter.

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