Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 36 | Summary

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Summary

During the winter of 1944–45 Schindler and Sussmuth, an engineer at the Armaments Inspectorate, work together to move 3,000 additional women out of Auschwitz and into small textile camps in Moravia.

At the end of 1944 around 10,000 Auschwitz prisoners are forced on a death march toward Gröss-Rosen. The 1,200 prisoners who are still alive after 10 days are hidden in an SS compound. Schindler saves 30 of these men by arranging for their transport to Brinnlitz. His arrangement with the local Gestapo, whereby he buys prisoners captured during escape attempts, allows him to save 11 more lives. Upon learning of the starvation conditions at a nearby air force camp, Schindler arranges for twice-weekly transports of food and cigarettes to be delivered to the 400 inmates there.

A total of 120 workers from Goleszów, a plant inside Auschwitz, are locked inside two freight cars. After a horrendous journey of 10 days, in subfreezing conditions and without food, the cars are abandoned at the Zwittau rail yards. Schindler has the cars brought to Brinnlitz. Sixteen prisoners die in transport, but Schindler puts the 104 survivors on his books. Refusing to allow the burning of the dead, Schindler arranges for them to be buried according to Jewish tradition on a parcel of land he buys and turns into a Jewish cemetery.

The 104 Goleszów survivors are kept alive by the careful attentions of Emilie Schindler and Dr. Biberstein, the Jewish camp doctor. Emilie begins undertaking regular journeys to secure the medical supplies needed for the health of the prisoners.

Amon Goeth, released from prison due to failing health, visits the Schindlers at Brinnlitz. Schindler gives him a tour of the facilities, during which many of the former Płaszów inmates make gestures of disrespect. The investigation into Goeth's affairs is still ongoing, and the SS has resumed the questioning of Mietek Pemper. When Pemper refuses to discuss the details of his interrogation with Goeth, Goeth becomes angry and threatens to complain to Schindler.

Analysis

Schindler may have saved 1,100 lives with his initial list, but he is not content to stop there. Nor does he become immobilized by the fact that for every life he saves, thousands more are lost. Instead, he works hard to save as many lives as possible. Sometimes he pays for the release of a single prisoner; at other times, he can save dozens at once. For Schindler, no amount of time, money, or effort is too much if even a single life can be saved.

At other camps, the clinics are staffed by sadistic doctors, and routine inspections identify the weak so they may be quickly disposed of. In contrast, at Brinnlitz, Emilie and Dr. Biberstein carefully nurse the sick back to health, and Emilie devotes significant time and effort toward the procurement of medical supplies. The Schindlers are committed to the health, not just the survival, of the prisoners.

Schindler's respect for Jewish lives extends to those who have died. Unlike the Nazis, who throw bodies into the woods and burn them, Schindler insists on the proper burial of the dead according to Jewish custom. By demonstrating an attentive respect for Jewish cultural norms, Schindler empowers his prisoners. He gives them license to practice the rituals of their culture, which promotes their psychological and spiritual health.

After his time in prison, Goeth reappears as a far thinner and diminished man; he has lost his health as well as his power. Although some of the former Płaszów inmates are struck with fear at the sight of the former commandant, others feel empowered to communicate their disgust: they hiss, spit, or raise "their knitting toward him like a challenge." During his days as Goeth's typist, Mietek Pemper lived in fear that Goeth would execute him merely for doing his job. At Brinnlitz, however, Pemper has the confidence to deny Goeth's request for information. The old Goeth would have responded to such insolence with murder; the new Goeth can do nothing more than make idle, angry threats.

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