Schindler's List | Study Guide

Thomas Keneally

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Schindler's List | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

For Christmas of 1940 Schindler buys his lover, Victoria Klonowska, a poodle and gives jewelry to his girlfriend, Ingrid, and his wife, Emilie. All three women tolerate his philandering without criticism. In a gesture of respect for his deceased mother, he also attends Catholic mass on Christmas morning.

Encouraged by his contacts in the Armaments Inspectorate, Schindler begins producing munitions in addition to kitchenware.

On March 3, 1941, Governor General Frank issues an edict ordering that all Jews remaining in Cracow will be forced into a ghetto, with some of them given permission to leave the ghetto to go to work during the day. Stern tells Schindler some Jews are looking forward to the ghetto, believing they will be able to lead stable, safe lives there. Throughout the month of March, during his travels throughout the city, Schindler watches the Jews moving into the ghetto. He watches workers as they enclose the trolley lines, which run directly through the ghetto, within high walls.

Frank's edict includes a provision that Jews will no longer receive wages for their labor. The new arrangement requires employers to pay the SS headquarters a small daily fee for each Jewish worker. Both Schindler and Julius Madritsch, who operates a uniform factory, find this arrangement morally repugnant. After petitions by Itzhak Stern and Judenrat official Roman Ginter, the two entrepreneurs agree to employ as many Jews as possible in their factories.

Newly installed in the ghetto, Edith Liebgold, a young mother, visits the Jewish Employment Office to get a job. She is part of a group of women recruited by Abraham Bankier to work at DEF. When the women meet Schindler for the first time, he promises them that if they work for him, they will survive the war. Edith and the other women believe him.

Analysis

Since the Nazi takeover of Poland in 1939, Polish Jews have been subject to a continual loss of their rights, and in the spring of 1941, thanks to the establishment of the Cracow ghetto, they also lose the right to free movement. It may seem counterintuitive that some Jews would look forward to life in the ghetto. After all, life in the ghetto means "a crowding in tenements, a sharing of bathroom facilities, disputes over drying space on clotheslines." Yet as the narrator points out, some Jews see the ghetto as a safe space, a place where they will be left alone to be themselves. In fact Cracow had a Jewish ghetto before, until 1867, which some of the older Jews remember and accept as part of their difficult history in Poland. For some Jews, their past is a way to make sense of the present.

The Jews not only lose their right to free movement; they also lose their right to be compensated for their work. Schindler finds this morally distasteful, although it may seem as if he is being opportunistic when he resolves to employ as many Jews as possible. Since Jewish labor is now basically free, Schindler will save a lot of money by employing Jews. However, he is not motivated by the bottom line. Schindler, Stern, and Ginter all realize that "a Jew who [has] an economic value ... [is] safe from worse things."

When Schindler tells his new hires, "You'll be safe working here. If you work here, then you'll live through the war," he is, for the first time, promising salvation. It is a promise he will make many times in the years to come and one he will miraculously be able to keep. Without knowing how he could possibly keep such a promise, Edith Liebgold believes him. Despite what is happening to her, she has not lost her belief in the basic goodness of humanity.

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