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Schindler's List | Quotes

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1.

They're thieves ... I am a capitalist by temperament and I don't like being regulated.


Oskar Schindler, Chapter 2

In their first meeting, Oskar Schindler expresses his contempt for the Nazi bureaucracy to Itzhak Stern. By denouncing East Trust Agency officials as "thieves" to a man who has been removed from his job by that very agency, Schindler is validating the injustice Stern has experienced. Stern realizes Schindler can be trusted because he refuses to be a pawn of the regime.

2.

He would ... believe that the best way to untie bureaucracy's Gordian knot ... was booze.


Narrator, Chapter 5

Oskar Schindler is no bureaucrat, but much of his power—at first to succeed in business and later to save Jewish lives—comes from his ability to manipulate bureaucrats with bribery and booze. For Schindler, bureaucracy presents not a set of guidelines to be followed but a series of obstacles to be overcome. He understands that the system becomes flexible when liquor is involved.

3.

To them it's a matter of national priority that Jews be made to shovel snow.


Herman Toffel, Chapter 6

Oskar Schindler complains to Herman Toffel, his friend who works for the SS, about absenteeism at his factory. His employees are being detained on their way to work by SS guards and forced to shovel snow. When Schindler points out that it's counterproductive to the war effort to detain skilled workers for menial tasks, Toffel informs him the SS is pursuing its own agenda, which is more concerned with the degradation and abuse of Jews than with filling production quotas.

4.

If the man was wrong ... then there was no God and no humanity ... only odds.


Narrator, Chapter 8

In 1941, for the first time, Oskar Schindler promises survival to a group of Jewish workers. Without understanding how he can make such a guarantee, the women believe him. They choose to trust in Schindler's professed ability to ensure their safety within a system obsessed with destroying them. They are desperate to believe that the world is not a fundamentally cruel, hostile place despite the mounting evidence. Schindler's promise of salvation through employment is the raft to which they will attach their hopes through the dark years to come.

5.

They don't have a future, Oskar. That's not just old-fashioned Jew-hate talking ... It's policy.


Rolf Czurda, Chapter 12

When Rolf Czurda, a high-ranking Nazi official, releases Oskar Schindler from prison, he gives him an ominous warning. Schindler shouldn't get attached to any of his Jewish workers, because they don't have a future. The regime's policy is not merely to enslave Jews and exploit their labor but to eradicate them, by law and regulation, from the face of the planet. Czurda's statement foreshadows the unimaginable horrors to come.

6.

Dr. Sedlacek had expected mere horror stories ... all the historically accustomed things.


Narrator, Chapter 17

When Oskar Schindler describes the situation in Poland to Sedlacek, who works for the Zionist rescue organization, even the Austrian is shocked. Throughout history, Jews have repeatedly been subjected to persecution and violence, so their history is full of horror stories. However, the Nazis' systematic extermination of the Jews this time is unprecedented.

7.

They thought of him as a ... fellow who'd been stricken with ... Jew-love as with a virus.


Narrator, Chapter 22

When Oskar Schindler petitions to be allowed to keep DEF open as a subcamp of Płaszów, he justifies his request on the pretext that such an arrangement will benefit production. The authorities accept this argument, but they also intimate—correctly—that Schindler has an unstated goal of protecting his workers. To Amon Goeth and Julian Scherner, Jews are subhuman and despicable, and therefore the only rational explanation for Schindler's desire to protect Jews is that he is "sick" in some way.

8.

Oskar, leaning toward Amon and cunning as a demon, began to tempt him toward restraint.


Narrator, Chapter 24

Horrified by Amon Goeth's practice of random, baseless executions at Płaszów, Oskar Schindler attempts to use his influence with Goeth to secure some mercy for the prisoners. After getting Goeth drunk, Schindler tries to convince him that it is in his own best interest to tone down the violence, given that after the war such excesses may be harshly punished. Goeth believes Schindler is his friend, and Schindler exploits this delusion by pretending he is concerned about Goeth rather than about the Jews who are his victims.

9.

No one escaped Amon unless it was a sort of destiny.


Narrator, Chapter 26

Josef Bau has just made the error of entering Amon Goeth's line of sight without being engaged in some sort of productive task. Madly in love with Rebecca Tannenbaum, Bau has been picking flowers, and he freezes in fear when Goeth appears. Bau expects to be shot on the spot, as is Goeth's habit, but for some reason Goeth doesn't notice him. Bau feels he has cheated death. Exhilarated by his good luck, Bau immediately proposes marriage to Tannenbaum.

10.

Amon named his selection session ... the Health Action. He managed it as ... a country fair.


Narrator, Chapter 28

Amon Goeth has to make room at Płaszów for more prisoners, which means selecting a portion of the current population for shipment to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Goeth takes sincere delight in this gruesome task. He plays lively music while he forces the prisoners to remove their clothes and run around on the camp parade grounds. Those who are found to be sick or weak will receive not medical attention, as the euphemistic title "Health Action" seems to imply, but rather a spot on a train bound for Auschwitz.

11.

All our vision of deliverance is futile ... We'll have to wait ... longer for our freedom.


Oskar Schindler, Chapter 29

Oskar Schindler, convinced Hitler has been assassinated, summons his worker Adam Garde to listen to the radio and drink with him. Upon learning that the attempt on Hitler's life was unsuccessful, Schindler becomes despondent. Schindler's use of "our" and "we" when speaking to Garde indicates the degree to which he has entwined his own destiny with that of the Jews.

12.

But if I win ... then you give me Helen Hirsch for my list.


Oskar Schindler, Chapter 30

While playing blackjack with Amon Goeth, Oskar Schindler raises the stakes. Despite having promised Helen Hirsch—Goeth's abused maid—that he would save her, Schindler has been unable to get her away from Goeth for over a year. He knows Goeth is attached to Hirsch and will not give her up easily. In a moment of inspiration, Schindler hatches a plan to secure Hirsch's freedom by winning her at blackjack. Luckily for Hirsch, Schindler wins the next hand of cards, and so Goeth permits Hirsch to go to Czechoslovakia with the rest of the prisoners on Schindler's list.

13.

With the drum as pretext, the woman had come to believe ... order, hygiene, sanity were possible.


Narrator, Chapter 33

At Auschwitz, an attachment to rules and procedures provides some sense of normalcy and control even in the most horrid conditions. The female prisoner who monitors the women's latrine refuses to let Mila Pfefferberg use this primitive toilet until she has waited her turn and helped empty the drum full of human excrement. Pfefferberg is weak with dysentery, but the drum-tender refuses to make an exception to the rules.

14.

The women had been here some weeks now ... Why don't you forget these three hundred?


Narrator, Chapter 33

When the women on his list are sent to Auschwitz rather than Brinnlitz, Oskar Schindler petitions the authorities at Auschwitz for their release. The officials tell Schindler his women are no longer valuable, given that they have been living in starvation and squalor for weeks. They offer to send him another group of 300 healthier women. To the Nazis, Jews are dispensable, to be exploited for their labor and then discarded. To Schindler, each of the 300 women on his list is an individual to whom he has made a promise. It is a promise he is unwilling to break, no matter how sick the women have become.

15.

Prove yourselves worthy of the ... victims among you and refrain from ... acts of revenge and terror.


Oskar Schindler, Chapter 37

After the German surrender is announced, Oskar Schindler makes a speech to his workers and the SS guards. He is aware his workers will soon be free, and he anticipates that some of them might be in a mood for revenge, given the brutalities inflicted upon them throughout the last six years. In his request for nonviolence, Schindler appeals to their sense of dignity. He implies that violence is beneath them, given their position as improbable survivors of a most savage epoch.

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