Book Review Wednesday: Schindler’s Ark (5 stars)

Posted: December 18, 2013 in Book Reviews
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This is a book I firmly believe everyone should read at least once. The author was very devoted to making this as truthful as possible. He interviewed many many people involved, and I got the idea reading it that their stories really affected him. There’s just so much feeling in this book: bad feelings, and good ones too.

We are shown humans doing horrible things to each other, but we’re also shown the kinder moments too. At school I was only given the basic facts. Evil Germans this, and poor Jews that. None of my teachers taught us anything beyond ‘this happened on this date’, ‘evil Germans killed this many people.’

Dates. Numbers. Stereotypes. None of it meant anything because no one cared whether we forgot real people were killed, all they wanted were the dates and numbers.

There’s a moment near the end when a few Jewish people are being transported in a normal passenger train by SS soldiers. A German citizen stands up, and glaring at the soldier gives one of the Jewish children some food. There were many small moments of defiance like this through the book and when you weigh it against the overwhelming risk and disapproval of being a ‘Jew lover’ I found them all so amazing.

Because you’ve got to remember at the start a lot more German citizens did what everyone says they’d do now. They went against everyone (police, government, employers, family, friends) and spoke out against what was going on. What happened to those outspoken people? They were labelled ‘Jew lover’ and those that weren’t killed or imprisioned were shunned by society.

I’m truthful enough to say that I wouldn’t know what I’d do if that happened in my country. I’d have been raised to believe it was right for a start, and even if I managed to escape the mass brainwashing happening everywhere (not just Germany. America was the first country to sterile someone deemed to have inferior genes) I’d be considered inferior myself. I’m not Jewish, but I am disabled, and so many disabled met their ends in those gas chambers.

I’ve gone on a tangent. Back to the book. I’ve read things on world war two before (it’s a favourite topic of mine), but nothing has quite put across the sheer number of dead like this one. The book contained multiple povs (all actual people interviewed by the author), and each one saw so much death. There’s horror after horror, meaningless murder after murder. We lose men, women, children, individually and in groups of hundreds at a time. Some we get to know, others we catch only glimpses of.

Don’t let this put you off. All through the book are moments of humanity that show bright through the horror.

Schindler listens to the radio one night with a Jewish friend. He’s estatic. There’s been an attempt on Hitler’s life, and he believes the man is dead and the war is lost. And then Hitler comes on the radio and assures people he’s alive and the war will go on. Schindler (the German) is so distraught that his friend (the Jew) has to comfort him.

And then Schindler said something that stuck with me. He said ‘we will have to wait for our freedom’. Not ‘you,’ ‘we’.

That’s another thing the book shows so well. Unlike what my school told me, it wasn’t ‘Evil Germans’ against ‘Poor Jews’. So many people, including Germans were trapped by what was going on.

There’s something almost casually mentioned near the start of the book. One of the reasons why the gas chambers were made was because of the high suicide rate in soldiers who were forced to kill Jews. It got so bad that Hitler made several tactics, including different training and the gas chambers to fight against it.

One of the things I loved about this book was it showed so well what my school education didn’t. There are no black and whites here. Sure, there were horrible people who did horrible things, but there were also victims of all races, creeds, and even uniforms.

Just go read it. It’s one of those life changing books. I promise you won’t regret it.

And as always a link to more reviews in case you aren’t yet convinced: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/268302.Schindler_s_Ark

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