Pushing through nights of tears and heartache, I finally finished reading Schindler’s List. Crying while reading books is not new to me; I often cry during a good book, but these tears were a bit different. The book gives a life account of Oskar Schindler, who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust of WWII. While the account shows that he was definitely no saint, what he did for the Jewish people was above and beyond any question.
The book starts out a bit slow, talking about pre-war issues and giving a background into Schindler’s up-growing. Some of it was hard to follow, but as this was a story about him, I understood why it was necessary.
Once the war began, and his antics were unveiled, it was evident to see how he un-selfishly gave all he had to save as many as he could. Oskar was an extremely wealthy man, and used all his material wealth for the good of mankind. What I found interesting was that after the war, he lost everything: job, factories, money, etc. and was basically poor from that time on. He moved to Argentina for a brief stint, but returned to Germany to live out his last days.
There were a couple moments in the book that I was so overwhelmed… where the tears were flowing and I just sat to take a moment in order to grasp the realness of it all. One time was during the very end of the war, when Schindler had just found out the Germans had surrendered and he was making the speech to all his Jewish survivors. He told them he had to now flee Germany in order to escape being killed by the Russians (he was still German, after all). The Jewish men got together and made him a gift, to repay him for all he had done to save them. They had nothing to make the gift out of so one of the men, Mr. Jereth, opened his mouth and insisted they take out the gold fillings. With it, they melted down the gold and made a ring for him…engraving in Hebrew a Talmudic verse, which was quoted to Schindler at the beginning of the war by his Jewish friend/manager.
“He who saves a single life saves the world entire.”
It is said that when they presented it to Oskar, he put the ring on and could not even speak as he was so filled with emotion.
The other moment was at the end of the book, when it tells of Oskar’s post-war days. He was so poor and had nothing, and by this time many of his Jews had gone on to become successful and wealthy. Many of them came together and ended up supporting him, financially, until his death. He had paid for them and kept them alive during the war, and now they believed it was their turn to do so.
The book is very graphic and definitely not for the weak of heart. It is written to tell the truth about what really happened, and at that time, the truth was extremely hard to swallow. For me, it was so important to read it in order to have a tiny, sliver of a glimpse into the history of the lives I am now living alongside. But, even if you do not live in Israel, or are not Jewish, I would still recommend you to read this book. It is after all, a part of our world history!