Life Is Fiction; Fiction Is Life

One of the documents created by Oskar Schindler and his colleagues to save 1200 Jewish workers from death in the concentration camps of Germany is to be auctioned off.

I am somewhat troubled by the notion of an auction for an item that truly belongs in a museum somewhere, but I’m also consoled by the knowledge that most of those people who have the wherewithal to bid on such an item in the first place are perfectly capable of preserving it for posterity, often in a better way than their counterparts in the public sector, which depend in large part on relatively tiny donations and meager tax revenue to support their preservation efforts.

Schindler’s List (1993), based on Thomas Keneally’s novel, is a fine, fine movie.  Unsparing in its honesty, the film and the book are both very moving.  Liam Neeson gives one of the best performances of his long career, especially in the final scenes, wherein, as Schindler, he reveals to us–and to himself–what the deception of his lifestyle as a rich industrialist eventually was all about.  Note well, if you will, the final paragraph of the article, which also reveals the personal and historical significance of the risks Schindler took:

“Schindler spent his entire fortune on bribes to protect his workers from the gas chamber and in 1963 was honoured by the Israeli government when he was named Righteous Among the Nations. On his death in 1974, he became the only former member of the Nazi party to be buried on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. More than 8,000 people alive today are descended from the Jews saved through Schindler’s efforts.”  Yet, Neeson’s Schindler collapses to his knees at the end of the film, saying,  “It should have been more. . . I wish it could have been more.”

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2 thoughts on “Life Is Fiction; Fiction Is Life

  1. The subject truly is painful, but it is worthwhile. Schindler had his passions and his faults, and neither the book nor the movie glosses over them, but he had above all a moral compass. He knew when to say, “This is wrong; this is not what we do,” and he had both the resources and the willingness to do something about that injustice. One must have the one, or the other is useless. He was hard on himself, too. He thought he could have saved more people. Had he tried to do so, he would have put himself at risk of discovery, and he would have put at great risk the lives of those he did save. I love the moral mathematics of it all, too. We often say, “One life can make a difference.” Schindler’s efforts prove that point: 1200 lives saved near the end of the war meant 8000 lives to come in the future–8000 chances to make the world a little bit better than it was. I’ll take those odds any day of the week.

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