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Searching for Schindler: A Memoir

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This is the captivating story behind Schindler’s List, the Booker Prize–winning book and the Academy Award–winning Spielberg film. Keneally tells the tale of the unlikely encounter that propelled him to write about Oskar Schindler and of the impact of his extraordinary account on people around the world.   Thomas Keneally met Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, the owner of a Bev This is the captivating story behind Schindler’s List, the Booker Prize–winning book and the Academy Award–winning Spielberg film. Keneally tells the tale of the unlikely encounter that propelled him to write about Oskar Schindler and of the impact of his extraordinary account on people around the world.   Thomas Keneally met Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, the owner of a Beverly Hills luggage shop, in 1981. Poldek, a Polish Jew and a Holocaust survivor, had a tale he wanted the world to know. Charming, charismatic, and persistent, he convinced Keneally to relate the incredible story of “the all-drinking, all-screwing, all-black-marketeering Nazi, Oskar Schindler. But to me he was Jesus Christ.”   Searching for Schindler is the engrossing chronicle of Keneally’s pursuit of one of history’s most fascinating and paradoxical heroes. Traveling throughout the United States, Germany, Israel, Poland, and Austria, Keneally and Poldek interviewed people who had known Schindler and uncovered their indelible memories of the Holocaust. Keneally’s powerful narrative rose quickly to the top of bestseller lists. Steven Spielberg’s magnificent film adaptation went on to fulfill Poldek’s dream of winning “an Oscar for Oskar.” (Keneally’s anecdotes about Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and other cast members will delight film buffs.)   Written with candor and humor, Seaching for Schindler is an intimate look at Keneally’s growth as a writer and the enormous success of his portrait of Oskar Schindler.


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This is the captivating story behind Schindler’s List, the Booker Prize–winning book and the Academy Award–winning Spielberg film. Keneally tells the tale of the unlikely encounter that propelled him to write about Oskar Schindler and of the impact of his extraordinary account on people around the world.   Thomas Keneally met Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, the owner of a Bev This is the captivating story behind Schindler’s List, the Booker Prize–winning book and the Academy Award–winning Spielberg film. Keneally tells the tale of the unlikely encounter that propelled him to write about Oskar Schindler and of the impact of his extraordinary account on people around the world.   Thomas Keneally met Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, the owner of a Beverly Hills luggage shop, in 1981. Poldek, a Polish Jew and a Holocaust survivor, had a tale he wanted the world to know. Charming, charismatic, and persistent, he convinced Keneally to relate the incredible story of “the all-drinking, all-screwing, all-black-marketeering Nazi, Oskar Schindler. But to me he was Jesus Christ.”   Searching for Schindler is the engrossing chronicle of Keneally’s pursuit of one of history’s most fascinating and paradoxical heroes. Traveling throughout the United States, Germany, Israel, Poland, and Austria, Keneally and Poldek interviewed people who had known Schindler and uncovered their indelible memories of the Holocaust. Keneally’s powerful narrative rose quickly to the top of bestseller lists. Steven Spielberg’s magnificent film adaptation went on to fulfill Poldek’s dream of winning “an Oscar for Oskar.” (Keneally’s anecdotes about Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and other cast members will delight film buffs.)   Written with candor and humor, Seaching for Schindler is an intimate look at Keneally’s growth as a writer and the enormous success of his portrait of Oskar Schindler.

30 review for Searching for Schindler: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!

    This book is precious, something special to read. This is the story of a man, Poldek,a victim of the Nazis who was saved by Oskar Schindler and eventually, in "California, Beverly Hills" had a very good business in handbags and briefcases. His life's mission was to have a book, then a film, made about his hero and saviour whom he called his own personal Jesus Christ. A chance meeting with the Australian-Irish author Thomas Keneally who was in the store looking for a replacement briefcase, brough This book is precious, something special to read. This is the story of a man, Poldek,a victim of the Nazis who was saved by Oskar Schindler and eventually, in "California, Beverly Hills" had a very good business in handbags and briefcases. His life's mission was to have a book, then a film, made about his hero and saviour whom he called his own personal Jesus Christ. A chance meeting with the Australian-Irish author Thomas Keneally who was in the store looking for a replacement briefcase, brought it about. Truly it's a story of how Poldek introduced Keneally to the great humanitarian Schindler and induced him to write about it. How the two travelled through the US, Europe and Israel putting the book together. Then, once it was written, getting it made into a film, a more than decade-long undertaking. As Poldek said right from the beginning, he wanted 'an Oscar for Oskar' (with the Booker Prize along the way). The story of the writing of the book and making of the film is interlayered with Keneally's life in Australia and California and in Eritrea too. The passages where he is both a reporter and later election observer in war-torn Eritrea do have a certain resonance with the main story of the awful inhumanity that was the Holocaust. The book, personalising this period with names, pictures and the updated, often successful lives of those, who thanks to Schindler, were survivors, makes the Holocaust more real and more horrific than the pictures of living skeletons and the piles of bodies of the documentaries. In the book there is a small story of Ralph Fiennes, a fine actor and a man much greater-spirited than myself. Keneally had met him in the bar where the film people were gathered one evening and had signed a copy of Searching for Schindler for him. Not knowing that Ralph was pronounced Rafe, he had heard Ray and written the dedication accordingly. Ralph Fiennes said nothing and later, when Keneally found out he went and apologised for his gaucherie. Years ago I had worked briefly for Ralph Fiennes famous explorer cousin, Ranulph Fiennes, and when I left he presented me with a book he had signed for me. My name was spelled wrong. I said something.... After all these years, reading the greater generosity of Ralph Fiennes has made me embarrassed all over again. The five stars I've rated this book, should be golden and twinkling, like beacons of light in a dark and overcast sky.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I read Schindler's List more than twenty years ago; long enough ago that the title was Schindlers Ark. Like many people, I knew that Keneally first heard about Oskar Schindler when he bought a briefcase from a luggage retailer in Los Angeles. I didn't know much more than that, though, and this memoir fills in the details of that particular story. It covers in some detail Keneally's initial encounter with Leopold (Poldek) Pfefferburg and his wife, his meetings with other Holocaust survivors who w I read Schindler's List more than twenty years ago; long enough ago that the title was Schindlers Ark. Like many people, I knew that Keneally first heard about Oskar Schindler when he bought a briefcase from a luggage retailer in Los Angeles. I didn't know much more than that, though, and this memoir fills in the details of that particular story. It covers in some detail Keneally's initial encounter with Leopold (Poldek) Pfefferburg and his wife, his meetings with other Holocaust survivors who were on "Schindler's List", the research, writing and publication process of the novel, and the ultimate adaptation of the novel into the award winning film. The memoir also covers other aspects of Keneally's life, before, during and after writing the novel that gave him an international reputation. This includes his experiences in Eritrea, which led to the writing of To Asmara. The memoir's at its best when describing the process of researching and writing "Schindler's List" and most particularly when the dynamic and irrepressible Poldek is present. I also found interesting Keneally's account of his travels in Eritrea. However, I found the detailed account of the film-makng process somewhat less interesting, although I can understand how fascinating it would have been for Keneally. I listened to an audiobook edition of the book, which was capably narrated by Humphrey Bower. Keneally's distinctive voice is reasonably well-known to many Australians, and while Bower doesn't imitate him, he does manage to inject Keneally's characteristic enthusiasm into the narration. I gather there are photographs in the regular edition. However, it's easy enough to find photographs of the main players with a quick internet search, so for me the convenience of listening outweighed the disadvantage of having to look for the photographs elsewhere. Overall, a worthwhile experience and one that will almost certainly make me re-read Schindler's List.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dy... Description: Thomas Keneally's account of his discovery of the story of Oskar Schindler, which became the basis for his Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler's Ark and the Oscar-winning film Schindler's List. 1/5: Keneally's account of his discovery of the story of Oscar Schindler 2/5: Poldek and Thomas set out to meet the Australian and American Schindlerjuden, the Jews saved by Oskar. 3/5: Poldek takes Keneally to Poland to witness 'the intimacy of horror' i http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dy... Description: Thomas Keneally's account of his discovery of the story of Oskar Schindler, which became the basis for his Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler's Ark and the Oscar-winning film Schindler's List. 1/5: Keneally's account of his discovery of the story of Oscar Schindler 2/5: Poldek and Thomas set out to meet the Australian and American Schindlerjuden, the Jews saved by Oskar. 3/5: Poldek takes Keneally to Poland to witness 'the intimacy of horror' in the Krakow ghetto. 4/5: The journey ends in Israel and Thomas goes home to write his book. 5/5: Spielberg is interested in making Schindler's Ark into a film

  4. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is a hard book (I listened to the audiobook) to rate because I loved the first 12-13 chapters which tell the story of how Keneally meets the wonderful, larger-than-life Poldek and first learns about Schindler, Poldek and his wife having been two of the Jews saved by him. The following travels around the world from Poland to Australia, US to Israel, is fascinating as Keneally meets survivors, collects documentation, engages on a personal level with the Holocaust, and thinks about how to writ This is a hard book (I listened to the audiobook) to rate because I loved the first 12-13 chapters which tell the story of how Keneally meets the wonderful, larger-than-life Poldek and first learns about Schindler, Poldek and his wife having been two of the Jews saved by him. The following travels around the world from Poland to Australia, US to Israel, is fascinating as Keneally meets survivors, collects documentation, engages on a personal level with the Holocaust, and thinks about how to write a book which even begins to do justice to this story. Once the material is collected, though, the rest of this book (the remaining 23 or so chapters) is dull: Keneally recounts boring details of his life, his wife, his teenage daughters, exactly who he met at the Booker dinner, name-drops details from Spielberg's film and the Oscar ceremony, rambles on about his other political interests (Eritrea and Ethiopia)... The only bright moments are when Poldek is back on stage, and his very moving death. So the first third or so is an excellent introduction/companion to Schindler's Ark which I've somehow (how?) never read but am reading now. If this book had stuck to the Schindler material promised by the title, I'd have given it 4-5 stars - instead it's a kind of memoir of Keneally's life from 1979 till about 1993 when the film won its Oscars. Great start, tailed off way too early.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is a marvelous book! If you have read and/or seen the movie “Schindler’s List” then this speaks to you. Thomas Keneally, up to 1980, was a relatively unknown author living in Australia. He was visiting California and his briefcase was broken. He walked into a handbag store in Beverly Hills looking to buy a new one. The owner of the store, Poldek, finding out that Keneally was a writer, convinced and cajoled him into writing a true story about a Sudeten German, Oskar Schindler, who saved Jews This is a marvelous book! If you have read and/or seen the movie “Schindler’s List” then this speaks to you. Thomas Keneally, up to 1980, was a relatively unknown author living in Australia. He was visiting California and his briefcase was broken. He walked into a handbag store in Beverly Hills looking to buy a new one. The owner of the store, Poldek, finding out that Keneally was a writer, convinced and cajoled him into writing a true story about a Sudeten German, Oskar Schindler, who saved Jews during the Second World War, (Poldek being one of them). This handbag store owner, Poldek, is quite the character, bursting with energy and euphoria, repeatedly telling Keneally that his book will be famous, made into a great movie, and he will win the Nobel Prize for literature. Well, two out of three ain’t bad! Poldek takes him across the U.S., then Poland and Israel to meet Schindler survivors and see the locations where all these harrowing events took place. It was important not to paint Schindler in glowing terms; it took time for Schindler to realize the full extent of the human catastrophe that was occurring in Poland. And he was a constant bon vivant of wine, women and song – much to the detriment of his marital relationship. So the book is published in 1982 and becomes a success. And immediately after, Poldek begins canvassing and ramping up the pressure on Hollywood producers for the book to be made into a movie. He knows that Steven Spieberg’s mother has a restaurant nearby, pays a visit, and gives her the Poldek treatment. Anyway, after 10 years, the movie does come out. Keneally and Poldek make more trips abroad for the making of the film – and of course when “Schindler’s List” wins numerous awards there is more travel. Thomas Keneally is very self-effacing and lavishes praise on both Poldek and Steven Spielberg, even though Spielberg removed or gently fired him from writing the script of the film. There are many authors who critique the making of their book into a film, but Keneally understood that the world of film-making is a different category than writing. I was impressed by the generosity of Spielberg, he took both Keneally and Poldek onboard and brought them to Poland for the making of the film – and then to all the film openings and award ceremonies across North America and Europe. Poldek is a hoot throughout this entire story – the driving force! Here is the exquisite and powerful trailer for Steven Spielberg’s "Schindler List". http://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi210...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    This book makes a nice companion to Schindler's List. Keneally does a good job fleshing out the background to his search for Schlinder. Additionally, he does a good job of bringing to life the inspiration for his discovery of the story. At times, however, the book is more telling than showing and especially towards the end, it feels like Keneally is dropping names. Totally understandable, but rather boring to read. This book makes a nice companion to Schindler's List. Keneally does a good job fleshing out the background to his search for Schlinder. Additionally, he does a good job of bringing to life the inspiration for his discovery of the story. At times, however, the book is more telling than showing and especially towards the end, it feels like Keneally is dropping names. Totally understandable, but rather boring to read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lise

    I’ve often wondered how Tom Keneally came to write Schindler’s Ark. (I’m sure it was publicized at the time of the film, I just never knew it) This memoir is the amazing story of the chance encounter in Poldek’s leather store and the end result Poldek’s never flagging persistence and Kenneally’s huge leap of faith. Even though we know the book was written and the film eventually made, it’s an absolute page turner.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    He said, “I was saved, and my wife was saved, by a Nazi. I was a Jew imprisoned with Jews. So a Nazi saves me and, more important, saves Misia, my young wife. So although he’s a Nazi, to me he’s Jesus Christ. Not that he was a saint. He was all-drinking, all-black-marketeering, all-screwing, okay? But he got Misia out of Auschwitz, so to me he is God.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Thomas Keneally's account of his discovery of the story of Oskar Schindler, which became the basis for his Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler's Ark and the Oscar-winning film Schindler's List. Episode 2: Poldek and Thomas set out to meet the Australian and American Schindlerjuden, the Jews saved by Oskar. Episode 3: Poldek takes Thomas to Poland to witness 'the intimacy of horror' in the Krakow ghetto. Episode 4; The journey ends in Israel and Thomas goes home From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Thomas Keneally's account of his discovery of the story of Oskar Schindler, which became the basis for his Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler's Ark and the Oscar-winning film Schindler's List. Episode 2: Poldek and Thomas set out to meet the Australian and American Schindlerjuden, the Jews saved by Oskar. Episode 3: Poldek takes Thomas to Poland to witness 'the intimacy of horror' in the Krakow ghetto. Episode 4; The journey ends in Israel and Thomas goes home to write his book. Episode 5: Thomas has finished writing Schindler's Ark and Steven Spielberg is interested in making it into a film. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dywr9

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Poldek Pfefferberg (aka Leopold Page) who sang Schindler's praises to anyone who would listen This is a book about a book. In it, Thomas Keneally narrates how he came across the story of Oskar Schindler (the Nazi who saved the lives of over 1,000 jews) and came to write the famous book Schindler's Ark about him, which in turn became an even more famous film. The core substance and the frequent digressions are equally interesting to read. Keneally explains his process as a writer, which is industr Poldek Pfefferberg (aka Leopold Page) who sang Schindler's praises to anyone who would listen This is a book about a book. In it, Thomas Keneally narrates how he came across the story of Oskar Schindler (the Nazi who saved the lives of over 1,000 jews) and came to write the famous book Schindler's Ark about him, which in turn became an even more famous film. The core substance and the frequent digressions are equally interesting to read. Keneally explains his process as a writer, which is industrious. He details his reservations at the time about whether he, a gentile, was the right person to write a novel about the Holocaust, concluding: It suited me to think so at the time, but I believe it is still true, that if there are going to be areas of history that are off-bounds, then in principle we are reduced to fudging, to cosmetic narrative. Thus, though worried, I was defiant in my intention to write this book. He also gives some insight into the Booker Prize, which I follow almost religiously. We get a glimpse, too, into the world of Hollywood film production. But Searching for Schindler: A Memoir is also a biography of sorts about the man who first told Keneally the Schindler story, one of the Jewish survivors, Poldek Pfefferberg. He not only persuaded the author to write about Schindler but also accompanied him on research trips and badgered not only the survivors but also Steven Spielberg to commit to spreading Schindler's legend. The book feels like a tribute to Poldek, and indeed it is dedicated to him: "In memory of Leopold Page, 2001, and to the continued health of Ludmila (Misia) Page". Poldek, with his abundant optimism and unceasing faith in Keneally (repeatedly promising him "the Novell Prize is close"), is an engaging and entertaining figure with whom to spend 200+ pages. I would recommend this book to anyone who has read and enjoyed Schindler's Ark or watched and loved Schindler's List. (For those who haven't, reading this would frankly be a waste of time.) The novel is one of my favourite books, and therefore this appendix of sorts was a joy for me to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Having recently read the author's book 'Schindler's Ark', it was interesting to read this memoir describing how Mr Keneally first came across Schindler's story and some details of his research into the case and the writing of the book, which subsequently won the Booker Prize. The memoir also describes the background to the optioning of the film version by Stephen Speilberg, the writing of the various versions of the screenplay and its filming and again ultimate success at the Academy Awards - 7/ Having recently read the author's book 'Schindler's Ark', it was interesting to read this memoir describing how Mr Keneally first came across Schindler's story and some details of his research into the case and the writing of the book, which subsequently won the Booker Prize. The memoir also describes the background to the optioning of the film version by Stephen Speilberg, the writing of the various versions of the screenplay and its filming and again ultimate success at the Academy Awards - 7/10.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Listened to the audio book version from Bolinda Publishing Its Tom Keneally's memoir of how he came across the Schindler story and the journey through its research, publication and portrayal to film. There is also parts of his family life in Sydney(found out he grew up in the same suburb I live now! that was exciting) and his journalistic endeavors in Eritrea during the war with Ethiopia and later. It spans roughly 10-12 yrs from the time he chanced upon the story to Schindler's List winning the Listened to the audio book version from Bolinda Publishing Its Tom Keneally's memoir of how he came across the Schindler story and the journey through its research, publication and portrayal to film. There is also parts of his family life in Sydney(found out he grew up in the same suburb I live now! that was exciting) and his journalistic endeavors in Eritrea during the war with Ethiopia and later. It spans roughly 10-12 yrs from the time he chanced upon the story to Schindler's List winning the Oscar and its a really enjoyable read. An Oscar for Oskar - in the words of Poldek, a larger than life Polish holocaust survivor who made it his life's mission to bring to the world 'the greatest story of humanity man to man'. Despite reading this book , watching the movie and researching online Schindler remains an enigma. Was he just opportunistic (his entire life except this episode seems that way) or did altruism win out in the end? I can't make out though I prefer to think that watching the suffering of the Jews firsthand did trigger some compassion which led him to acts of kindness on occasions when he could pull it off without much cost to himself. His wife, Emilie who is a true heroine, must also have influenced him. How could Schindler have pulled off having a factory which did not make any working armaments? Schindler's List was also not really drawn up by Schindler as depicted in the movie. It turns out he was arrested on suspicion of bribery at the time. End of it all, Schindler and his wife was responsible for saving a thousand lives in times when these lives were seen as worthless and this is indeed history that must be celebrated and remembered. #memoir

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Collins

    I have finally finished this book and I have to say although I loved the first half I did find the second half a bit of a chore. The first part of the book is about how Thomas Keneally came by the story and you are introduced to an amazingly passionate man Poldeck who has made it his mission in life to make sure the story of Schindler is heard. You join Thomas and Poldeck on their journey as they source Schindlers Jews and gather the story. The stories the survivors have to tell really gripped me I have finally finished this book and I have to say although I loved the first half I did find the second half a bit of a chore. The first part of the book is about how Thomas Keneally came by the story and you are introduced to an amazingly passionate man Poldeck who has made it his mission in life to make sure the story of Schindler is heard. You join Thomas and Poldeck on their journey as they source Schindlers Jews and gather the story. The stories the survivors have to tell really gripped me as did the story as it went on through the writing and publishing of the book. The latter part of the book is about the making of the film and while it remains interesting I just found it didn't hold my interest as much as the early part of the book. I did shed a tear at the end however and will definately be reading Schindlers Ark in the near future.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Ule

    As a writer, this was an interesting book to read--following the astonishing story of HOW Keneally got involved writing Schindler's List, along with the very different writing careers we've had. It moved slowly after the first couple chapters, becoming something of a memoir of the book and film, but if you appreciate either, you might enjoy this book. As a writer, this was an interesting book to read--following the astonishing story of HOW Keneally got involved writing Schindler's List, along with the very different writing careers we've had. It moved slowly after the first couple chapters, becoming something of a memoir of the book and film, but if you appreciate either, you might enjoy this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Helen O'Toole

    This book answers so many questions. I have read several of Tom Keneally's eminently readable novels over the years and in particular the then named Schindler's Ark later to be Schindler's List. Keneally dedicated Schindler's List to Poldek Pfefferberg who " by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written." He tells the story of visiting a Los Angeles leather goods store and meeting the owner, Poldek as he calls him throughout the book. " Have I got a story for you!" And so this book tell This book answers so many questions. I have read several of Tom Keneally's eminently readable novels over the years and in particular the then named Schindler's Ark later to be Schindler's List. Keneally dedicated Schindler's List to Poldek Pfefferberg who " by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written." He tells the story of visiting a Los Angeles leather goods store and meeting the owner, Poldek as he calls him throughout the book. " Have I got a story for you!" And so this book tells the story of Oskar Schindler, the way Keneally researched the book, the publishing of the book and then the creation of the film by Steven Spielberg with its many twists and turns until completion. So many poignant stories too including the way Holocaust survivors saw Ralph Fiennes in costume as the dreaded camp commandant and shrunk away in terror. Eminently readable and would appeal to readers of history, the craft of writing and film making and the sheer enjoyment of having the irrepressible National Living Legend, Tom Keneally write with such passion and commitment.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    But for serendipity, the world may never have heard the remarkable true-life story of Oskar Schindler, the man who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish people during World War 2. It would never have become a novel that went on to win the Booker Prize for Thomas Keneally in 1982. It would never have become an Oscar-winning film directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993. The fates however determined that one evening in 1980, the Australian author Thomas Keneally would walk into the leather goods shop But for serendipity, the world may never have heard the remarkable true-life story of Oskar Schindler, the man who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish people during World War 2. It would never have become a novel that went on to win the Booker Prize for Thomas Keneally in 1982. It would never have become an Oscar-winning film directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993. The fates however determined that one evening in 1980, the Australian author Thomas Keneally would walk into the leather goods shop in Beverley Hills in search of a replacement briefcase. Discovering that his customer was an author, the elderly, very talkative and inquisitive Polish proprietor pitched him a story he said the world needed to hear. In Searching for Oskar, Keneally looks back at the unusual genesis for his award-winning novel and his many subsequent meetings with Leopold Poldek. Poldek owed his life and that of his wife to Schindler. In gratitude he wanted the world to know how Schindler had risked his own life to protect many Jews from concentration camps and certain death. In essence this is a memoir of how Schindler’s Ark came to be written, the battle with the publishers over their preferred title for the American edition (it came out as Schindler’s List in America only), Keneally’s struggle to write the screen play (Spielberg eventually gave the job to someone else) and the long gap before the film version got into production. For much of the early section of the book he traces the steps he and Leopold took together to track down some of those survivors and capture their stories. There were times when this threatened to become a dull list of names and places but fortunately Poldek is such a remarkable individual that whenever he is present, the book comes alive. Keneally is more than once mortified by the behaviour of his travelling companion but is also charmed by him. On one trip to Warsaw (still part of a Soviet state) Keneally is terrified that Poldek’s insistence he change his currency on the black market will land him behind bars. Another time he waits in acute embarrassment when Poldek remonstrates with a hotel clerk that had the temerity to charge them for photocopying (the bill seemed to be less than $5). The Independent newspaper in the UK was less than flattering about Searching for Oskar, implying that it was written because Keneally wanted to cash in on the success of Schindler’s Ark. The reviewer calls it ‘tedious’, ‘banal’, ‘cliched’ and ‘clumsy’, a book in fact that should never have been published. I think that’s too harsh a critique. Searching for Oskar does have its faults – for example, Keneally dwells far too much on some famine relief trips he made to Ethiopia while waiting for Speilberg to begin filming, These sections felt as if he was just padding out of the book. But I did find some other insights interesting – like the issue of whether in writing Schindler’s Ark he was producing a work of fiction or a biography – and some of the insights into Schindler’s character that were not captured in the novel or film. I finished reading Keneally’s memoir with a huge admiration for the determination shown by Poldek in ensuring the story came to public attention and Schindler got the credit he deserved.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Hill

    The title was a bit of a misnomer as there isn't a great deal about Schindler in the text. What the book is really about is how the novel Schindler's Ark came to be written and the subsequent film Schindler's List produced. It was an engaging read, largely due to the presence of the irrepressible Poldek Pfefferberg for most of the journey, a holocaust survivor who spent many years attempting to publicise the Schindler story. The phrase 'larger than life' is insufficient to capture the presence o The title was a bit of a misnomer as there isn't a great deal about Schindler in the text. What the book is really about is how the novel Schindler's Ark came to be written and the subsequent film Schindler's List produced. It was an engaging read, largely due to the presence of the irrepressible Poldek Pfefferberg for most of the journey, a holocaust survivor who spent many years attempting to publicise the Schindler story. The phrase 'larger than life' is insufficient to capture the presence of this entertaining, though no doubt occasionally exasperating man. There were a few issues with the book, however. For one thing I felt that Keneally came across as somewhat of a fabulist. I imagine that it is an occupational hazard for an imaginative writer to be so convinced by what they consider to be emotionally true that they end up presenting it as fact. Unfortunately, this happened here with the author recounting how Camp Commandant Amon Goeth used a sniper rifle to shoot prisoners from the balcony of his villa. There is no clear evidence that this occurred. The photograph captioned 'Goeth on the balcony of his residence' shows no such thing; comparison with other photos of the villa reveal this was not taken on the balcony, which covers a much smaller area. In addition the gun he holds in the picture is not a sniper rifle as it lacks a scope. There was another bizarre moment when Keneally declared a seemingly innocuous comment Pfefferberg made to Steven Spielberg to be how 'old Jews always put successful younger Jews in their place.' This seemed borderline racist. Another problem is that the account was written long after the events described which seemed to affect the accuracy of information. Podgorze ghetto area is said to be to the east of Schindler's factory when it is to the west. There is also reference made to three synagogues of Kazimierz when there are in fact seven. The Forum Hotel is said to be by the Planty which is incorrect. I was surprised that an editor hadn't noticed these mistakes. On the whole though an entertaining read, I was particularly interested to find out Spielberg's early ideas on how the film should be scripted which sounded terrible. Fortunately a few years passed before production by which time he had moved away from this conception.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    Most people have read or heard of Thomas Keneally's amazing book, Schindler's List. However, in this 2007 book, Keneally traces how he got the idea for the book. He was in a leather-goods store in Hollywood looking for a brief case when he me Poldek Pfefferberg who related the story of Schindler. Poldek had been one of the many who Schindler saved. After this, Keneally begins a world-wide trek with Poldek to interview survivors, see Warsaw and Cracow, visit Jerusalem, and back home to Australia Most people have read or heard of Thomas Keneally's amazing book, Schindler's List. However, in this 2007 book, Keneally traces how he got the idea for the book. He was in a leather-goods store in Hollywood looking for a brief case when he me Poldek Pfefferberg who related the story of Schindler. Poldek had been one of the many who Schindler saved. After this, Keneally begins a world-wide trek with Poldek to interview survivors, see Warsaw and Cracow, visit Jerusalem, and back home to Australia to write the book. Believing that the world needed to hear this story, Keneally states, "The writer is the ancient mariner who distracts the guests at the wedding feast, and is hell-bent on wrenching their imaginations in a direction they had not necessarily intended to take them." Keneally also relates how the book was bought by Steven Speilberg, but it would be several years before it was to be put on film. There are some very intersting chapters where Keneally tells about the filming in Poland. This is an excellent companion to Schindler's List. It is also a wonderful account of how a writer gets an idea and writes the book. Excellent for high school libraries where students are familiar with the book and film.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Val Rich

    An audiobook is only as good as its reader and this one is exceptional. I hadn't actually read Schindler's List, though I may now, and hadn't seen the movie for several years. About half way into the audiobook, I watched the film again, remembering the profound emotion I felt the first time. Now that the audiobook is complete, I feel I need to see it again. This book describes how Tom Keneally first learned of the Schindler story, how he traveled to Poland, Germany, and Israel to interview those An audiobook is only as good as its reader and this one is exceptional. I hadn't actually read Schindler's List, though I may now, and hadn't seen the movie for several years. About half way into the audiobook, I watched the film again, remembering the profound emotion I felt the first time. Now that the audiobook is complete, I feel I need to see it again. This book describes how Tom Keneally first learned of the Schindler story, how he traveled to Poland, Germany, and Israel to interview those saved by Oskar Schindler, and how he pulled together all that he learned to create an unforgettable story. It tells of his initial meeting with Steven Spielberg to discuss making the film and the years it took for it to reach fruition. And then of its reception, along with the personal family events that occurred during the duration of Keneally's life before, during, and after Schindler. A truly memorable read, so highly recommended. We must never ever forget.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    If you liked Schindler's List (book, movie, or both), as I do, you will probably find this book to be interesting, as it tells the background of how Keneally discovered the story of Oskar Schindler and the time and effort it took to get the story researched and told, and then how the movie came to be made, stories behind the movie's development and creation, and the aftermath of the making of the movie. This is Keneally's memoir of those years, and is in many ways a tribute to Leopold Pfefferber If you liked Schindler's List (book, movie, or both), as I do, you will probably find this book to be interesting, as it tells the background of how Keneally discovered the story of Oskar Schindler and the time and effort it took to get the story researched and told, and then how the movie came to be made, stories behind the movie's development and creation, and the aftermath of the making of the movie. This is Keneally's memoir of those years, and is in many ways a tribute to Leopold Pfefferberg, the Holocaust survivor, rescued by Schindler, who became a salesman of handbags and briefcases in Beverly Hills and worked for years to get Schindler's story told and the movie made. Keneally points out differences between the book and the movie. A good read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Colleen O'grady

    As is usual with Tom Kenneally, his writing skilla are superb and I am on the hunt to find his book Schindler's List or Schinler's Ark. I want to read what he has researched for this book. Here he gave us a description of his meetings with the Schindler Jews, trials of those involved with Schindler during the war and how they felt about him, and one exceptional man Poldeck, who actually got Kenneally interested in writing the story. It would be nice if more writers could do that, that write biog As is usual with Tom Kenneally, his writing skilla are superb and I am on the hunt to find his book Schindler's List or Schinler's Ark. I want to read what he has researched for this book. Here he gave us a description of his meetings with the Schindler Jews, trials of those involved with Schindler during the war and how they felt about him, and one exceptional man Poldeck, who actually got Kenneally interested in writing the story. It would be nice if more writers could do that, that write biographies and autobiographies. There words on their research would make the story more interesting - at least that's how I feel after reading this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Craig Phillips

    The book starts off well. Especially interesting is the chance encounter that starts the ball rolling, providing you haven't read any reviews or heard the story before. The main protagonist, Poldek, is a great character with formidable will, and he is with us all along. Some of the bit characters and side stories are interesting. As other reviewers have said, it starts to feel padded toward the end, the pace certainly recedes and ther the self indulgence of the author sets in. This is definitely The book starts off well. Especially interesting is the chance encounter that starts the ball rolling, providing you haven't read any reviews or heard the story before. The main protagonist, Poldek, is a great character with formidable will, and he is with us all along. Some of the bit characters and side stories are interesting. As other reviewers have said, it starts to feel padded toward the end, the pace certainly recedes and ther the self indulgence of the author sets in. This is definitely a book for fans of the film, or fans of the author.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    An excellent read! Tells the story of how the book Schindler’s List came about. Oskar Schindler clearly is a hero in this book but also a hero is Poldek Pfefferberg who pursued writers until ultimately Oscar Schindler’s story was told by the author, Thomas Keneally. One disturbing note: the book I read prior to this was The Girl In the Red Coat, the author claimed to be that girl. However, this book shows it was someone entirely different!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mick

    The book contains the details as to how the author got to know about the Schindler legend through Poldek and the first few chapters has the details regarding the same and their travels. More than 2/3rd of the book gives out the reception of the book and the making of the movie. Not what I expected. Wanted to learn more about schindler, guess could have gone straight for Schindler's ark. The book contains the details as to how the author got to know about the Schindler legend through Poldek and the first few chapters has the details regarding the same and their travels. More than 2/3rd of the book gives out the reception of the book and the making of the movie. Not what I expected. Wanted to learn more about schindler, guess could have gone straight for Schindler's ark.

  25. 4 out of 5

    stephen shields

    Holocaust Remembered A great account of how this wonderful and heartbreaking story was brought to the attention of the world of an amazing man and his wife...... albeit him being a bit of a rogue in the process to save so many people from such barbaric cruelty.Thomas Keneally done a great job of bringing this story to the public's attention Holocaust Remembered A great account of how this wonderful and heartbreaking story was brought to the attention of the world of an amazing man and his wife...... albeit him being a bit of a rogue in the process to save so many people from such barbaric cruelty.Thomas Keneally done a great job of bringing this story to the public's attention

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Pickstone

    3.5 stars Keneally lost points for me by digressing a lot to his life in general and away from the subject, which I found irritating. That aside it was a very enjoyable read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Arrel

    Fascinating story of how Australian author Thomas Keneally's chance meeting with Leopold "Poldek" Pfefferberg in a Beverly Hills CA luggage store in 1981 led to a lifetime friendship, the book Schindler's List (or more accurately Schindler's Ark), and after many years of delay, Steven Spielberg and his Oscar-winning moving and more. It is NOT Schindler's List, but rather about how telling that story came about and it is at least as fascinating, interesting, and compelling as the List itself. In Fascinating story of how Australian author Thomas Keneally's chance meeting with Leopold "Poldek" Pfefferberg in a Beverly Hills CA luggage store in 1981 led to a lifetime friendship, the book Schindler's List (or more accurately Schindler's Ark), and after many years of delay, Steven Spielberg and his Oscar-winning moving and more. It is NOT Schindler's List, but rather about how telling that story came about and it is at least as fascinating, interesting, and compelling as the List itself. In addition to Poldek and his wife, many other Polish Jewish Nazi concentration camp survivors including a good number from The List, were still alive and were interviewed and gave their stories for this book and for Schindler's List itself as well. The book includes some vintage photos of the main characters of this amazing true story, including Oskar Schindler, Poldek, and also numerous Nazi villains including the evil-incarnate Plaszow camp commandant Amon Goeth, but also more recent photos of the movie, it's "stars" and Mr Spielberg, the author and the later-day version of Poldek. I have experienced the movie, but this book has inspired me to read the book as well. I encourage readers to avail themselves of both books and perhaps consider re-watching the movie if some time has passed. The current book provides insightful perspective both to the incidents portrayed in the movie, but also to how we all managed to appreciate and know of them. I recommend it to all.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    4.5 stars. I read this after recently reading the powerful Holocaust book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally, which of course the film Schindler's List was based on. I believe the book is known as Schindler's List in the USA. In this memoir, Keneally starts by recounting the amazing story of how he first met Poldek Pfefferberg while randomly shopping for a briefcase in Beverly Hills, after his own briefcase had broken. Poldek, a Holocaust survivor thanks to Schindler, seems to have been a force 4.5 stars. I read this after recently reading the powerful Holocaust book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally, which of course the film Schindler's List was based on. I believe the book is known as Schindler's List in the USA. In this memoir, Keneally starts by recounting the amazing story of how he first met Poldek Pfefferberg while randomly shopping for a briefcase in Beverly Hills, after his own briefcase had broken. Poldek, a Holocaust survivor thanks to Schindler, seems to have been a force of nature. It was he who first told Keneally about Schindler and pushed for the story to be told, and the whole journey began from that point. Poldek and Schindler travelled widely together researching the book. The writing of the actual book is recounted, winning the Booker Prize, being signed for the film rights with Steven Spielberg, the making of the Academy Award winning film. The book concludes with the death of the by then elderly Pfefferberg. It's a very engaging and fascinating read. Keneally tells the story with honesty and his typical touches of wry self-deprecation. I would recommend reading the memoir only after reading the book or seeing the film, though.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Robertson

    On the 25th anniversary of the film Schindler's List  I thought I would celebrate both by watching the film again and reading this account of how the book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally was written.  Keneally's tale of how this non-Jewish Australian writer came to write such an important book, and how the film was made, is fascinating.  It is well written and contains some valuable insights - not least into the ambiguous character of Schindler (a man who used women and Jews - and yet ended u On the 25th anniversary of the film Schindler's List  I thought I would celebrate both by watching the film again and reading this account of how the book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally was written.  Keneally's tale of how this non-Jewish Australian writer came to write such an important book, and how the film was made, is fascinating.  It is well written and contains some valuable insights - not least into the ambiguous character of Schindler (a man who used women and Jews - and yet ended up showing tremendous courage and humanity).  But a fascinating book. But despite its success in translating the icons of the Holocaust into accessible form, there was that in me which still said, ‘Film is just so limited.’ I was, of course, delighted that within the terms of popular cinema, Spielberg had portrayed so successfully the tale the survivors had once told me. Yet there was also something in me that remained, and indeed still remains, fundamentally unimpressed by cinema as compared to writing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    This book about how the book "Schindler's List" got started, written, and eventually made into an Oscar-winning movie, is interesting as a look at the creative process and at history. One main reason these book drew me in, was the indomitable man who got it all started -- Poldek. Poldek was a Polish Jew, who worked for Schindler. For decades he urged writers and filmmakers (he immigrated to L.A.) to write Oskar Schindler's story of "man's humanity to man" because Schindler saved he and his wife' This book about how the book "Schindler's List" got started, written, and eventually made into an Oscar-winning movie, is interesting as a look at the creative process and at history. One main reason these book drew me in, was the indomitable man who got it all started -- Poldek. Poldek was a Polish Jew, who worked for Schindler. For decades he urged writers and filmmakers (he immigrated to L.A.) to write Oskar Schindler's story of "man's humanity to man" because Schindler saved he and his wife's lives. He never doubted the story would be written, and once the author began it, he never doubted it will be made into a movie and "win an Oscar for Oskar." A peak into the process of novel writing, publishing in many countries, and the process or turning a book into a movie. Inspiring for the perseverance required by all, especially Poldek, to tell the story, in hopes of helping humanity.

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