No Choice But To Believe It

Continuous rain seeped from sunless slate skies throughout the day. In an attempt to look forward to drier times we visited Redcliffe Nurseries and bought three planters to replace those cracked by earlier frost. They remain in the boot of the car.

There is a limit to how many photographs one can produce of waterlogged terrain, roads, and lanes, so we came straight home. After attending to more administration relating to the French sale, I devoted the afternoon to finishing reading Thomas Keneally’s Booker McConnell prizewinning book, ‘Schindler’s Ark’.

Keneally’s author’s note suggests that it would be incorrect to regard this as an historical novel. He states that he has chosen to use the “texture and devices of a novel to tell a true story”, and that he has “attempted to avoid all fiction”. The story is so incredible that I constantly referred back to this.

The author’s research has been painstaking, and he has faithfully represented the multiple aspects of Schindler’s character. The story is perhaps better known through Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed cinematic adaptation renamed Schindler’s List. I have not seen the film, and frankly, after reading Keneally’s work, don’t think I could bear it. The author, with most credible sources, tells us how it was to live through the holocaust. Many of those of my generation have always thought the details of this period beggar belief. Keneally gives you no choice but to believe it. It has sustained, awesome, power, not the least in describing the rigid bureaucratic machinery that enabled the rigid administration of merciless lives and deaths to continue absorbing immense resources, even as the Third Reich was failing on all overambitious fronts. Maybe that was the ultimate malignant madness. The extermination of millions of human beings took priority over the aim of world domination.

This evening we dined on smoked haddock fish cakes, piquant cauliflower cheese, new potatoes, carrots, and runner beans, with which I drank more of the Casillero del Diablo. I had photographed our meal, but after what I have just written, can’t bring myself to publish it.



  1. You just summed up that book perfectly Derrick. I remember having to put it down and physically move a way from it at certain points and also making myself continue to read it in an effort to understand – but also reading knowing I had put up a shield between my heart and the words…….
    It’s very topical I think.

  2. I rented the film Schindler’s List no less than four times when it first became available. I chickened out every time. Can’t do it. If you would like to read another excellent book by Keneally, might I suggest How the Irish Saved Civilization. Very uplifting. No chance they’ll make a film of it.

  3. A hard thing you did by reading that. The Holocaust always brings me to a deep, deep well of tears–how can it not for us all? But thank you for telling us about this book–I knew of it but haven’t read it.
    I hope the rains abate soon again.

  4. A thoughtful post, Derrick. I haven’t read the book, but in my other writing/editing work, I’ve had to read some horrible accounts of human depravity. I understand having to put the book down. I’ve read about some atrocities, and I’ve had to just walk away and do something else, but I have to realize that I have that choice, and to be thankful for it.
    It took me a long time, but I finally did watch the film. I suspect the book is actually worse and more detailed. The thing about the movie is that I made myself watch it to the end–and then you see the survivors–and to me, it was like a vindication, like no matter how much horror they imposed, the Nazi’s did not win, and the survivors survived to testify against the genocide. And honestly, that’s what I remember about the movie. It upsets me terribly that so many deny the Holocaust.

    1. Thanks very much, Merril. The link in Gwen’s comment is very useful in relating book and film. For me, the most upsetting thing is that humanity has never learned anything from it.

  5. Having spent a considerable chunk of time researching the Holocaust, not long before Schindler’s List was released, I found the very thought of seeing it too much to bear.

    It is a good thing the movie and the book are out there, so that those who don’t know or who choose to disbelieve will never be able to silence the truth.

  6. It is a bit of a surprise to see a pictureless post from you, but I can relate to the feeling. I am drowning under my TBR pile. About 60% of the books I own today are waiting for the flicker of my eyes. But I will make an exception by buying ‘Schindler’s Ark’ soon, and reading it too.

    1. I don’t want to force you into bad habits, Uma. I have stopped buying because I will never have time to read all mine – but then I am a bit older 🙂 Many thanks

  7. Would SS make a movie that is unbearable? I think not. I watched it but then I’d already read a lot of actual accounts. I studied writing non-fiction with Tom. He suggested I try writing fiction so I wrote him a short story and he liked it. 🙂 That’s his MO – writing non-fiction as fiction.

  8. I haven’t heard of this book, Derrick. I watched Schindler’s List a few years ago; it has haunted me ever since. I appreciate this post and the choice to keep it somber. I think we must not forget the atrocities that have happened throughout history. I fear that many leaders either haven’t learned from history or have a total disregard for it. Power and greed are always at the fore. And actually, not just leaders. That goes for average citizens as well, as we are witnessing now with the rampant anger and total lack of civility.

  9. The movie is brilliant—especially Ralph Fiennes creepy performance—but, as you can imagine, very difficult to watch. It is never a good sign when a leader lusts for world domination. Citizens, beware!

  10. I can tell how moved you were by the book, Derrick, and perhaps that’s what made your review of the reading experience so profound in this post. The movie was powerful, and as often is the case, the book must be even more so. There are no words, I think, that will ever truly capture the horror of the Holocaust or the depth of deprivation to which the human mind can go. Thank you for sharing. <3

  11. I saw the movie years ago, but did read the book. I appreciate learning that he used the “texture and devices of a novel to tell a true story”, These events and feelings are important to remember. I love the photo of the ?Celtic? cross in front of the sun.

  12. Understandable decision. I watched the story of a man, who’s name escapes me, who chose to walk with his orphaned children until the very end so they wouldn’t feel alone…sombering thought.

  13. I haven’t read this, or seen the film, but it is on my list. This will be an ordeal just to read, but it is necessary that we, in the comfort of our lives, should get some idea of what it was really like.

  14. Have you seen The Death of Stalin? It’s incredibly funny but at the same time horrifyingly dark. My favorite movie at the moment. It’s so shocking what humans can do to each other.

  15. My Grandma came from Germany and immigrated with her own mother. My Mom remembers the years her mother practiced “high level” of English. She didn’t want to sound German nor common. 😀
    Grandma Paula (maiden name Hilmida Haller) Mattson (my Grandpa’s name) was a fantastic German cook and waited on or “served Dukes and Duchesses” at the NY City Waldorf Astoria. She was more proud of being a naturalized American citizen than German. 🇺🇸

  16. I watched Schindler’s List for the first time 2 years ago. It took me that long to pluck up the courage to watch it. I cried. Them cries some more. I will not watch it again. It disturbed my sleep for a number of nights too, it was that powerful. I don’t think I could or will read the book. I can only imagine that (perhaps) it may even be more in-depth than the film due to your post … 💔

  17. Interesting to read your view of Schindler’s Ark. I agree the subject matter is harrowing and moving but I just couldn’t get on with his writing style. I guess I am conventional but I would have preferred either traditional factual style or a smoother narrative flow. I guess one of the reasons the book is so admired is that he did something new and different, it just didn’t work for me and made it harder for me to take in the actual content of the book.

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