Thomas Keneally and Leopold Page
Thomas Keneally, the author of best-selling book, "Schindler's List," and Leopold Page, a holocaust survivor who was instrumental in publicizing the story of Oscar Schindler, presented the 1994 Schooler Lecture at Mount Union, Wednesday, September 28.
Keneally, wrote "Schindler's List" in 1982, but it was only after Steven Speilberg converted it into the 1993 Academy Award winner for best motion picture, that the story received worldwide acclaim.
Keneally first heard the story of Oskar Schindler when the Australian author walked into a luggage store in Beverly Hills more than a decade ago and while waiting for credit card approval, heard Page, the store's owner, doggedly tell the tale of Schindler, the man who saved his life. By the time Keneally got credit card approval, he was sold on the topic of his next book.
According to Keneally, he was immediately taken with the paradoxical character of Schindler, a tall, handsome German, a chain-smoking bon-vivant who bought a previously Jewish owned factory and saved its Jewish slave laborers. It is estimated that Schindler saved the lives of more than 1,300 Jews during World War II.
"Schindler's List" was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction, Britain's most prestigious book prize, the in 1982 and the Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction in 1983. While "Schindler's List" is Keneally's best known work, he has published more than 25 novels which have spanned five continents and covered topics from the Armistice talks following World War I to an Edwardian Antarctic Expedition involving a mysterious killing.
Educated at St. Patricks College in Strathfield, Sydney, Keneally is a distinguished member of the world literary community and has several achievements to his credit in the academic world. In 1991 he was named Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California-Irvine. He has also been awarded an Order of Australia for Services to Literature and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Politically active, Keneally is leader of the Australian Republic Movement, a movement whose objective is to cut Australia's last remaining constitutional ties with the British Monarch.
Page's encounter with Keneally wasn't the first time he had told the story of Schindler to a stranger. In fact, for several years, Page admits he would tell the story to any entertainment professional who wandered into his shop. After Keneally decided to write the story, Page became an advisor to Keneally for the book, and later an advisor to Speilberg for the movie.
Born in 1913 in Krakow, Poland as Poldek Pfefferberg, Page attended high school in Krakow and earned a masters degree in philosophy and physical education from Krakow University. He taught high school in Krakow until 1939 when the Germans closed all Jewish schools.
Page fought in the Polish Army against the Nazis with the rank of lieutenant and was wounded and arrested. He was later transferred to a Nazi Concentration Camp where he stayed with his wife Ludmila until Liberation in May, 1945.
Two years later, he and Ludmila emigrated to the United States. They settled in Los Angeles in 1950 and opened a leather goods business in Beverly Hills. Thirty years later, he was able to tell Keneally his story and the result has been a best-selling book and a movie which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards.
In the movie, Page is portrayed by actor Jonathan Segalle. He will be remembered as the young man who saved himself from death during the destruction of Krakow's Jewish ghetto by pretending to follow orders to clean up the baggage abandoned by victims of the extermination. The rest of the his family was not as lucky -- almost 100 perished including his parents, sister and brother-in-law.