On a windy day in Beverly Hills in October 1980, Thomas Keneally went in search of a replacement for his battered briefcase and returned with the story of Oskar Schindler (and a new bag). The man who sold him the bag and the story was Leopold Pfefferberg, the hero and central subject of this memoir. Pfefferberg, known as Poldek, is a benignly hectoring presence throughout the book. Near the end Keneally rues his inability through illness to attend the funeral of the extraordinary character who insisted, at their very first encounter, that they would be friends ‘to the grave’.
Pfefferberg was the custodian of Schindler’s memory. He had tried before to interest Hollywood in the man who, with help from his equally courageous (but unfairly neglected) wife, saved over 1,000 Jews from the gas chambers. At the back of his shop Pfefferberg had a filing cabinet full of historic