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In Schindler's List (1993), Amon disagrees with Oskar, who wants to put Helen's name in the last line left on the final page:

Oskar: Amon, you can't take her to Vienna with you.

Amon: No, of course I can't. That's what I'd like to do. What I can do, if I'm any sort of a man, is the next most merciful thing. I shall take her into the woods and shoot her painlessly in the back of the head.

What's the purpose of word "next"?

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This is the common idiom "the next best thing". It is an adverb meaning "following", or "coming second in rank".

So the "most merciful thing" is to take "her" (ie Helen) to Vienna. The thing that is second in mercifulness is to shoot her in the back of the head (given that the alternative is going on a train to Auschwitz).

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We talk about the best action to take in some circumstance. This action (call it action A) is better than any other action.

The second-best action B is not so good as A.

The third-best action C, is not as good as A or B.

and so on.

If you cannot use A for some reason, then you should use B, which is the next best (after A).

If you cannot use A or B, then you should use C, which is the next best after (after A and B).

etc.

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