Schindler’s List

Schindlers List is a movie that though I had heard much about, I had never seen. I dont know if it was out of lack of interest for the subject, fear of the reportedly graphic scenes, or just the knowledge of its length that I avoided the film, but I did. I can remember when I was in 8th grade hearing an announcement over the loudspeaker that all of the seniors had to bring in their permission slips so that they would be allowed to watch the film in the auditorium the following week. That certainly piqued my interest. What was it about this film that was so bad that it required a permission slip, yet so good that it was being shown in school for the students? When I learned that we would be watching the film in class, I was excited and curious to finally see what all the hype was about. What I found out was that it was a very sad, very depressing, and very beautiful film. Not beautiful in the sense of those Jane Austen pictures with the rolling English landscapes and multi-colored dresses, but beautiful in its complexity and honesty. It was brutally graphic, but not in a gratuitous way like the popular films of today, it was graphic because it was an accurate portrayal of true event in history. Without the violence and nudity it would have betrayed the truth, sugarcoating it, and providing a dishonest picture of the evil that was the Holocaust.
The film begins in Krakow, Poland just after the collapse of the Polish army and at the beginning of the German occupation. Oskar Schindler, a tall handsome womanizer arrives in the city looking to open a factory in order to profit from the war. Since the Jews are no longer permitted to own businesses, Oskar obtains a factory from a Jewish man named Itzhak Stern, and appoints him as his accountant and manager. The two form a strange relationship, Oskar taking advantage of Sterns talent, and Stern distrustingly but obediently following Schindlers orders. Schindler gets the rich Jews from the ghetto to invest in the factory and he uses Jews to work for him since they cost him little. Through the black market, Schindler obtains numerous delicacies such as liquor and chocolate for the SS and German officers and sends them large gift baskets that place him in their good favor.
Schindler spent his days entertaining the Nazis and his many women, while leaving the work of running the factory to Itzhaks very capable hands. Whenever he did meet with Stern, the intelligent manager would feed him little stories of how the Jews were being treated. Though at first he took these stories with a grain of salt, Schindler began to feel more and more impacted and would make small moves that showed that inside the seemingly callous man, was a compassionate and caring individual.
Schindlers factory became a haven for the Jews among all of the chaos. The word quickly spread that in Schindlers factory nobody died. Schindler himself was apparently unaware of this fact until one day, a young Jewish woman disguised herself, and went to ask Schindler to please hire her parents who were at a labor camp. He was appalled by this request and fearful of what could happen to him. His angry outburst scared the poor girl out of his office, but a few days later she rejoiced when she saw her parents being shepherded into his factory by German officials.
Several days later, all of the Jews in the camps are asked to strip and put through numerous exams to see whether they are sick or healthy enough to work. They are separated and the weak ones are gassed. All of the children are placed in trucks, and they are sent away.
The Russians are nearing, and to avoid them, the Germans plan on moving the Jews to a different camp further into Poland. Schindler realizes that he is running out of time and he makes a deal with Amon Goeth to buy the Jews. Working with Stern the two compile a list of 1100 workers from memory. These Jews are given over to Schindler who then releases them to go their own way. The grateful Jews melt their gold fillings to create a ring, which they present as a gift to Schindler. He accepts it, but with regret that he did not do more to save more Jews. He looks back at all of the money that he wasted on parties, and drinking and cars and realizes that each of those items that he spent his money on could have saved one more life. The Schindler Jews, as they called themselves, dont condemn him for this, but rather they praise him for his sacrifice and all surround him in a group hug.

I thought that this was an amazing film. It was difficult at times to watch, and I often found myself in a sort of daze as I was walking out of class. What I did like about the film was that it did not idealize Schindler (at least not until the end). It showed him for what he was: a war profiteer and a womanizer who liked to party and really did not come to Poland with the idea of saving any Jews. He slowly changed due to the bits and pieces that he heard from Stern and the atrocities that he saw with his own eyes. It wasnt a total and complete change, for I am sure that he did not abandon his ways completely, however he did make a great sacrifice by giving up all that he had worked for to save the lives of 1100 men and women.
I know that I learned from this film, not really about facts about the war or the Holocaust, because I learned those from books and documentaries on PBS. What I did get from it was a clearer picture of the horror that these people encountered, and of the senselessness of it all. There was no reason why this had to happen. Just seeing the cruel acts of people such as Goeth, with their indifference and insensibility, is chilling. I know that it is all true and that is why it is so frightening. Once again, a film places before me the question of how a person, a human being, can be so desensitized as to perform these acts without the slightest sense of remorse. The fact that such things have also happened in places such as Cambodia and Ethiopia, and will probably continue to happen is disillusioning. Its almost as if we dont learn or dont care. I dont know who could watch a film such as this and not be affected, and yet these things go on. Schindler was a good man and he did a great thing, but what still stays in the back of my mind is all those, like the one-armed man and the little girl in the red coat, that he couldnt save.
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Schindlers List

Schindler’s List Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List is the historical account of Oskar Schindler and his heroic actions in the midst of the horrors of World War II Poland. Schindler’s List recounts the life of Oskar Schindler, and how he comes to Poland in search of material wealth but leaves having saved the lives of over 1100 Jews who would most certainly have perished. The novel focuses on how Schindler comes to the realization that concentration and forced labor camps are wrong, and that many people were dying through no fault of their own. This realization did not occur overnight, but gradually came to be as the business man in Oskar Schindler turned into the savior of the Jews that had brought him so much wealth. Schindler’s List is not just a biography of Oskar Schindler, but it is the story of how good can overcome evil and how charity can overcome greed.

Schindler’s List begins with the early life of Oskar Schindler. The novel describes his early family life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his adolescence in the newly created state of Czechoslovakia. It tells of his relationship with his father, and how his father left his mother. His mother is also described in great detail. Like many Germans in the south, she was a devout Catholic.

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She is described as being very troubled that her son would take after her estranged husband with his negligence of Catholicism. Oskar never forgave Hans, his father, for his abandonment of his mother , which is ironic considering that Oskar would do the same with his wife Emilie. In fact Hans and Oskar Schindler’s lives would become so much in parallel that the novel describes their relationship as “that of brothers separated by the accident of paternity.” Oskar’s relationship with Emilie is also described in detail as is their marriage. The heart of the novel begins in October 1939 when Oskar Schindler comes to the Polish city of Cracow. It has been six weeks since the German’s took the city, and Schindler sees great opportunity as any entrepreneur would.

For Schindler, Cracow represents a place of unlimited possibilities because of the current economic disorder and cheap labor. Upon his arrival in Cracow he meets Itzak Stern, a Jewish bookkeeper. Schindler is very impressed with Stern because of his business prowess and his connections in the business community. Soon Schindler and Stern are on their way to the creation of a factory that would run on Jewish labor. Around this time, the persecution of the Jews of Poland begins with their forced relocation into ghettoes. This turns out to be timely for Schindler as now he is able to get very cheap labor.

The next few years would go well for Schindler and his factory for they turned a great profit. In fact he made so much money that he is quoted as saying, “I’ve made more money than I could possibly spend in a lifetime.” His workers were also very happy. This is because “Schindler’s Jews” were treated as humans as opposed to being treated as animals. For them, working in Schindler’s factory was an escape from the ghetto and from much German cruelty. They loved Schindler so much that his factory became known as a haven throughout the Jewish community. However, things began to go sour for Schindler, when the Germans ordered the liquidation of the ghettoes.

Soon all of the Jews in the Cracow ghetto were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp. By this time Schindler had grown so affectionate toward his Jewish workers that he refused to hire Poles, and instead sought of a way to keep using the Jews that he had grown so accustomed to. As the Cracow Jews were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp, Oskar Schindler came into direct dealings with the camp’s director, Amon Goeth. He did not like Amon, but he tried to get in on his best side in order to keep using his Jews in his factory. Amon agreed to let Schindler use them, and thus saving his Jews from some of the harshness of the Plaszow labor camp. As the war began to go badly for the Germans, they decided to accelerate their “final solution” by sending the Jews to more sinister concentration camps such as Auchwitz.

This is when Oskar Schindler finally comes to the realization that he had the power to help his people. The now enlightened Schindler decides to use his entire fortune to buy the lives of the Schindlerjuden in order to save them from the gas chambers of Auchwitz. This is how Schindler’s list came to be. 1100 Jewish names that had in some way touched his life were put on a list and bought. His plan was to send the 1100 Jews to his newly created ammunitions factory in his native Czechoslovakia.

However, Schindler’s plan does not go smoothly for an entire train load of his women were accidentally shipped to Auchwitz instead of to his factory. Schindler then uses more of his diminishing financial recourses to try to get his Jews out of Auchwitz. He succeeds in doing this, and thus the Schindlerjuden have escaped the worse. Meanwhile in Czechoslovakia his plan continues in that he tricks the Germans into thinking that they were going to produce quality ammunition, but instead not one good shell was ever produced to help the German army. Gratefully, within a few months Hitler was dead and the Germans were defeated.

Unfortunately, Oskar Schindler was now penniless for he had given everything in order to save as many Jews as possible. Thomas Keneally wrote Schindler’s List to be more than just the story of a man and his heroic deeds, but also to show today’s world of the dangers of hatred. He emphasizes this latter point through his descriptions of how cruelly the Nazis treated the Jews. Keneally also tries to point out how one man can make a difference as is the case with Oskar Schindler. However, perhaps Keneally’s greatest objective with Schindler’s List is that the world should never forget Oskar Schindler and what he did for the Jews as well as for mankind.

Schindler’s impact is so great that even the numerical facts are astonishing. In fact if one compares the number of direct descendants of the Schindlerjuden to the number of Jews alive in Poland after 1945, it is evident that there are more Schindlerjuden today than the total number of Jews in 1945 Poland. This statistical fact shows how greatly Schindler, who died in 1974, will be missed. Perhaps Keneally shares the Schindlerjuden’s remorse for their savior by the way he ends his novel. Keneally ends the novel with the somber line, “He was mourned on every continent.” Schindler’s List had a great effect on me personally.

I thought that Thomas Keneally did an excellent job in making the reader feel the events of the time. Perhaps what I found to be most interesting in Schindler’s List is a question of morality. I began asking myself the question, would I be as heroic as Oskar Schindler if I were in his shoes? I think that this is exactly what Keneally wanted us to do; he wanted us to look at ourselves and analyze what’s inside. Historically, I find Schindler’s List to be very important not only because it is tells of a shameful time in western civilization, but also because the events that took place in the novel occurred only yesterday. After all fifty years is almost nothing in historical terms.

Perhaps the novel’s greatest strength is this feeling that the events that transpired in Schindler’s List are in fact modern history.


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