“The unconditional surrender of Germany has just been announced. At midnight tonight, the war is over. Tomorrow you will begin the process of looking for survivors of your families. In most cases…you will not find them. After six long years of murder, victims are being mourned throughout the world. We have survived. Many of you have come up to me and thanked me. Thank yourselves. Thank your fearless Stern, and others among you who worried about you and faced death at every moment. I am a member of the Nazi Party. I am a munitions manufacturer. I am a profiteer of slave labor. I am…a criminal. At midnight, you will be free and I will be hunted. I shall remain with you until five minutes after midnight, after which time–and I hope you will forgive me–I have to flee. (to the factory’s SS guards) I know you have received orders from our commandant, which he has received from his superiors, to dispose of the population of this camp. Now would be the time to do it. Here they are; they are all here. This is your opportunity. Or, you could leave, and return to your families as men instead of murderers. (The guards solemnly exit; he addresses the workers.) In memory of the countless victims among your people, I ask us to observe three minutes of silence.” – Oskar Schindler (Schindler’s List)
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Why would a man from the most notorious, murderous, political party ever to hold a major office in any modern society want to save the sworn enemy of the party, the Jews? Why would he want to save one Jew, let alone 1,100? Who is this mysterious, intelligent, resourceful, businessman? Oskar Schindler….A Nazi.
Oskar Schindler’s story was first brought to the attention of the public eye in 1982. Thomas Keneally had just published his novel Schindler’s Ark based on the extravagant, flamboyant, and compassionate life of Oskar Schindler during World War II. As the book hit the shelves, a famous Jewish film director happened to pick it up and read it. The director was Steven Spielberg. He immediately wanted to do a film on the book, but he wanted the film to be historically accurate and perfect. So Spielberg began to research. He researched for ten years and through eight of his own major motion pictures. Then he finally came back to the Schindler script, which he named Schindler’s List. When asked why he didn’t start on the movie sooner he said, “I wanted to give this film the attention it deserved.” And attention it received.
The movie Schindler’s List is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time. In 1998 Schindler’s List was chosen as number nine on the American Film Institutes One- Hundred Best American Films in the One- Hundred Year History of Cinema. Schindler’s List has the most memorable images of any movie. It provokes thoughts, feelings, and opinions of great magnitude and importance. When watching the film you notice the beautiful artistic quality of the docudrama. It is one of the few superior movies were you see new things and deeper underlying meanings each time you watch it. Schindler’s List prods the mind to understand the complexities of Oskar Schindler. After watching the film it leaves you wondering what became of Schindler? It baffles the mind to understand such a complex person. Schindler’s List triggers a progression of questions in every mind regarding World War II and The Holocaust. How could this have happened? How could “good” people let it happen? Why wasn’t it stopped? Could it happen again?
Under Spielberg’s direction Schindler’s List pays explicit attention to detail in every way. Spielberg intended it to be an emotional and moving piece, and it was. The entire motion picture was shot in black and white, except for a few scenes of color (used to show special meaning). The most memorable of these color scenes is that of a little girl in a red coat. Schindler first sees the girl being marched from her home. She is alone in red, surrounded by a sea of drabness. As she walks aimlessly, scared, and afraid, death and destruction are wrought around her. A women is gunned down behind her. A single-file line of men is executed as to be Germanly efficient with only one bullet. Finally Schindler witness’ her wandering into an empty tenant building and he loses sight of her. Then Spielberg picks up where Schindler cannot see. He shows the little girl trying to find a hiding spot among the mass of chaos going around her. She finds her “safe-haven” under a bed.
Spielberg next brings us to night and darkness. SS Troops are preparing to storm the ghetto and rout out any concealed Jews. They un-mercilessly shoot every Jew they see. Man, woman, and child, no one is spared. Spielberg lets us all but see that our little friend in the red coat has been murdered.
Later in the picture Schindler is shown outside of Cracow watching a mass incineration of all of the graves from the ghetto murders. Ashes are cluttering the sky as if it were snowing, and it reeks of dead corpses. Schindler happens to glance to his side and he sees the little girls body strewn about the other deceased in a cart headed for incineration. This stuns and mortifies Schindler. It shows him the unrelenting murderous tactics of the Nazis in full force. It is a turning point in the movie, and in Schindler’s life for it shows us how Schindler has completed his cycle of turning into a Semitic person instead of his former anti-Semitic self.
Oskar Schindler’s cycle began when he first got the brilliant idea of transforming cheap Jewish “slave” labor into his employees for his factory. He was greedy and ruthless. His goal was to make millions. First he enlisted the most competent Jew he could find as his accountant and business manager. This Jew had control of all parts of production, he could hire and fire whomever he pleased. His name was Itzhak Stern. At first their relationship was cold and bitter. Schindler was Stern’s boss and that was the extent of their association. As Schindler gained more and more money because of Stern’s shrewd business sense, they started to become better acquainted. Schindler took a great liking to Stern. He was starting to realize that Jews were humans just like anyone else.
Schindler’s relationship with the entire Jewish population grew and grew. He started demanding increasingly more Jewish workers. He also started increasing his bribes to German officials. When Schindler learned that his Schindlerjuden (Schindler’s Jews) were being moved to Auschwitz (a notorious extermination camp), he stepped his actions into high gear. He cared so dearly about these people that he had the entire populace of his factory work force, plus hundreds more moved to another factory in his hometown of Zwittau- Brinnlitz, Czechoslovakia. He paid the way for every one of the 1,100 Jews he saved. Once in Czechoslovakia, his Jews were put to work making artillery shells for the quickly losing German Blitzkrieg. No shell was ever produced from his factory! Schindler needed to clarify this to Stern, so they talked about it, they said:
Schindler: “Well, that’s to be expected – start-up problems. This isn’t pots and pans. This is a precise business. I’ll write them a letter.”
Stern: “They’re withholding payment.”
Schindler: “Sure. So would I. So would you. I wouldn’t worry about it. We’ll get it right one of these days.”
Stern: “There’s a rumor you’ve been going around mis-calibrating the machines. They could shut us down, send us back to Auschwitz.”
Schindler: “I’ll call around, find out where we can buy shells, pass them off as ours.”
Stern: “I don’t see the difference. Whether they’re made here or somewhere else.”
Schindler: “You don’t see a difference? I see a difference.”
Stern: “You’ll lose a lot of money, that’s the difference.”
Schindler: “Fewer shells will be made. Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I’ll be very unhappy.”
So instead of making shells and saving his money. He instead went bankrupt to keep his Jews alive until the unconditional surrender of Germany.
Oskar Schindler and his Jews were great people who lived through a disastrous time. Without Schindler’s help those original Krakow Jews, all 1,100 of them, would almost surely have been dead. But why were they being persecuted in the first place? How could the German masses allow this to happen?
During the 1920’s and 1930’s Germany was in a deep depression. Germany had to pay huge war reparations to the Allied countries of Britain and France. They had lots of problems. The only people that were making a somewhat respectable living in Germany were the Jews. These people were well educated and very skilled in the professions of banking, entrepreneurship, and business. Once Adolph Hitler seized power of Germany, his anger of the Jews was spread to others who readily accepted a scapegoat for their problems. The Jews were mostly well off. Poverty stricken Germans loathed their wealth. The Nazi’s assembled on September 10, 1935 to discuss their problems with the Jews. Their agenda consisted of three things:
1) To clarify the requirements of citizenship in the Third Reich.
2) To assure the purity of German blood and German honor.
3)To clarify the position of Jews in the Third Reich.
On September 15, 1935 the assemblage convened. It unveiled a series of laws named the Nuremberg Laws. This spelled the beginning of the end for Jews in Europe. Jewish stores and businesses were ransacked and ruined. The Jews no longer had any protection. Eventually every Jew in Germany and its occupied territories was rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Over six million people were slaughtered by the Nazi Machine. All because angry, poor Germans needed a way to get out of their pain and strife.
After all of this pain and suffering, all the death and destruction, and all of the atrocious effects of war, we can look in hindsight. Was The Holocaust inevitable? Or, Was it preventable?
Historically there was no more ideal time for a crazed lunatic to snatch office and order the genocide of an entire people. Germans needed a strong and willful leader. They found these qualities in Adolph Hitler. When Hitler seized office he immediately ordered everyone to work. Every factory became a German War Machine producing tanks, airplanes, trucks, guns, boats, and other supplies in preparation of war. Hitler wanted to avenge the Treaty of Versailles which prevented Germany of having a military of any kind. Hitler guessed right that the weak League of Nations would do nothing. Every country soon developed a policy of appeasement, meaning that they would stay out of Hitler’s affairs and let him do enough to keep them out of war. Appeasement started a chain of events that led to the eventual German invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, and the start of WWII.
By the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Hitler was well established as the Fuhrer of the German people, Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, Navy and Air Force, and Chancellor of the Third Reich. He had complete control. Hitler also had the answer to the Jewish question. He would eliminate every Jew from Europe, then the rest of the world as it was conquered by the Reich. There was only one way this fanatical barbarian could be stopped. The Allies had to conquer and not be conquered. Once this was accomplished all of the atrocities were revealed. Hitler and his command were held accountable.
Today there are precautions set up throughout the world to prevent another genocide of this extent. We now have a powerful United Nations with a strong ruling hand on the world. No leader as uncontrolled as Hitler could ever rule again. The possible inklings of another global war sends shivers up every human’s spine.
There is no way a genocide could go unnoticed. Today’s spy techniques and technologies are vastly improved. The eye in the sky is always there. Any average Joe could post a message on the Internet telling of atrocities or war crimes committed in their own nation. The world has no stomach for crimes of that magnitude. It would be impossible to accomplish another Holocaust.
Schindler’s List appeals to every person in some way. There is much to be learned from this blockbuster movie. It was meant to teach a generation far removed from The Holocaust to feel feelings it could never know. Schindler’s List was also meant to incite the World War II generation to remember what happened. Schindler’s List was most importantly produced to make sure the human race never forgets the stories of its greatest heroes. It was meant to teach humans to learn from their mistakes, and never let them happen again. It is a record for future generations so no one, no matter how far removed from its tragic losses, can ever forget.