Today you watched Schindler’s List and heard Rena Finder speak. I want to thank you in advance (at the time of this writing) for your respectful response to Mrs. Rena Finder. She is a remarkable woman and you are so fortunate to be able to hear her speak.
In addition to thanking Mrs. Finder, a big thank you to Steven Spielberg for lending us the 35 mm print of the film and to the folks at Coolidge Corner Theatre, especially to Mark Anastasio and the Coolidge staff.
One note I do want to make: I have tremendous respect for the array of reactions that I anticipate you will have in response to the film and hearing someone who survived what you saw on the screen (and more). Some of you will be emotional while others among you will want to reflect and digest individually what you saw and heard. There is no "right" response, but I have complete respect for you and your peers as you respond to the film with maturity and sensitivity.
Now, I'd like to hear your overall reaction to the film and survivor testimony and you are invited to take your remarks in whatever direction you wish. We will talk about the experience overall in class. Moreover, there is a boatload of literature on Oskar Schindler and the events described in the film; let me know if you would like to read some of that material. (We have some of it in the Feinberg collection at BLS’ library; other materials I have…)
That said, a few questions/issues I ask you to ponder and discuss in your post:
• When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth, the commandant at Plaszow played by Ralph Fiennes in the film, about being able to “pardon” people, what does he mean? What is Schindler’s underlying view of power, in your opinion? What is Goeth’s view of power?
• The film depicts innumerable terrible events, placing people in desperate and horrific situations. Some people took on roles that saved their lives; others refused to do so. Still others avoided risk, while various individuals chose to take tremendous risks to save themselves and others. We see compliant workers in this film, black market smugglers, Jews turned “Judenrat”—a police force staffed by Jews but working for the Nazis within the ghetto that could move you from the “bad” line to the “good” line, etc. People crossed plenty of moral and ethical lines in the film. Where would you draw the line? What is the line that cannot be crossed? What action can you NOT take in order to save your own life?
• “The biggie”: in your view, what made Schindler do the heroic thing(s) he did? Why did he change? In other words, how and why did he shift from being a “bystander” to an “upstander”?
Beyond that, I’d love to hear anything else you have to say about the film and survivor testimony and get your overall reaction to the experience. AND MOST IMPORTANT: if you have questions about aspects of the film or the accuracy of the film, please post your questions here so I make sure they are answered!