posts 1 - 15 of 21
Boston, US
Posts: 205

On Wednesday, assuming all goes well, you will have watched Schindler’s List , heard from survivor Rena Finder, and toured Auschwitz-Birkenaus virtually. I want to thank you in advance (as of this writing) for your respectful response to Rena Finder and Wojtek Smolen. Both are remarkable people and you were so fortunate to be able to hear from the two of them.

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, hearing someone who survived what you saw on the screen (and more), and then “visiting” the site where some of the worst atrocities in the Holocaust, let alone the worst atrocities of humanity, occurred. 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, Mrs. Finder’s remarks, and the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. You are invited to take your remarks in whatever direction you wish. Know too that 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.

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?

* What made Schindler take the actions he took? Why did he seem to “change”? Was he heroic? In other words, how and why did he shift from being a “bystander” to an “upstander”?

* Listening to a survivor like Rena speaking about experiences she endured more than 76 years ago is remarkable and often unforgettable. (How much will you remember 76 years from now?!) What do you think is the value of hearing her memories and reflections? What will be the effect of the lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years?  In other words, why is listening to a human being share their experiences with you different than seeing it through the written word or film footage?

* Auschwitz-Birkenau as a place survived the war but we are left to imagine what happened there, whether we visit virtually (as you did today), see images in a book or film, or hear about it from others. What is the value of “visiting”? Is there such a thing as “the power of place”? How does “visiting” a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau affect the depth of your understanding of this history? And given the challenges of “preserving” a place like this, what is essential to preserve (if one has to make choices about it)?

Beyond that, I’d love to hear anything else you have to say about (a) the film, (b) Rena’s testimony, and (c) the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and get your overall reaction to the experience.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler and on our field trip more broadly

Watching “Schindler’s List” was heartbreaking, but it was also inspiring to see that there are good people that are willing to risk their safety to save the lives of so many people.

When talking about “pardon” and “power” Schindler’s view was very different from Goeth's. Schindler felt that even when you believe it’s justified to kill someone, the real power comes from pardoning those people and not punishing them for their actions. The true power for Schindler lied in his ability to control himself, but for Goeth, it was about controlling others. Even when he tried to pardon that little boy who wasn’t able to clean his bathtub, he couldn’t because his view of power is people fearing him. To feel any satisfaction he has to have people fear him, and he had to be the one with control over them. I think Schindler decided to talk about a pardon with Goeth because he thought maybe in some way he could get in his head and prevent a lot of death at Goeth’s hand. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

I could never say for sure what I would’ve done if I were put in the situation that so many Jews were put in, but I would like to think that I would be an upstander. Although this is true, I can understand why so many people took on roles that would get them on the “good line.” They were scared and worried about their lives and their family's lives, and they thought that by getting on the Nazi’s good side they wouldn’t end up dead. In a way maybe the Jews who worked for the Nazis thought that they were being up-standers for themselves and their families because they did what they did to try to keep them safe. I don’t think I could work for the Nazis, especially not if I had any hand in choosing who would die or turning other Jews in. Sending someone to their death is definitely where I would draw the line. If I could I would try to save as many people as I could because that would be the right thing to do. I wouldn’t be able to stand watching children or old people being killed without any mercy.

In the beginning, Schindler was just interested in making money, and that is evident in the fact that he only wanted Jewish workers because he didn’t have to pay them. As he grew closer to Stern that’s when he started to see how bad things were for Jews and what monsters the Nazis were. Stern had a very important role in making Schindler an upstander because he was his friend, and Schindler had to see him suffering. Also seeing the children, mothers, fathers, etc., being taken and killed affected him, and because of these reasons, he decided to help. At first, it was little things that he did that were really big things that made him a hero in the eyes of the Jews. He provided a title for them by making them essential workers in the ghetto. Also when I saw the switch in him was when people were being put on the trains, and it was really hot because he had them hosed down to give them water. Because of him, they had a small sense of relief because they were so thirsty. From there he continued to help the Jews in any way he could. That’s what made him a hero because he put aside his livelihood and his safety to save so many others who were practically strangers to him. At the end of the movie when he is regretful because he could have saved more shows just how much of an upstander and good person he was. He wasn’t proud of himself for what he did, but he was sad because he didn’t do more. That shows how much of a hero he was.

There is such great value in hearing Holocaust survivors, like Rena’s, firsthand accounts because it allows you to understand the experiences that so many people went through on a much deeper level. Sometimes when learning about the stories of the Holocaust people understand it as something horrible that happened in the past, but they don’t see it as something that is still very impactful. Hearing the stories of survivors allows you to see what happened more humanly, instead of something written in textbooks. You can see the emotion that people have when they tell their stories, and it is clear that this is something that still affects survivors and their families.

Actually “visiting” Auschwitz-Birkenau is so important because it makes it easier to picture what happened there. Seeing all the places where different things occurred in the camp allows you to picture everything more clearly which allows you to understand the severity of what happened there so much more clearly. It’s most important to preserve the barracks and the only gas chamber that’s still left because those were the most significant places. They serve as a good reminder of what happened, and seeing those things drives us to never get to a place as violent and horrible as the Holocaust was.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

Reactions to Our Field Trip and Schindler's Actions

Today’s field trip was truly eye opening and moving. The film, Mrs. Finder’s remarks, and the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau were really impactful to me and educated me on many aspects of the Holocaust, truly revealing the atrocities that took place. The detailed first hand accounts as well as pictures illustrating the events that took place displayed the horrid treatment and unthinkable occurrences that took place during this time. These individuals endured atrocious situations and were forced into dangerous situations frequently. It was simply unforgettable to witness the experiences of these people and the strenuous position they were placed in by the Germans.

Hearing from Rena, a Holocaust survivior who defied all odds in persevering through the immense cruelty inflicted upon her, was majorly valuable. Her account really showed me the extent to which the event was terrifying. Hearing her discuss her experiences was really impactful because she was overcoming the hurt and trauma she suffered through at such a young age in order to share her story. It is inspiring to see such a brave individual willing to relive her hardships in attempts to educate the younger generations on the atrocities that took place. We often hear statistics, thousands died, little survived, but it isn't often that we hear the story behind it. Rena transported her audience back in time to when she was just a young girl undergoing the Holocaust. Her personal anecdotes and remarks helped me more deeply understand what these individuals went through on a personal level. The gut wrenching fear and heartbreak families experienced as they were forced out of their homes and sent to camps and the hopelessness as death numbers continued to rise. Mrs. Finder allowed for a first hand perspective of the Holocaust and a deeper dive into the emotions the Jews felt during this time. Hearing her reflections as she contemplated her prior experiences allowed us to learn more about how she interprets it years later. This is truly eye opening and her stories as a survivor inspire others to fight to surpass any struggles you may face.

Within the film Schindler's List, Amon Goeth is told by Schindler about the capability to pardon people. He says this in an attempt to hinder Goeth from continuing his ruthless killing of innocent individuals and try to forgive. Amon Goeth uses the incitement of fear to gain power and control over those around him. He exploits his capability to end others lives in order to maintain power over those he deemed inferior. On the other hand, Schindler argues that true power is maintaining self control and not participating in what others are manipulating in order to gain superiority.

Schindler grew inspired to create an enamelware business in order to gain profit and become successful. At first he appeared unsympathetic towards the treatment of the Jews at the time, claiming that death is bound to happen and it was unavoidable. As Schindler began to witness first hand the atrocities these people were facing frequently from German officers, his indifference began to fade as he realized how horrible this event truly was. As he worked closely with many Jewish individuals including Itzhak Stern who were crucial to the success of his business, his character and views progressed greatly. Schindler grew determined to assist these people as much as he was able to, and protected them through his company. This illustrated his shift from a bystander to an upstander, actively attempting to preserve the lives of his workers. At the end of the movie, we saw him breakdown because he was regretful that he didn't do more to save more individuals when he had the opportunity to. Instead of basking in his successful rescue of hundreds of Jews, he revealed his genuine desire to help.

The virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau greatly heightened my understanding of the conditions and occurrences in the camp. Visually witnessing the details of each building and room where years ago the Jews occupied was largely memorable and very moving. Visiting such a location provides more of a first hand perspective of what took place and allows you to imagine it during the Holocaust. Viewing the pictures on the walls and signs in the washrooms brought to life the environment at Auschwitz-Birkenau and what it was like back then.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Before going in, I knew the tone of the field trip was going to be somber and serious. I knew what we would be seeing and learning would be horrifying, deeply disturbing, and emotionally distressing. The film would make me an emotional wreck, and alas, it did. I’m sure if we watched it in person, everybody would be sobbing in the theater during the credits.

At first, I thought watching a movie for three hours straight is going to be difficult, and indeed, I did find myself looking at the time periodically. However, I think Spielberg made the right choice making a film this long. It was an interesting decision to keep the footage in black and white, and even though I think a full color film would be very impactful, I definitely can still see why it’s not filmed as such. It emphasizes how bleak and lifeless the Holocaust was, and how it wished to destroy all sense of humanity. That’s why, I suppose, that the little girl’s red jacket made such an impact, perhaps not just for the audience, but for Schindler as well.

It was really difficult watching the film. I knew I could look away and mute the audio at any time, but I know these are real events that real people faced. I realize it’s a privilege to have the choice to close my eyes at something so horrifying, and so despite the difficulties, I did my best to watch through the whole thing. However, I understand not everybody can do so for a multitude of reasons. It’s valid to look away for your own health and safety.

Even though at first it does seem like Goeth listened to Schindler’s advice, he ultimately reverted back to what he and other people were expected to do. Schindler believes power is the ability to give people death or life. Giving death is the expected outcome, however, giving life subverts the expectations. It subverts the status quo. It means you have the ability to defy what you are supposed to do, in this case killing the Jews. Goeth’s view of power is our traditional view of power, that is, power is when somebody has absolute control over something and can do whatever they wish with zero consequences, no matter how serious the act is. Depriving someone of their life and humanity is what we often think is the most serious act a human can commit. When the victim is completely powerless, when they are at the whims of the powerful, that is power.

Hearing someone’s first hand account is powerful because it reminds us that this really happened to someone. It is direct proof that something happened because otherwise, why would someone have such long and detailed memories about it? I agree with @iluvcows that statistics don’t really tell us the true story. It doesn’t reveal how each of them had their own story and had their own life. Think about yourself. Do statistics sum up your entire life? Do they accurately capture everything that has happened to you, all your loved ones, and who you are as a person? Instead of running the risk of dehumanizing events as just sad facts or lumping all human beings into one category, by directly listening to a human being, it humanizes them. I am so impressed and grateful that Rena is still able to have such an extensive memory, I can really tell that it’s her passion to educate folks and help them understand what really happened.

I think the impact would be even greater to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, but fortunately, we were still given a fantastic tour by a fantastic guide. The place reminds me that something did happen there. No matter how distant it may be, it reminds us that people walked through the place, lived through the place, and that people died in it. It’s somber to know that I (theoretically) am stepping on the floor where somebody who lost a life. It makes me realize that camps like Auschwitz aren't just some bygone facility, it exists. It’s tragic that so many documents and personal belongings, objects which leave a remainder of the person’s humanity, are forever gone. But, by leaving the buildings intact, they become an unintentional memorial.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Is Schindler's Character a Hero?

Thank you Ms. Freeman. The first reaction I have to everything we went over today is incredible gratitude; this experience was invaluable and I don’t know when or where else I’d be able to get it. It also made me want to follow up this experience and kind of “complete” it by going to Auschwitz and so on next year, which I am so so hoping happens.

Moving on, I want to discuss Schlinder’s character a bit. By the end of the movie there wasn’t any doubt that he had done a great, honorable thing worthy of praise and so on. He was, however, a very different person at the beginning of the movie. Going into this viewing, I of course knew the basics of what Schindler did thanks to our prep work, so I was actually a bit frustrated and conflicted for the first half. Schindler seemed like a self-serving jerk (to put it politely), not to mention, ya know, a literalnazi. I was confused: how was he heroic, exactly? He seemed mildly better than some other nazis, but certainly not someone worth celebrating. At times he had a little bit of sympathy for his Jewish workers, but it was limited (at first). When he began to try saving them at first, it appeared to be out of a special fondness for specifically his workers, and not human decency and alarm at the horror of the Holocaust. As the film progresses, of course, this changes somewhat, and he succeeds in rescuing his workers and their families while showing more concern, taking the noble and upstanding course of action. I still have some trouble maintaining the heroic, celebratory image of the movie I’d been expecting going into it, however—even when he was moving the workers, Schindler was reluctant to use his privilege and power to assist others. Just consider when a woman (I don’t recall her name) came to his office to ask him to move her parents out of the camp: he threatened to have her arrested! Again, he did end up moving her parents, but even so he was callous and hesitant to do the right thing in a way that made me uneasy about celebrating him wholesale.

This ultimately raises the difficult question: what to do with the people of both good and bad? How to acknowledge and judge them? The Jews he saved clearly did not have reservations about honoring Schindler as a hero, so why should I? Maybe I am being too judgmental and unrealistic. At any rate, I maintain my question. I used to think the answer was that we shouldn’t make an effort at all to judge historical figures, since doing so accurately is nearly impossible: we can’t know everything about them and the consequences of their actions. But this is impractical. We have to judge them, because their ideas and actions still resonate today, and we have to take a stance on those one way or another. Plus, there are plenty of modern figures like politicians who we have to judge with our actions as well. Though these figures are not yet historical, the judgement is the same; we have to make a call on whether they are worth supporting or not, an extremely difficult choice when oftentimes it means endorsing someone who will do both good and bad things. The same for the products we consume, the words we say, the things we post, and so on and so forth. Basically, we can’t exist as humans without making judgement calls every day on things that are very hard to judge, and have consequences for getting wrong. And yet, I have no clear answers on how to judge the mixed bags. How frustrating!

Thinking about Rena Finder’s testimony, I was probably more moved by that than anything else today. It was one thing to watch Schindler’s list and see the brutality and inhumane conditions endured by those in the concentration camps; it was entirely another to hear Ms. Finder recount it as a personal story. When she described seeing her own friend be shot, arbitrarily, by Goeth, I was deeply shocked and disturbed. It brought the experience even closer to home, as I think sometimes when we see fictionalized portrayals of real events, there is a layer of skepticism in our intake of what is presented: is this all really what happened? Are they just embellishing for cinematic effect? How accurate is this? So hearing Ms. Finder testify to Goeth’s evil was definitely striking, and the greatest reminder yet that people so full of evil really can exist… I am now very motivated to start learning about what brought Germany to this point. How were the nazis able to indoctrinate themselves and others so effectively that they lost their ability to empathize? And, I have had this burning question for a while now: what happened after nazi Germany was overthrown?Tens of millions of people had been brainwashed with racist, hateful ideologies that penetrated deep into their worldviews. How was German society able to function? Was there any process that took place to “un-brainwash” them?

Many questions here—I am really looking forward to learning more about the Holocaust, its leadup, and its aftermath in class. I agree with @iluvcows that the Auschwitz tour did a good job bringing the camp and its realities to life. The digital aspects were very well-put together and informative. Just as hearing someone speak about their experience in the Holocaust brought it from film/history to reality, so too did this tour which brought the buildings and the systematized murder and cruelty into full view.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Reactions to our Field Trip

This entire field trip was an amazing and incredibly moving experience and I am beyond grateful that I was able to have this experience. I had never seen Schindler’s list or heard from a Holocaust survivor before and it was very eye opening.

I think listening to Holocaust survivors is so so important and I am so glad we were able to have this opportunity to hear Rena Finder speak. It can be so easy to distance ourselves from these atrocities when learning about them, and hearing from someone who actually lived through these experiences really reinforced that these were real events that happened to real people. It is important to hear from real people who lived through these events because everyone had different experiences and stories about their lives that are different from what you might read in a book or see in a movie. You can see or read anything in a book or movie, but hearing from Rena made her stories more real and personal. It was incredible to hear her describe how normal her childhood was, and how she went from being a happy child during the summer to losing everything she knew. She was affected by these events at such a young age and they completely changed her life. It was especially interesting to hear about her experiences with Oskar Schindler after we had just seen the movie. I thought it was amazing that she described how Schindler would always come in with a smile and ask people how they were doing, and that he would leave cigarettes for the men working.

I think what Oskar Schindler did was incredible. Although there may be controversy around his actions throughout his life, and I certainly was skeptical about his actions during the first part of the movie, he chose to help people instead of essentially letting them be killed. At first Schindler is only interested in making money, and to make the most money he decides to hire Jewish people as he wouldn't have to pay them. But throughout the movie you can see how he grows to like those who work for him. He shifted from being a bystander to an upstander when he began to like his workers and saw them as real people, and then went out of his way to hire more people. I think one of the things that makes it so easy for people like Amon Goeth to do what they did is that they don't see those they are harming as real people. They can commit horrific acts because they distance themselves from these people and aren't able to see them as anything but inferior to themselves. It was obvious from the film that Schindler and Goeth had very different views on power, and throughout the film Schindler also realizes how Amon Goeth treats people is wrong. I agree with @user1234 that Goeth’s idea of power was that he wanted control over others, but Schindler’s idea of power was more being able to control himself in order to maintain power over others. Goeth wanted everyone to fear him, which caused him to murder innocent people for no reason just because he could. On the other hand, Schindler was charming and used that to gain the general’s trust, and his power was recognizing the effect he had on others and using that to benefit himself. He was able to convince people that the reason he wanted to save his workers was only to make money. I found the end of the film very moving as Schindler was upset that he was not able to save more people, but I think the story of what he did is so important because it shows how important saving even 1 life is.

Although I am sad we were not able to experience it in person, the tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau was also very moving. Like hearing from Holocaust survivors, I think it is extemely important to be able to “visit” these kinds of places in any way you can because it allows you to visualise the atrocities that took place. Being able to see the buildings the people lived in allowed me to see what the conditions were actually like and imagine how people lived there. It is essential to preserve these places because as time goes on these events will most likely not be taught as much. We saw with the Armenian genocide how few memorials and recognition the Armenains get, and this allows people to ignore the atrocities that took place and pretend they never happened. If we do not preserve sights like Auschwitz-Birkenau, the number of people who deny the Holocaust or any other genocide will simply grow if they have no real places that show what happened.

brighton, ma, US
Posts: 21

Stories teach more about the event than an account of numbers.

Overall this experience was truly eye opening and something I will never forget. I was incredibly moved by Rena’s ability to recount her horrific experiences with ease. I cannot imagine retelling a horror story for years on end. I always wonder if it gets easier or harder to share these memories with age, on one hand, it may be easier due to repetition, yet I feel like as your view changes on life, and memory starts to become wary, some of the most vivid memories may be these scenes. She has an unwavering strength as she so eloquently tells her story so casually. As she spoke, she continued to touch on several topics at a time with ease accounting for horrible memories yet continued to connect it to good memories as well. I was really moved by her story working with her friend and in a split second noticing she was dead. These stories that are untold by history books are the ones in my opinion teach us about the time period more than an account of numbers. I also found her story of going to the nurse’s intriguing that that was the one memory said that she would never forget. It really goes to show how optimistic she was able to be during these times. It may also be a way of coping with these memories, by blocking those that are horrid, she is able to vividly remember these more enjoyable memories. It was important to hear oral live stories for survivors to see their ow headspace, by sharing their stories, it only enforces our own understanding of the holocaust and it’s efffects on its victims.

Like @iluvcows has also said, I think Amon Goeth uses fear in order to gain power over the people around him. With this power, he feels in control in a time where many fear. This exploitation of power leads him to dictate who and who will not live. However, Schindler practices mindfulness and inner peace which is shown through his self control. This allows him to feed into a superiority complex like Goeth and use it to manipulate others for power.

In order to address the questions of what lines cannot be crossed, the situation needs to be evaluated. When one is put in a life or death situation, I think that everyone’s survival instincts will kick in, and therefore moral and ethical beliefs deplete when humanity depletes. I hope that if I was put in a similar position, I would use my actions in order to help the people around me. Depending on the person's background and character, a person will go through certain lengths. Growing up as an only child, I’ve been taught to become incredibly independent, however due to my character, I have a tendency to put others' needs before my own. Of course due to the circumstances, my character may change, however if it does not I think I would do what was in my power to help the people around me, especially younger kids who have a better chance at surviving. However if my character does change, I have to draw the line at hurting the people that I hold closest to me.

Schindler, with his inherited power, had never stepped foot and experienced the lives of countless jews that were targeted. Therefore his lack of knowledge led him to live in bliss. Yet when he opened up the factory and started to interact with the victims, he was able to see the humanity they hold. Morally, I do not think he was conflicted, it was just the lack of knowledge and the immense amount of propaganda that lead him to side first with the Germans. However, I think he was still drunk with the power he had for a while after. He gained superiority over the victims in both circumstances and continued to use his resources to give them manual labor, of course this could be seen as a cover up story as he was still friendly with other Germans not willing to take sides. The world will never know exactly his thought process of deciding to continue using them for manual labor and keeping ties with Germans. I believe that he was heroic as he continued to save as many victims as he did once he was presented with the right information, however, the extent of how much praise he obtains should be evaluated.

Of course the virtual tour cannot replace standing on the horrid grounds, I found it a worthwhile experience. Visiting these sites has allowed me to internalize the struggles that so many have gone through as well as see the history in real time. We can only learn so much through textbooks, an interactive and visual experience allows students to understand the material better. I think it is hard for anyone to deny the severity of World War II, however, stepping foot on the land reaches another level of understanding. We make sense of numbers by comparing them to everyday or familiar occurrences in a classroom in order for our mind to understand, but visiting these places where so many horrible things happen, it helps the heart understand.

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 21

Schinlder was not initially an upstander, but his actions were heroic nonetheless

Spielberg’s movie Schindler's List shows a unique story of the Holocaust by showing the actions of Oskar Schindler who is portrayed as the hero. But it does seem that he was just a bystander before he became somewhat partners with Itzhak Stern, who changed Schindlers’ perspective on the entire situation.

Schindler changed from a perpetrator within the Nazi party to an upstander because of the heroic actions of Itzhak Stern. At first, Oskar Schinlder was trying to get rich off of slave labor, but Stern pushed back and forced Oskar to reconsider his moral stance. This most blatantly comes after Stern hires the elderly man with one arm, and Schindler calls him out for it and becomes extremely skeptical of Stern’s story that the man is extremely “skilled.” But after the Nazis kill this man, Schindler comes face to face with the realization that he is on the wrong side of history and that he is in a position of power to save lives. When he goes seeking compensation for the death of his worker, he calls the elderly man “skilled,” and from this point on, he starts referring to all of his workers as “skilled,” as skilled workers were essential to the war effort and would therefore be safe.

Goeth views power as the ability to take another person's life, while Schindler views power as being in a situation where one action is justifiable and expected, but instead you do what you believe is right. When he tells Goeth about being able to “pardon” people, he is trying to tell Goeth that just because the Nazi party says to kill, it doesn’t mean he has to. But Schindler knows that Goeth would take that as Schindler being a traitor, and so instead he tells Goeth that sparing a life can be even more powerful than taking one, as Goeth seems to be power hungry. When Goeth begins to pardon a few of the prisoners, it seems he takes joy in feeling that the prisoner is only alive because of him, but then sadly this does not last long as he soon goes back to killing.

Many of the actions that people in the film took, whether to save their own lives to avoid risk, are inexcusable, and yet they were doing it for their own self preservation, at least some of them were. This is something that I think most people will agree with, but I can not say how I would act if I were in any of their situations as I myself cannot really fully comprehend the atrocities of what occurred. Even so, I would have to draw the line at taking an innocent life in order to save my own.

Even with living Holocaust survivors, there are far too many people who still believe that the Holocaust never really happened. When we were studying the Armenian genocide, we saw how a government could attempt to cover up and deny that any genocide really happened, and their main steps were removing any witnesses or documentation that the crime actually occurred. While no government would deny the Holocaust never occurred, without a living person to provide the evidence or speak about their own experience, it becomes easier to overlook it. Hearing the experience of a living Holocaust survivor reminds you that the events did not take place all that long ago. We have also become almost desensitized to historical events when the only evidence is through film or writing, as it becomes harder to view those affected as individuals and to put ourselves in their shoes and attempt to understand what they experienced. I gained a whole new perspective on the events of the Holocaust after listening to Rena speak about her experience.

Visiting a place such as Auschwitz-Birkenau causes you to feel a connection to the history that doesn’t occur when you're learning about it. Being able to connect a historical event to a physical location forces you to think about what it must have felt like for a prison within the camp. History is often taught in a dehumanizing way, as it often overlooks the individual experience of a witness to the event and instead focuses on the historical event in its entirety. It is important to preserve places like Auschwitz as it also provides physical proof for those who may deny the event ever occurred, but this also poses challenges as it raises the question of how it should be preserved. We learned that after the war, most of the buildings within Auschwitz were destroyed and then used to rebuild surrounding towns, and so the current preservation has many destroyed buildings. Are the ruins that are not specifically connected to the Holocaust import aspects of Auschwitz, or should some of the buildings be rebuilt in order to show Auschwitz as it was, which would allow visitors to take in the scale of the entire place. Personally, I believe that buildings should not be rebuilt, as even though they were destroyed to hide the evidence, the remains still show a story of their own.

Posts: 17

The Stories will Never Die

I am so grateful that we still were able to experience this powerful and necessary field trip despite being on a virtual platform. A large part of me however, really wished I could have been going through this emotional day with my other classmates and teachers. We were all facing a wide variety of intense emotions, and I can see how valuable it would have been to be feeding off of everyone else’s energy. That being said, I did cry almost the entire time, so it was a little nice to hide behind my camera.

I could not help but think of the stories one of my grandmothers has told me about her parents fleeing their homes and losing their families during the Holocaust, and those my other grandmother has told me about her mother’s experience as a hidden child. I wondered how similar their version of this horror was, and let myself imagine what my grandmother’s life would have been like if both of her parents’ families were one of the lucky ones saved by Oskar Schindler.

If I am being completely honest, the first time I heard the name, Oskar Schindler, in relation to WWII and the Nazi party, no part of me ever suspected that he would end up being an incredible hero and upstander. Reading and learning about him, and then watching Schindler’s List, surprised me and honestly brought back a little bit of faith in humanity. I felt like the film did a spectacular job of showing the kind of mental battle Schindler was forced to endure while he began to realize the harm the actions he was supporting were doing. At first, he did not seem like he was really trying to benefit or “go easy on” the Jewish people in his factory, but over time, he saw more and more that he could be a person to help. And that is what he did. He saved 1200 lives that otherwise would have been a part of the six million killed. There is no denying that he was a hero. The last scene brought me to tears as Schindler agonized over having been too selfish in his past, and how he could have saved more people. There is no stronger evidence to show how much of an upstander he really was.

The different faces Schindler had to put up when he was with other Nazi officials were really fascinating. It seemed like most people knew what his intentions were, but were willing to let it go for a price. The most striking contrasting relationship was between Schindler and Goeth, especially on their views of power outlined in one scene. Goeth claimed that power was having the ability to kill whenever and whoever you wanted, while Schindler thought that having true justification to cause harm, but not committing it, was really the representation of power. This exposed a fundamental difference in these perspectives and how drastically othering had one the Nazis views of human morals. Killing meant nothing to them if it was a Jewish person. This was not necessarily a belief conceived by Goeth himself, but what was embedded into him by society. That is the true danger of othering.

I absolutely cannot express how amazed and grateful I am to have gotten the opportunity to talk with Rena. I really admired her bravery for continuing to tell her story 76 years later, even if it meant reliving the hardest times in her life. Anyone can learn about the horrors of the Holocaust through videos and photos, and even movies like the one we just watched, but it is an immensely different and valuable experience to hear first hand stories of what a real person went through. Having a physical person remember this time and be able to tell us stories that match up exactly to what we have learned and seen, including on the virtual tour of Auschwitz we went on, puts these events on a whole new perspective.

There is no avoiding the reality that in a few years, there will no longer be any Holocaust survivors left to pass on this experience we were able get. That is why these movies and stories are so important to continue to tell and continue to amplify. Places like the Auschwitz museum are necessary to maintain this history as well. Looking through the grounds and individual buildings is incredibly sobering, and you cannot deny the events that took place there.

It is blatantly wrong to claim that this history and mindset is so far in the past. Once again we can see a rise of anti-semitism in our country, and that is terrifying. I don’t ever really like to put any sort of cliches in my writing, but this ending is really begging for one. History will only repeat itself if we do not educate ourselves and everyone around us. We need to keep telling these stories. We cannot let the voices die.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Remembering the Holocaust

I thought Schindler’s List was a very powerful and moving film. It spotlights an upstander during the Holocaust and shows us that there is always something one can do. However, most individuals were bystanders because they were afraid of what the Nazi would do to them and their family. For that reason, they chose to do nothing and remain in the Nazi’s favor. I would want to be an upstander instead of a bystander but if I put myself in the position of a bystander and wanted to save my own life, I could never physically harm or kill someone. They are someone who has a family and friends and did nothing wrong. I would not be able to live with myself if I took another person’s life for the sake of my own life.

When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth, I could clearly see their opposing views on power. Like @user1234, I believe that Goeth perceives power as the ability to control others, specifically through fear. He thinks that the Nazi’s control over everything and their ability to kill others arbitrarily give them power. However, Schindler sees power as the ability to pardon people, or chose not to kill them even though there is reason to do so. In other words, Schindler’s view of power is self-control. Their conflicting views on power are reflected by their actions throughout the movie. Schindler chose to help the Jewish people as an upstanders but Goeth decided to continue ruthlessly killing Jews, even though Schindler attempted to sway him away from his senseless killing.

At the start, Schindler only insisted on having Jewish workers to make more money and become rich. However, when he witnessed the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto with another woman, he realized the true extent of the brutality and inhumanity of the Nazis, particularly when he saw the little girl in the red coat who represented the innocence of the Jews. He saw houses being raided, families being ripped apart, and people being mercilessly murdered. I think that he started to become an upstander when he decided to bring the woman’s parents to his factory in order to save them from their terrible fate in another concentration camp. I believe that he was heroic in the sense that he saved many Jewish lives at the risk of his own life. Moreover, Schindler expressed deep regret for not saving more lives in Holocaust as he departs before the liberation of his workers.

I feel so grateful for being able to hear Rena speak. It is unfortunate that many future facing students will not have this opportunity to talk to a Holocaust survivor. Our conversation with Rena was extremely valuable because you can see that the Holocaust affected many individuals, a small number of whom are still living now. By hearing memories directly from a Holocaust survivor, I have a better understanding of the horrors that she and many others faced and I got a unique perspective that textbooks and videos do not offer. I saw how she felt and heard her thoughts in the moment. This experience gives us a greater connection to those who were impacted by the Holocaust. Throughout the call with Rena, I found myself with a face of complete shock and horror. Even though I knew to an extent what Jews experienced in the ghetto and camps, I could not believe that I was hearing those experiences of a person who was in front of me virtually. Survivors like Rena are able to tell you specific moments of the Holocaust that cannot be fully captured through written word or film footage. For example, we heard Rena talk about her personal experiences with anti-Semitism, like when a girl threw a ball at her and called her “a lousy, dirty Jew.” She also recalled how her hair was cut off at Auschwitz and expressed how naked and dead she felt without it because it was something that she could comb and make herself look beautiful with. Memories and emotions like these are lost in video footage and written work.

Even though we were not able to tour Auschwitz in-person, it was an important and priceless experience. This tour definitely deepened my knowledge of the history of the Holocaust. I could more clearly see the true conditions of the concentration camps, like the crampedness of the barracks and the lack of bathrooms and heating in living spaces. I also learned more about the gas chambers and crematoriums in the camps. It is crucial that the Auschwitz-Birkenau is preserved to fully capture the living conditions of Holocaust victims and survivors. I think that it is important to preserve the barracks because they show us the circumstances under which the prisoners live. In addition, the gas chambers and crematoriums should be preserved because they emphasize the large scale of the killings in the camps. To echo @squirrelluver123, the preservation of places like Auschwitz-Birkenau allows for evidence of genocide and atrocities that targeted populations experienced to remain and enables us to recognize these crimes against humanity so that genocides and its victims are not forgotten.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Schindler's List

The remarks from Mrs. Finder, the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the movie itself helps one realize the gravity of the holocaust. Growing up, a overwhelming amount of us have already learned about the holocaust. We know the tragedy well, but what happened is not always easy to visualize and understand. The millions killed seemed larger and more realistic after hearing the stories from Mrs. Finder and movie reenactments of the horrendous actions that took place. I appreciate Mrs. Finder and her strength to continue to tell her story. The things she went through were surely traumatic and it is commendable that she or anybody can retell such horrific events.

When Schindler talks about pardoning people he means saving them. He knows that everyone who is sent to one of the camps have a dramatic chance of death. He is trying to convince Amon Goeth that all those people are necessary for his business in order to save their lives. In my opinion Schindler first believes power is getting anything he wants, when he wants. He first see's the jewish people as cheap labor, only used to fill his wear house and make him more money. As he is humanized by the events he faces, he beings to use his previous power to save lives. Once exploiting jewish people for profit in support of the Nazi's, he uses this preconceived notion to help. Under the guise of wanting to make more money and benefit to the Nazi's, he uses his previous exploitation to save more lives. This changes his view on power to an ability to change others and save them from a ultimate evil. Goeth’s view of power is simple. Goeth’s view is the ability to control the destiny of other's lives. He kills when he wants and does what he wants. This is seen when a worker makes fewer lockets than before and he drags the worker out to kill him. When both guns don't fire, he feels slighted and beats the man with the gun. He storms off and is angry he is unable to enact his power.

The value of visiting such a place as Auschwitz-Birkenau is to respect the victims and to witness history. There was so much tragedy that happened in this place that it has to be respected. There is a lot of history there and it is a source of pain for many. There is definitely something to “the power of place”. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the cause of millions of deaths and millions of painful stories. What happened in Auschwitz-Birkenau scared many people and that holds something over the victim. The power of Auschwitz-Birkenau is anger, fear, pain, despair and much more. Visiting such a place enables us to see the place where the vile acts took place. We're able to see much of the place where history still lies. This allows us to connect to such events and gives us a link to the past. To preserve a place like this we must respect it. We must be careful about how we treat the place when one visits. We need to restore anything that is essential to the upkeep of the place as well as keep it in pictures.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Hearing Rena’s first hand experience with the Nazi party during her childhood really put things in perspective for me. We speak about these atrocious events in history as if they were centuries ago, but really, there are people who survived and are still alive to act as a primary source for what truly happened during this period of time. I was also blown away by how freely Rena spoke about her experiences with the War. She was able to describe how the war affected her childhood and she had no hesitation speaking on the struggles and traumatizing events that took place. I know that if I were Rena, I would most likely not want to speak about what happened, I would try to move on and never relive any of those moments ever again. I believe it was Lilah who said that some of her family members are Holocaust survivors and that none of them will speak on their experience with the war and the Nazis. I completely understand where those family members are coming from. I am not sure how anyone could ever be able to speak on these topics so freely with the history they have with it. This is why I commend Rena, and why I admire her bravery.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Watching the film and listening to Rena and Wojciech speak today was truly an unforgettable experience. They have lived and inherited trauma that not even the most accurate cinematic portrayal could allow us to fully comprehend, and it means a lot that they would take the time to share this with us. I might not recall the exact words they spoke or lines from the movie, but I’ll always remember the day’s emotional journey, although I’m sure it was only a shadow of what we would’ve felt had we set foot on the same paths where so many walked to their deaths. Fingers crossed for 2022, but despite the virtual setting, this was still one of the best, most impactful field trips I’ve experienced.

Schindler and Goeth present two diametrically opposed definitions of power. While Goeth sees power as the control he can exert over others by inciting fear and terror, Schindler views it in a different, more internal context. He sees power in the strength of character required to pardon someone who has committed a wrong. Perhaps not the best metaphor to apply to the Holocaust, as the Jews were innocent, but it exemplifies the dichotomy between the two men’s philosophy, and between humanity and something much, much darker.

I believe it was Wojciech who mentioned this during the presentation, but the Nazi camp officers viewed themselves as mere workers in an assembly line, each completing their own individual, seemingly insignificant task. Only no single step is innocent, no matter how long the process, when the final product is the massacre of thousands. They were all manufacturers of death, whether or not they were the ones pulling the trigger or releasing the gas. They all knew what they were doing was amoral and atrocious. They were so aware of this that they attempted to erase evidence of the killing by bombing the crematoriums before Ally troops invaded the camps. I don’t know where exactly I would draw the line, but it would be far beyond the walls of Auschwitz, and far outside the borders of Poland. When people are in desperate situations, it is inevitable that they might take morally questionable actions. This was the case with the Judenrat, after all, what else were they supposed to do? However, the actions of German officers (and many regular Polish Catholic citizens, as I’ve come to learn) were fueled by unprovoked hatred and consent from authority figures. I’ll never understand how they could tolerate this senseless killing, much less derive enjoyment from it.

Since this change happened so gradually throughout the film, it’s difficult to tell what exactly made Schindler risk his own safety for hundreds of people he barely knew. Although, maybe he did know them, or at least he knew their pain. From Rena’s testimony, it sounds like Schindler made an effort to get to know his employees (slaves? It didn’t sound like he was paying them), even leaving the men cigarettes, a luxury in those times. Over the years he recognized their humanity, and realized it would be worth all the deceit and fortunes spent to save them. As someone with wealth and connections, he was in a rare position where he could conduct such a large scale rescue operation, and he didn’t squander this opportunity. It is amazing that one man’s bravery is the reason that over 6000 descendants of those survivors are now alive today. There were moments throughout the film where I questioned his actions, like when he suddenly kissed that Jewish woman who wished him happy birthday right on the mouth (what was that for??), but there is no doubt that he was an upstander. One of the most heart rending scenes of the film was at the end, when Schindler breaks down from guilt of not saving enough people, and the Jews all gather around to comfort him. It is hard to believe that this is the same man who, guided by greed and proudly wearing his swastika pin, conspired to take advantage of the Jews’ oppression at the start of the film to make some profit. If only more people with power and influence had undergone the same changes as Schindler.

I am so grateful to Rena for speaking to us, and it is incredible that she has dedicated her life to educating others. I’ll never forget her bravery for reliving her traumas so vividly so that we might gain a better understanding. I am still trying to process how she could endure all that she has and still come out seeming so whole and lively and full of hope. As she spoke of her own family members, how so many slipped away from her forever, I couldn’t help thinking of my own family. She told one story of how as a child she dropped her little cousin Jenny, I think, off at a children’s home, not realizing this was where she would meet her death. I think when you hear a story like that, it is impossible not to feel some kind of connection, or envision your own family in such a horrible situation. It will never match the pain of what those who actually lived this must have felt, but it certainly stirs empathy, which is much needed today. I’m sure Rena’s story would have been even more moving in person. I know there is an ongoing project meant to immortalize the stories of Holocaust survivors through holograms, and I hope this is made available to people all over the world someday soon. It won’t be the same as looking a survivor in the eyes, sharing a physical space and moment in time with them while they share their story, but it will still have meaning. And I do think films like Schindler’s List have a very profound impact. They take you back to the very time and place that this genocide happened, and are brutally honest in their graphic depiction of it.

Some of the most jarring and emotionally evocative images were those that lacked any human presence at all. The towering mounds of shoes and heaps of clothing strewn across the station platforms are just a couple examples. The sheer volume of these items and the complete absence of human life convey the totality and the loss of what happened in those camps. What did they do with these last remnants of so many unnamed individuals? Do their families have anything to remember them by? Do they even have any relatives still living?

I think as much of these places as possible should be preserved in its original state. Seeing the barrenness and squalor of Auschwitz while I sat in the comfort of my own room really put into perspective just how unbearable it must have been to wake up there everyday, crammed into a wooden bunk with 3 other people. Just like watching a film, visiting a place can momentarily transport you back through history. I think it must be impossible to go somewhere so many innocent men, women, and children have suffered and died and not feel that it is haunted by memories. By visiting these places and immersing ourselves in these stories, we are reminded of what horrific things humans are capable of doing, but also what we are capable of enduring.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

The Depth of the Holocaust

Before I begin the post, I think that the biggest impression that the field trip left on me is the reminder that there is still a magnitude of people who are still affected by the Holocaust today. After watching Schindler’s List, listening to Mrs. Finder’s story, and observing Mr. Smolen’s virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I realized that there was a huge part missing from my understanding of the Holocaust beforehand. It was the emotional depth and intensity that wasn’t present in our textbooks.

To describe the impact of the movie, I would compare it to being stuck underwater with no way out. Seeing the Jewish individuals who constantly were at fault's end and were forced to make “choiceless choices” only to still meet death was what made it an unforgettable film. It showed how easily the lives of human beings could be easily taken away and how dangerous it was for even Oskar Schindler, a man of influence, to be making huge risks. Like many others, we expected the transparent depiction of the Holocaust in Spielberg’s film; however, it did not make the scenes easy to stomach. From the moment the Nazi soldier shot at the man with one arm, to seeing Goeth shoot down innocent Jewish people for the sake of fun, was absolutely infuriating and frustrating to watch. Like @Iurando mentioned, it is very easy to turn away (and it’s ok if it’s difficult to watch!), but knowing that actual people have gone through these atrocities incentivized me to keep my eyes on the screen.

When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth, I interpret his comment of being able to “pardon people” as a means to provide Goeth a new perspective of understanding power. Schindler offers the view that “power is when we have the justification to kill and we don’t”; power should not be synonymous with the incitement of fear or violence. Power should not have to be at the expense of the life of a human being. However, Goeth thrived on the idea of power which stemmed from having control over others’ fear, and he represents the power of the Third Reich. Goeth justifies his power through making deliberate choices with free reign and he has no one who stops him. The difference between their views is that Schindler implies that control is essential to power; without control, one is a slave to reckless decisions and as dire as Goeth’s choice of taking human lives on his personal accord. Even if you have the ability to do something, you don’t do it, and that is power.

In regards to where I would draw the moral and ethical lines, the one line that cannot be crossed in making a decision out of ill intent. However, this wouldn’t be the case. All the Jewish victims were placed into this situation and made decisions out of fear of their own safety or the safety of their families. When they found a way to keep living, they took it and I believe I would do the same. In all honesty, with the circumstances given in the Holocaust, there are only choiceless choices. Inevitably, the reality was that every Jewish person would be killed, no matter how much it was delayed and even for those who attempted to hide, they were either found or did not have the means to sustain themselves. The action I can’t take to save my own life is making a decision that would cost someone else’s life.

Schindler was looking for good business, as he reiterated throughout the entire film but his intentions eventually focused on saving Jewish people from the concentration camps at the end. He saw the potential profit he could make from establishing an enamelware factory and exploiting the cheapness of Jewish laborers, compared to their Polish or German counterparts. Although he hesitated, he eventually gathered enough ambition to save people despite the major risks. His initial denial in wanting to help was apparent when he attempted to justify Goeth’s actions by claiming that if it weren’t for war, the latter would be “all right”. This indifference of his would fade after continuing to see the atrocities surrounding him. The moment which was pivotal in the film was when he witnessed the girl in the red coat during the liquidation of the ghetto. The little girl’s red coat was the biggest contrast of the black-and-white film that we’ve seen throughout the film as it represented a slimmer of hope in the dark and grave event that was the Holocaust. He made the decision to begin acting against the higher power and forget fulfilling his self-interests. He conveyed these changes through small actions; one was where he used the hoses to provide water to the dehydrated Jewish people in the train while trying to appeal to the Nazi soldiers and Amon Goeth of his seeming intention to poke fun at them. Of course, he was not a perfect man but I would like to highlight something that a peer commented earlier in the meeting: he was an imperfect man yet he did something. The fact that Schindler had several mistresses and was very self-serving is in no way excusable behavior. But the other fact is that he was able to provide help despite the odds. He saved 1,100 people who would later become the 6,000+ descendants who are present today. The ring in which the people he saved said this: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”. It does not matter what kind of a person you are, it only matters at the moment if you do something when you see it happening.

Hearing Mrs. Finder’s experiences provided a very vivid image of what the Holocaust looked like because they were personal to her and her family. Hearing her memories and reflections make me realize how recent the Holocaust was and it’s valuable to me because it gives us more understanding of what we can do as the next generation to acknowledge what has happened. When she mentioned how she became an enemy of the state overnight, the thought occurred to me of how horrifying it is for life to be completely changed, especially at a young age and seeing her friends and family be shot in front of her own eyes. For her to say that one of the most terrifying experiences was to see the world grow silent at the horror that’s happening only made me think about the atrocities in our present that yet have to be acknowledged. The lack of living Holocaust survivors means that they will no longer be here with us to tell their story; however, it is upon us to internalize their stories so it is not forgotten. Having a human being share their experiences with us is different than seeing it through written word or film footage because we thrive off of human connection. To me, the human mind is not meant to bear the world’s miseries--only a small community’s--which is why we are more inclined to “relate” to those with whom we can find connections. I think for many of us, her childhood experience of having a rock thrown at her and being called a slur because of her race was an example of that human connection; that something like that still can happen today. One of the most impactful things to me was when she described how dehumanizing it was to have her hair shaved. I understand that some people might believe appearance to be insignificant in circumstances such as hers but it’s the thought of not being able to control what happens to your body and being treated like an object that incites fear within you and causes one to lose hope.

The value of “visiting” is the experience. The gravity of what happened in the Holocaust is something my peers and I are all very aware of but knowing the information is not the same as being in the place in which the events occurred. That visiting in itself holds power and realization. The power of place comes from stepping in history and understanding what the conditions of the places were like. I think one aspect that stuck out to me was the lack of bathrooms as the distance one would have to walk from the barracks to the bathrooms was long. If we consider the situation during the Holocaust, being in the presence of Nazi soldiers would make that journey feel threatening and dangerous. The constant policing and dehumanizing acts all took place in these camps, especially one as extensive as Auschwitz-Birkenau. My understanding of this history has deepened because having a visual of the camp and acknowledging that this is a camp that holds the stories of several people--human beings who had families, jobs, hopes, aspirations--is what makes this experience meaningful. To experience being there means to hold respect for those who died, and it also means we are all susceptible to the depth of emotions that were felt in the camp as @babypluto9 said. Preserving Auschwitz-Birkenau may be difficult due to erosion of buildings and structures collapsing but what is essential to preserve are any remnants that genocide occurred there. The remnants are to show that in that place, a crime against humanity happened and its victims will never be forgotten.

BOSTON, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Trying to Understand

In learning about atrocities like the Holocaust, I think that all one can do is try to understand and listen. The combination of watching Schindler’s List, listening to Mrs. Finder’s story, and getting a glimpse of Auschwitz though virtually were an incredible and impactful way to learn more about this genocide and begin to try and understand.

I found Schindler’s List to be a really thought provoking film that shows both the incredible horrors of the war while still displaying some hope and faith in humanity. In particular, the conversation between Goeth and Schindler was a very interesting part of the movie that is still relevant today. When Schindler speaks of being able to “pardon” people, I agree with @iluvcows that he was partly trying to stop Goeth from senselessly murdering more people. But I also think he was speaking truthfully about his own realizations of the meaning of power. I think that Schindler came to believe that power is when you are expected to or have reason to act in a certain way or make a certain decision, but you are able to choose your own path using your own judgement. Similar to what many others have said, it comes down to control over your own actions and accountability. For example, although clearly it would have been wrong for Schindler to be a bystander or perpetrator to the persecution of Jews, he could have taken this path to protect his own self interest as did the vast majority of people during the Holocaust. We have also seen that continually, too many people choose to be bystanders from David Cash to complicit countries during the Rwandan and Armenian genocides to the security guards in the recent hate crime against the Asian American woman going to church. In each of these cases, there is always some reason bystanderism was chosen, even if it was simply because of a selfish desire to protect oneself. However as Schindler articulates, power is when you can put aside this reason to act a certain way and choose your own path of being an upstander using your judgement, morals, and ethics. Unfortunately, this message does not get across to Goeth, who as @user1234 mentions, seems to only think power comes from the ability to destroy and be feared. Goeth does not feel Schindler’s version of power when he decides to “pardon” the boy scrubbing his tub, and returns to his desire to feel the power of having others fear him as he shoots the boy.

Another interesting aspect of the film was the way it made one consider what actions are and are not acceptable in trying to survive. Though clearly there was no “good choice” for Jews and other persecuted populations during the war, in efforts to survive, many people certainly did unacceptable things. However, as other people mentioned, it is also important to think about survival instinct and to what extent people were even able to think about their actions. Acknowledging that decision making would be vastly different when faced with all the events of the Holocaust, I think that the line that can not be crossed in trying to save your own life is doing something that harms another person or multiple people. For example, though good lines and bad lines would have separated within ghettos regardless, I do not think it was right for some Jews to take on this roll of deciding and carrying out deportations within ghettos. Some people might argue that because these things were going to be done regardless, it would not matter what actions were taken. However, I think that it is still important to uphold a standard of ethics even if it is not necessarily the smart or practical action to take.

I think that Schindler changed because he came to realize what was truly important in seeing the persecution of the Jews. Previously, Schindler seemed to be living a materialistic life chasing short term pleasures. However, upon seeing the Holocaust unfold before him, he slowly began to realize that it was more important for him to be an upstander and work to help the Jews. His turning point seemed to be as others have mentioned seeing so many Jews senselessly murdered in the evacuation of Kraków where he also sees the little girl in the red coat. It is at this point I think Schindler realizes the magnitude of the atrocities being committed right in front of him while he to this point had done nothing but try to profit off of the war. In all, though Schindler was in no way a perfect person, I do think his actions were heroic. It is unreasonable to expect him to have made every “correct” decision and we can always critique people’s actions, but he still had a tremendous positive impact and saved many lives.

After watching the film, talking to Mrs. Finder had an even greater impact as firsthand experiences are invaluable. Hearing her specific story in detail, including before, during, and after the war, made the events more real and personal, because we are used to seeing crazy and terrible things happen as we sit behind screens and watch a video, but it is different to hear a human talk about it. Mrs. Finder had a perspective only attainable through having lived it, which is quite different than actors portraying what happened. I think that although it will be tragic to lose the ability to hear firsthand about the Holocaust and experiences lived during the war, we have amassed a good enough understanding of what happened and what it was like to try and pass on this knowledge to future generations and ensure that they too will be able to try and understand. Furthermore, we have quite a collection of survivors testimonies in writing and video, so hopefully these resources will be sufficient in trying to teach about these events.

Finally, I do think that “visiting” the place where these atrocities occurred has tremendous value as it further makes these events a reality. Though it can be hard to face, acknowledging what happened through hearing, reading, or in this case seeing where, is important in showing that it was real and therefore can happen again if we are not careful. Without the physical relics of Auschwitz, it would be far easier to distance ourselves from these events and think of them as a fantastical story from the distant past. Therefore I do think it is essential that we try to preserve them as much as possible, especially buildings directly related to the conditions experienced by persecuted Jews such as the barracks, latrines, and gas chambers.

posts 1 - 15 of 21