posts 1 - 15 of 29
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, MA, US
Posts: 11

I've talked to a couple of holocaust survivors in my life and every time always changes my perspective. Something that Rena said that really stuck out to me is that there are always people that you won't like but you should just mind your own business and take care of the people who do like you. Those weren't the exact words but i think that she expressed that really well. Talking to people who have actually survived this is really different that just watching it on a screen or reading about it in a textbook. When you hear about their lives, like going to school or hanging out with their cousins, it makes it so much more personal, and makes you realize that if you had been alive at that time, it could have been you.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Thoughts on the Virtual Field Trip

Hearing Rena speak about her experiences she endured is unforgettable. She is so strong and wise. When she shared about her only “good experience” when the Nurse was kind to her and her friend, I was amazed at how she could possibly find something positive during such atrocious times. Hearing about her memories and reflections is an irreplaceable experience. There is so much to learn from people like Rena that can’t be described in a textbook or even shown in a film. Hopefully those who have heard from Holocaust survivors can continue to talk about what they learned and make sure that what happened is not forgotten and never happens again.

There is such a thing as “the power of a place”. Visiting a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau increases understanding of its history. I think that images in general are much more memorable than words. They can capture details and messages in a way that sometimes can’t be done with text. For example, during the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau I realized the true scale of the camp when Wojciech showed the aerial view. It is much larger than I initially thought.

Although the value of visiting a location is incomparable, preservation is also challenging. Questions such as who pays for upkeep and how should the area be maintained arise. Organized maintenance and decision making is essential to preserve a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau. People who experienced what happened there need to be consulted to make sure that the preservation efforts accurately depict what took place.

In the film Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler is a businessman that starts an enamelware business. He decides to “employ” Jews as laborers because their labor is cheaper. He approaches Itzhak Stern and talks to him about his hopes of starting the business. Itzhak is reluctant, but eventually more or less ends up running Schindler’s business. Schindler becomes extremely wealthy and his business thrives during the war. Originally, Schindler seems indifferent towards the treatment Jews experience and says that death is just part of life. I think that watching people that he knew of get killed, such as the little girl, and the violence in the Kraków ghetto evacuation played a role in his change of character. I also think that over time his relationship with Itzhak Stern becomes less formal and more friendly. He realizes that Itzhak has much to do with his success. He shifted from being a bystander to an upstander because his personal experiences forced him in a way to see the Jews as humans, which is something that many members of the Nazi party, such as Amon Goeth, did not do. Amon Goeth was the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp for most of the camp's existence. He had a reputation for being very harsh and enjoying executing Jews.

When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about being able to “pardon” people, he is trying to get Goeth to stop his senseless killings and beatings. Goeth sees power as control through fear. Schindler tries to convince him that true power is self control and the ability to forgive, “Power is when we have every justification to kill and we don’t… That’s power. That’s what the emperors had. A man stole something, he’s brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the floor, he begs for mercy, he knows he’s going to die… and the emperor pardons him.”

The film shows some people that did certain things to save themselves, such as the “Judenrats”. These individuals were Jews that worked as police under the Nazis. In the film, other Jews seemed angry and disgusted with the “Judenrats”. This is completely understandable because they turned on their people and joined the oppressors. They crossed the line. When considering where to draw the line in relation to what you can do to save yourself in desperate and horrific situations, I think that it is necessary to examine the effects of your actions on others and your values. Once you shift towards being a bystander or an oppressor, that is when the line has been crossed. You cannot save your own life at the cost of another’s health or safety.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

A Powerful and Memorable Experience

I had never seen Schindler’s List before today and I thought it was very good. As a few people were saying today, I think it was so amazing how such a horrific event got to be portrayed in such a meaningful way. In the scene where Schindler and Goeth discuss power, what I think Schindler is ultimately trying to do is kind of trick Goeth in a way into showing his power in a way that isn’t control or killing. I think in a way Schindler had the power in this situation, he gets Goeth to really question what he thinks is power.

I think it is hard to say where the moral/ethical line is that I wouldn’t cross because I just can’t even imagine being in the situation and I think that would be the only time to really know how far I would go to save my own life. I would never put anyone else in harm's way in order to save my own life, although I can’t say for certain any action I would take in these specific circumstances. In Schindler’s case though, I think that his personal relationships with Jewish people led him to take the actions that he took. Schindler started as a bystander, contributing to the problem, but I think as he made connections with these people and saw horrible things happening to them and their family/friends, he started to realize that even though he wasn’t a soldier or guard at a concentration camp, he was part of the problem and didn’t want to continue to do that.

Listening to Rena was such a valuable experience. Hearing someone speak directly from experience just makes the Holocaust feel more real, obviously not to say that I don’t already know that it’s very real, but talking to hearing someone talk about it firsthand felt so much more personal and gave such a unique perspective that you don’t often get to hear. I think it’s sad that in a number of years there will be no more living survivors. Although there are videos of their accounts and movies like Schindler’s List, I think there will just be a sort of distance to the Holocaust. Because for me now, knowing that there are living survivors allows me to really take in how relatively recent this was and understand that atrocities like the Holocaust happened within someone’s lifetime.

Along with hearing a personal account of Rena’s experience in the Holocaust, I think that seeing Auschwitz for what it presently looks like really deepened my understanding of this history. Seeing the size of the camp, what it really looks like, etc. was definitely powerful. I think that there definitely is such a thing as the “power of the place” because, as I said previously, experiencing something, even if it’s virtual, helps me gain a better understanding and perspective.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Thoughts on the Field Trip

Schindler's list was one of the more moving movies I have seen in a while. In the beginning, the main character Oskar Schindler was a normal business man who opened an enamelware business. He decided to "hire" many Jews as their wages were very cheap. Sometime later, Schindler meets a man Jewish named Itzhak Stern and speaks to him about helping him open the business. Itzhak was reluctant, but did end up opening the business with Schindler. The business booms during the war and Schindler became very rich. At this time, Schindler was very indifferent to the treatment of Jews and didn't think much of it, but his change of character was extraordinary. After watching the ones he knew get murdered in places such as in the Kraków ghetto evacuation played a huge role in his development. To add more, these experiences changed his relationship with Itzhak Stern causing their relationship to become more informal and friendly. Schindler also realizes that Stern was a major cause to his success, and this helped Schindler to become a huge upstander towards the violence against Jews which is something many Nazis and Nazi supporters never bothered to do. One of these Nazis in particular, Amon Goeth, was the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp and he had a serious enjoyment of executing Jews and torturing them.

When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about excusing these people from the senseless executions, he tries to tell Goeth that this is very wrong and horrible, but Goeth sees this power as control through fear. Schindler tries to convince him that true power is self control and the ability to forgive, but Goeth is too engulfed to care.

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau even virtually gave off an atmosphere where you just felt the history touch your mind and thoughts. That place is full of so much sad history. Also while originally I thought Auschwitz was a fairly large size, when we got a better view of the camp, it was a lot bigger than I thought.

As for hearing Rena's talk about her experiences from the Holocaust, her stories were truly inspiring and moving. Something that was very sad to hear was the only act of kindness she received was when her nurse was kind to her and her friend. Her stories really made me think about how extraordinary an act of kindness was to a Jewish person and how truly horrible they were treated in the Holocaust.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Reflection on Today's Trip

Today was an amazing experience. It was my first time watching Schindler’s List and it was incredible to see this historical tragedy in the form of a beautiful film. In addition, I loved hearing Rena share her stories regarding her time in Auschwitz and experiences working for Schindler. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear the firsthand account from a Holocaust survivor and I am grateful I was able to meet Rena today.

In regards to Schindler’s List, when Schindler was talking about “pardoning” people with Amon Goeth, I believe he was talking about the extreme and unnecessary violence that many of the Nazi leaders employed. Those in power, like Schindler and Goeth, should take it upon themselves to forgive and not murder senselessly. Goeth’s view of power is one of absolute authority. He incites fear among the people he looks over through by showing them the repercussions of acting out, which was death. On the other hand, Schindler’s view of power differs. He sees it as having the necessary resources to act as an ally and to act sensibly.

In the beginning of the film, Schindler seemed fairly indifferent to the mass suffering of the Jewish people and didn’t care to involve himself in their safety and protection. He was merely a bystander and part of the German Nazi party. However, this all seemed to change when he witnessed the liquidation of the ghetto in Krakow. It was a horrific sight yet Schindler could not take his eyes away from the scene. The brutality of the Nazis, Jewish families being torn apart, young children being shot out on the street. All of it. Thus, that moment changed Schindler into the up-stander that we know of him today. After coming face to face with the ugly reality of the war, Schindler decided to take action to provide the Jewish people one last shred of humanity and not remain as a contributor to the problem. He also struck a close friendship with his manager, Stern, and realized that the Jewish people were humans like him and needed to be treated as thus. Schindler indeed was heroic. He used the majority of his wealth to bribe German officials and to also keep up with the facade of his non-production factory. Schindler was selfless and put the well-being of others before himself in order to save their lives.

We also saw some individuals going to drastic lengths in order to save their lives in Schindler’s List. For example, there was that one boy who was a “Judenrat” who promised to move his friend and his mother to the good line during the liquidation of the ghetto. I would draw the line there. Even if it meant saving my own life, I would not join the side that is responsible for the mass suffering of my people. I’d rather die fighting for the safety and protection of my loved ones than to see myself become one of the enemy. Essentially, one should not endanger another’s life just to save their own. If you do that, you’re not any better than the opposing side.

Finally, as I mentioned before, listening to and meeting Rena was an experience I will never forget. She shared her stories with such courage and with amazing detail. Being able to hear her memories and reflections is valuable beyond words. We always learn history through written text and films, yet never through people who have actually been through the experience. It helped create a deeper connection to the Holocaust for me personally, especially after listening to what Rena went through herself. As sad as it is to say, the number of living Holocaust survivors will continue to decrease throughout the years and I think this will have a detrimental effect in our learning of the Holocaust. These people won’t be able to see the identities of the Holocaust survivors up close and have that level of authenticity by listening to a first-hand account of such tragedies. The power of human story and connection is how we truly acknowledge our history and gain the utmost respect for the victims. There is also much value to be placed in visiting a site as well. Visiting a place, like Auschwitz, not only deepens your understanding of the location but also provides a visual of different aspects of the camp. As a result, there is such a thing as “the power of a place”. You are able to witness first-hand where such atrocities took place which then aids immensely in comprehending the depth of the Holocaust in a clearer light. Though there are challenges in “preserving” a place like Auschwitz, I think it is essential to preserve because a site like Auschwitz brings history into reality and is absolutely vital in gaining a full understanding of the Holocaust.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Field Trip Reflection

Today was impactful. Eye-opening. Emotional. We see each other 3 times a week, but the 55 minute periods never seem to be enough to capture the true magnitude of the Holocaust/WW2. That is why I am thankful to have had the opportunity to watch Spielberg’s movie, hear Rena’s personal anecdotes, and take a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau; the lineup worked in tandem magnificently to strengthen my understanding of the Holocaust. Without this trip, my perception of the Holocaust would have remained two-dimensional and textbook-based. Now, I have an even greater appreciation for the heroes and brave souls who fought in secrecy for the greater good during WW2.

I remember the first time in class when the trip was mentioned. I looked up Schindler’s List and, for some reason, had a difficult time believing that it was based on a real story. How come I had never heard of Schindler? What kind of list was he making? Does Steven Spielberg even make movies based on events like the Holocaust? But, to my surprise, it was all real. Oskar Schindler was a real person who showed the world that imperfect people can still evolve into heroes. Oskar Schindler was living proof that we can—and should—use our privilege to support those who need it most. The way that Schindler was presented during the beginning of the movie was a money-hungry, tough guy. He donned a Nazi pin throughout the movie, which would make one automatically believe that he was a bad person. And, in some parts, he was. He initially moved through life with the sole intention of gaining money, exploiting Jewish people to work for him at his enamelware business. But Schindler underwent a beautiful metamorphosis, grappling with life or death—both his own livelihood, and the Jews’. But Schindler chose life for every person he could assist. Although he admitted that he was afraid of the repercussions of protecting Jews, Schindler persisted. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be 6,000 descendants from the 1,200 Jews that he had saved. Schindler, although tough on the outside and driven by money, set aside his Nazi agenda to foster humanity and future Jewish generations. Furthermore, in observing Schindler’s interactions with Goeth, it is clear that the two men differed in mindsets. Schindler understands the implications of power: too much of it can be a bad thing. One needs to learn how to properly employ power and privilege, such that they be used to uplift the greater good. Goeth, however, viewed power as a weapon to be used to increase his authority while simultaneously torturing the Jews. In that way, Goeth would be unstoppable and his power would be undeniable. Overall, Schindler was overwhelmingly, as Rena described him, “an angel sent from heaven,” despite some faults.

As regards my personal take on where to draw my moral/ethical line, I guarantee that I would never compromise someone else’s safety in order to save my own life. I hate the thought of that, and I don’t think I could ever bear with the guilt of passively having blood on my hands. Therefore, I would likely never take on a similar position as a Judenrat, as I would seriously feel like a sellout. On the contrary, I would be ok with compromising my own safety to help others, like Schindler: what he did was risky, while also cautious. He was able to mask his true intentions of saving the Jews with an “I need to keep this business running” alibi, and that was genius rationale.

On another note, hearing Rena talk today made me emotional—surprisingly more emotional than the movie, which had some pretty heart-wrenching scenes. Rena is clearly passionate about sharing her story, as she has spent the past decades working with Facing History, writing a book, and making speeches in order to spread awareness to Schindler’s work and her experiences during the Holocaust. She noted that she won’t be here to see the big strides taken in combating anti-semitism, and that made me realize how important it is that we share these stories from Holocaust survivors; in order to successfully progress toward an incusive society, we must listen to these stories. Sure, we can study textbooks and watch documentaries, but no source is going to best explain these perspectives and relay these anecdotes, other than the people who experienced them first-hand. Therefore, I am afraid that the lack of Holocaust survivors as time passes on will tarnish the future generations’ understanding of the event. Without these personal discussions, I am afraid there would be a disconnect between the material and the learners. Consequently, I feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity.

Lastly, visiting the camp was daunting at first. Wojciech showed the gate and said that we all should recognize it, and he was right. I have seen photos of that gate, but I have never taken the initiative to explore the camp myself. It was ominous and overwhelming to think that over a million people died at that camp. I can’t even imagine what a million people would look like, so trying to translate that number into the area of the camp was hard to imagine. Furthermore, it was saddening to hear about the living conditions of the Jews at the camp. I couldn’t imagine sharing small spaces with so many people while living on only 800 calories a day. Delving deep into Auschwitz-Birkenau therefore strengthened my understanding of this history by taking me step-by-step through the life of a Jew at the camp. It is essential that these historic sites are preserved, as to serve a reminder that the Holocaust was real. In order to do so, we must maintain the integrity of such areas, and we can start by preventing Holocaust deniers from disturbing the camps, as we had briefly metioned in class.

Overall, this trip was amazing, and I am honored to have shared this experience with everyone. Thank you, Ms. Freeman, Rena, and Wojciech for organizing this trip and aiding our understanding of the Holocaust and WW2.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

The Virtual Field Trip

Hearing about Rena Finder’s first-hand experiences throughout the Holocaust was absolutely heart-wrenching. It is already devastating to learn about genocides and see images of it, but hearing it from someone who actually lived through the genocide is just so tragic. It baffles me to hear that there are still people who deny the Holocaust’s existence and diminish the millions of victims to a mere statistic when there is so much evidence (photos, survivors, news sources, concentration camps, and etc). With that being said, Rena’s story was both tragic and inspiring because her story is so sobering and makes me wonder why didn’t anyone try to stop the Holocaust sooner but hearing about the people who helped her survive despite the horrors around them like the nurse she met. Even though I think that first-hand accounts are most important because they tell the direct experiences of people during such time periods, I do believe that these first-hand accounts must be recorded and promoted in the sense that such things are accessible. This is because even with tons of evidence, there will always be people who deny its existence, so the more evidence and first-hand experiences are recorded, the better.

Although I think that if I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau in person, the impact would’ve been much greater because I would be able to see the scale of everything and such, the virtual tour was also pretty impactful. It’s insane how much detail went into the camp and how expansive it was. Seeing and hearing about the Jewish people’s treatment, living spaces, and torture was really depressing. I think that it’s important that these places are visited and well-kept/preserved because it is essential that people know what the Jews went through and be encouraged to learn the patterns behind genocide and try to prevent such things from ever happening. History must not be erased.

Schindler’s List was an extremely moving film about Oskar Schindler, who was a businessman and a member of the Nazi party. Even though he didn’t directly harm his Jewish workers or hurt any Jews, his indifference to the oppression and erasure of Jews was just as bad. In the beginning, he employs Jews for the sole reason that they are cheap labor. At that time, he was indifferent to how the Jews were treated and only cared about whether they were abled people who would increase the productivity in his factory. He had approached Itzhak Stern, who was a Jewish accountant for one of Schindler’s acquaintances, and discussed taking over an enamelware manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy. The men formed a stiff and formal relationship. Schindler became increasingly frustrated when Stern kept sending in Jews who either thanked Schindler for his kindness in the factories or begged him to help their family who was being sent off to concentration camps. He had claimed that he had no power over what happened to the Jews and therefore could not do anything but watch. However, seeing continuously that the people around him were getting murdered and horribly mistreated made him feel empathy towards them. He began to try and help people, like saving a certain woman’s parents by calling them in to work for him instead of the camps. He began to see how Stern was helping him and felt more and more gratitude towards him as time went by which was evident when he praised Stern for all of his hard work right before the Jewish people were liberated and the Nazis were getting arrested. It took seeing people around him suffering and dying over and over for him to take action, so I wouldn’t consider him a hero (because I believe that one should take action when people are hurt and/or oppressed no matter who they are or what relationship they have), but the things he did do and the people he saved showed his growth as a person and his empathy for others.

These kinds of field trips are extremely important and I believe that learning experiences like this should be something that everyone experiences because not only are these things important points in history, but learning past the facts and into what these people truly felt and went through is essential in making people more empathetic and hopefully will encourage people to become active in advocacy and uplifting the voices of minorities.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Rena Findler, Auschwitz, and Schindler's List

Today's field trip was an unforgettable journey. Having the Holocaust brought to life was paramount to increasing my empathy (although I did empathize with the stories of Holocaust survivors before).

What really stood out to me from Rena's testimony was when she described her initial acceptance and later rejection from those who worked in her local factory. When she first came to America, she was seen as the cool, exotic foreigner since she was Polish. Unfortunately, after the employees found out she was Jewish, they shunned her. The current discussion around who's called ''exotic'' and why really hit home. One day you're in, the next day you're out like a fashion trend.

The magnitude of Auschwitz spoke to me as well (yes there can be power in a place). Imagine if Nazi Germany had utilized their intellect and resources in order to rebuild Germany, instead of killing off ''deviants''..

Schindler's List was interesting; you saw his character evolve and become softer throughout the course of the film. His prioritization of money and recognization also changed into self-sacrifice.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Reactions to the Virtual Field Trip

Each part of the field trip was powerful in its own way. Schindler’s List was a wonderful movie that was able to meaningfully highlight the actions of Oskar Schindler. In the scene where Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about pardoning people, he means for Goeth to look past the differences and let the people live. Goeth’s view on power is that if he has the ability to kill others, he will act upon that and that is the only way to maintain the power. Schindler, on the other hand, believes that one should use power to do good and also restrain one’s desires to do bad.

In the film, many people did whatever they could to save themselves from capture and ultimately death. One example of this is the “Judenrat”, a police force of Jews that worked for the Nazis. Although becoming a “Judenrat” is turning against and betraying the rest of the people, the Judenrats did it to save their own lives. During such horrific times, the ethical and moral lines are blurred. Even though it is hard to definitively draw a line, people should not consciously have the intent to execute others in order to save themselves. Although it is understandable to be upset and made at the “Judenrats”, they should not be faulted and punished for their actions. There is no way for us to know what they went through and their thoughts that led them to making that decision. Personally, I would not want to endanger the lives of others in any way to save my own.

In the beginning, Schindler wanted to make money and successfully start a business. He employed Jews because it was cheap labor and ensured that he could make a high profit. He was indifferent to the treatment of the Jews by the Germans as long as he still had his workforce. When the Krahów-Płaszów concentration camp executed Jews, including some of his workers, Schindler started to see them more as human beings and had value to them. From then, instead of only seeing them as cheap laborers, he viewed them as humans that he can save from death.

Hearing Rena talk about her experiences during the Holocaust was moving. Hearing directly from a survivor gives me a different and more personal perspective on the Holocaust, by allowing me to capture their emotions and empathize with them more. Rena’s experiences will have a long lasting impact on me and differs from if I just read or watch an account of the event. The Holocaust could lost some of its significance when there is a lack of Holocaust survivors. Overtime, the Holocaust could just become another event that happened in history, but its impact on the world and people will not be fully understood by the new generations.

Visiting Auschwitz was a powerful experience that deepened my understanding of the impact of the camp. I already knew that the camp was large and was the place where countless innocent lives were lost. Even a virtual visit to Auschwitz allowed me to have a deeper connection to history, I cannot imagine how it would have been if I visited in person. It is important to preserve all of Auschwitz and other important historical sites if possible, but if not, it is necessary to preserve the parts where humans face the most brutal and cruel conditions.

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Thoughts on Schindler and Virtual Field Trip

I thought “Schindler’s List” was very well done and I really appreciated having the opportunity to hear from Rena and get a virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. There was a lot that stuck with me from each of these three things.

One of the most memorable parts of the film for me was actually when Schindler was talking to Amon Goeth about being able to “pardon people.” He said that true power was having the ability to kill or do harm to others however and whenever you wanted, but choosing not to. It seems that Schindler’s idea of power is a more internal one. One who has control and authority over others does not have power unless they also have control over themselves and their own morality. Goeth’s view of power is taking every opportunity to assert authority and to kill. In the film, when the little boy says he was unable to clean the stains off the tub, Goeth “pardons” him, possibly anticipating that he would become more powerful since Schindler told him this is what power meant. Moments later there is the heartbreaking scene of the boy being shot dead as he is walking away. Goethe is unable to recognize what is right and wrong; his only concern is to get rid of those who can’t do what he tells them. In this way according to Schindler, Goethe is powerless.

Rena also described how horrible of a person Goethe was. He would kill with no reason to kill. She said that he would wake up in the morning and shoot people for fun, and this was also shown in the film. Rena kept noting how indescribable these things really are and I think we all understood. I had to take a little time to process this because it’s just too hard to imagine how people can find enjoyment in ending innocent lives.

Something Wojtek said that I thought was important to note was that the whole system in concentration camps was designed to ease the guilt of the killers. Sometimes this meant pulling a switch to release gas in the gas chambers--you weren’t looking someone in the eye as you killed them, but you were still taking thousands of innocent lives at once. Still, many people like Goethe enjoyed the killing. Were they even capable of feeling guilt?

People definitely crossed plenty of moral and ethical lines in the film. I don’t know what it’s like struggling to stay alive, and I don’t know how desperate I would be or to what measures I would go to to save myself. It’s difficult for me to say what people should or shouldn’t do when their lives are on the line. What the “Judenrat” did for example was horrible, but they were desperate to save their own lives and likely would have died otherwise. It shows that once a huge line is crossed, once it becomes normal to kill, other lines are bound to be crossed.

Schindler certainly seemed like a bystander for at least the first half of the film. He seemed to change a lot, partly because his loss of workers was hurting his own business, but also because he kept being told his place was a safe haven. For other people to say his place was a safe haven meant that everywhere else for Jews was probably horrible, and Schindler understood that he couldn’t continue living his life and running his business as it was knowing he could be saving lives.

It was interesting to me that Schindler continued to affiliate with the Nazi Party. He joined the party initially to make money, and if I’m remembering correctly he also hired Jewish workers instead of Polish workers at the beginning because it was cheaper. I wasn’t sure, but I would imagine that being in the Nazi Party helped Schindler to negotiate to bring over all those people from Auschitz. Rena also said that if people suspected Schindler was trying to save the Jews, they would kill him, so I would imagine this was also why he still considered himself a Nazi in public

It was valuable hearing from Rena, a living Holocaust survivor, and her memories and reflections. It’s definitely a different experience because we are able to connect everything we’ve heard about the murders and concentration camps to an actual person. There is often a kind of disconnect when it comes to written word or film footage. It’s harder to understand that these were real experiences real people had. It becomes so much clearer and so much more moving when you’re listening to someone in person. It is tough that the next generation will not get to have this experience, which makes it so much more important to teach about the Holocaust.

The value of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is also great. It is sad that we couldn’t do it in person this year, but I still got a sense of the place through the images and the information connected to it. Just seeing the place was evil-- seeing where they made people sleep, where they did roll calls, where the gas chambers were--and being able to connect events i've heard about Auschwitz to the images felt different. It’s essential to preserve as much as possible so people can visit it and have that different experience..

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Virtual Field Trip Thoughts

Watching the movie Schindler's List was very moving and emotional. I've always heard and read about all the horrible things that happened during the Holocaust especially in the ghettos but the movie was able to portray atrocities of what happened my very sobering way I had never seen before. Listening to survivor Rena Finder speak after watching the movie also was very eye-opening. It was amazing to hear all that she remembered from this extremely traumatic experience when she was a young girl, what amazes me most is how she was still able to maintain her faith in humanity. Somebody asked her a question about her thoughts on anti-Semitism in America today and I think her answer about are the younger generations being the future and being able making the world a better place can be seen as a reason to continue to have hope in our world. Sometimes while watching the news it can seem as though there is no hope left and that our world has taken a turn for the worst, but hearing Rena speak so hopefully and positively about our future even after all of the atrocities in traumatic experience that she has been through has made me more hopeful for the future as well. My favorite part of the field trip today was the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. I've heard and seen so many pictures references to this horrible place but going through the tour and having somebody speak about the history and events that have taken place at every point made what seemed like a far-off history even more and more real than its ever felt before. I have learned many things that I had never heard of before about what happened in these concentration camps and I think seeing the real life pictures of what it looks like today compared to what it looked like back then is very important for understanding gravity of the events that took place there. I found it very interesting when Wojciech spoke at the end of his presentation about modern-day Poland and the Polish people's views on the Holocaust. It made me think of what it must be like for children growing up in those neighborhoods that are so close to the concentration camps. I remember learning about the Holocaust for the first time when I was younger and being absolutely shocked and saddened buy this horrible event in our history, but I could never imagine what it would be like to grow hope next to a place that was home to these events in history. Overall I thought the Virtual Field Trip was very informative and that but we heard and saw today is very important to understanding the past and today’s present.
Boston, Massachuesetts, US
Posts: 19

Incredibly Moving and Thought Provoking- a Reflection on Today's Trip

I would like to start off first with a massive thank you, to Ms. Freeman for setting this up, and to Rena Finder for telling us about her story, and for Wojtek Smolen giving us a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The movie, and Rena's story is one of the most moving things I have ever had the privilege to hear. This was my first time watching Schindler's List, and it was one of the best historical movies I have ever watched.

In regard to Schindler's List, the power dynamic and overall foil of Schindler and Amon Goeth was prominent in their two thoughts of power in these times of horror and darkness. Amon Goeth saw power in the ability to kill or brutalize any person at will, with no fear of punishment. He saw power in the ability to take with nobody to tell him no. Oskar Schindler on the other hand, saw no power in the given ability to kill at will, but power in the ability to save lives, Schindler saw power as the ability to use it against the authority, for good. Schindler saw his wealth and prominence as a tool to save hundreds of Jewish people, in the face of the punishments that would await him if caught.

It is impossible to truly know what you would do in a situation until you are in it, however I am sure that I would not compromise the safety of others to better myself. To have the blood of innocent people on my hands, whether direct or indirect is not something I would be able to live with, and even if I survived I would be stricken with guilt. I would hope that I would become someone to take great risks to save others, in a way similar to how Schindler went about it, risky, but always with an abundance of caution, and not just a plan to give up oneself for others. I do not believe that I would be able to kill another human in order to survive, especially an innocent person. That is a line I believe I could not sanely cross.

Schindler is proof that heroes are not born, they are made. He was no perfect person, he only hired the Jewish people in the first place as cheap labor, and thought as though death was just another part of life. As the film progresses, he begins to see Jewish people as what they are, human beings, and begins to change and develop as a man, trying desperately to save as many as he can from sure death and torture. Schindler is no perfect man, but he became an upstander through character growth and development. He was absolutely heroic, risking everything, including his wellbeing to make a difference and save these people. This film is important, because nowadays when people see videos or accounts of people doing heroic things, they often say "we need more people in this world like them," and not "I am going to be like them one day." There are no people born heroes, there are only people that become heroes, through their choices and personal sacrifice.

Hearing Rena's perspective brought tears to my eyes, to really speak and look at a person who experienced this level of trauma and pain, and to still see her smile was very moving. Rena's ability to tell her story at all is very surprising, let alone the fact that she can still tell her story after 76 years, is amazing. If I had went through something as truly awful as that, I am not sure I would have the strength to continue on, let alone tell that story for years to come. The value of hearing her tell this story is immeasurable, the weight and emotion to the story increases, making me truly understand (to a greater degree) just how atrocious and devastating these events really were. The effect of the coming lack of Holocaust survivors will be terrifying, I fear there will be even more Holocaust deniers, which is disgusting and cruel, as the children and grandchildren of these survivors will still be around to witness this. I hope in my heart that this does not occur, but I am a pessimistic person, and fear it just might. If people cannot believe that these actions took place when there are living witnesses to tell their experiences, I fear without living witnesses the world may forget. That is why it is up to us, as upstanders, to fight that and continue to tell this story so that it never happens again.

Visiting a place such as Auschwitz-Birkenau is a privilege beyond believe. The horrifying history that occurred there is a scar on this living planet, on humanity as a whole. There is a reason it is a scar though. The purpose of scars, whether intentional by the body or not, is to serve as a reminder of the wound caused in the past, to better help avoid it. Restoring and visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is important because it makes sure these crimes never vanish, never disappear, and most importantly never happen again. The day that Auschwitz-Birkenau turns to dust, nobody visits it, and nobody tells the devastating history is the day that humanity has failed itself once again, failed to honor the innocent lives brutally lost. Uncomfortability is important in learning the history of the planet, as even if it makes one uncomfortable, it is necessary, and the people affected certainly weren't comfortable either. I am so beyond grateful to have this experience of touring Auschwitz-Birkenau, even if it was digital. This tour moved me and affected me, and I can't even imagine the way I would have felt in an inperson tour of the camps. Many people don't get this opportunity, and I am quite thankful for it. I would just like to thank you again for the movie showing, speaking with Rena Finder, and the tour from Wojtek Smolen.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

When Schindler spoke to Goeth about “pardoning” people, I believe he meant that it was good to show people mercy, which is something he thought Goeth should do instead of always being violent and cruel. This shows how different Schindler’s and Goeth’s views on power are, as Schindler tells Goeth to be more merciful and less demanding from people. Schindler’s idea of power was just that, power. He knew how much power and influence he and his his money could have on people, and did he abuse it? Maybe, but he abused it for good reasons and he saved so many lives because of it, which makes it worth it to me. He knew that he had the power to gravely punish people and abuse the workers he was saving, but he didn’t because that wasn’t what he believed in. That is how he is different from Goeth and how their views on power are different. Goeth uses his power to harass other people to make himself feel stronger and more powerful, using cruel and violent tactics. Schindler uses his power to help other people even when it won’t benefit him, while Goeth uses his power to benefit himself and himself only.

There is definitely a large gray area around the line of what is too far in this topic, and no two stances will ever be completely the same. I am honestly so unsure of what I would truly do in a situation like this, and I would like to think that hypothetically I would do the good thing and die for what I believe in instead of turning to the other side for a chance of survival, but I will not know unless it actually happens. Morality is subjective, but I hope that many people would agree that it is immoral to turn in your own friends and family just to save your own life, even though during this time it wouldn’t have even saved their life. I would also like to think that I would be like Schindler in a way, compromising myself and my safety for the sake of many others. His realization of what he was doing and how it truly helped those who were being persecuted was what caused him to “change” his main intentions. He started as a bystander, but used his privilege to help Jews stay safe with his own resources and his own hands.

Listening to Rena speak and share her experiences today was such an incredibly interesting and valuable experience that I will never forget. She seemed so passionate about sharing her story and answering questions with the most detail that she could, which definitely brought the stories I’ve heard to life. Hearing stories and experiences directly from a survivor instead of reading about them or even watching a video is so much more powerful and makes what is being said resonate so much more with you, and with the Holocaust I think it is definitely important for the events to resonate with everyone. Watching a video does not have the same effect as watching someone talk about their experiences live, as everything seems much more real when it happens live in front of you. With the lack of Holocaust survivors that will come in the next few years, I think grasping the Holocaust will be much harder for people who will learn about it, as no amount of books or videos or photos will ever compare to listening to real, living survivors. I always knew about Holocaust stories from reading about them and watching recorded videos, but when I finally heard a real, live survivor talk about their life before, after, and during it right in front of me it was like I was truly hearing and learning about what happened for the first time ever.

Similar to listening to a living survivor talk about their experience, visiting a historic place in real life will always be much more impactful than seeing it on a screen or reading about it in a book. Visiting can give you even the slightest idea of what happened to the people there, even though nobody will ever truly experience the monstrosities that happened. Walking along roads that Jewish people walked on while unknowingly walking to their death is something that you would never feel or experience if you didn’t visit the scene in real life. My sister went on the Eastern Europe trip years ago, and she even said today that it was an experience that she is so grateful for and will never forget. She says it gave her insight that she would have never had otherwise, looking around the place where thousands feared for their lives for so long as someone who has never experienced that, and walking along paths that were once covered with the blood of innocent people. I think seeing the room filled with personal belongings, especially shoes and suitcases, would absolutely make the experience more bone-chilling and feel much more real, each piece telling the story of a family that was torn apart.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

A Wonderful Field Trip

I really enjoyed the field trip today. I’ve never really been a big fan of Historical or moving movies, but I found Schindler’s List extremely interesting and beautiful.

At first, Schindler didn’t really care about saving lives but rather making a lot of money. He took advantage of the Jewish people in the ghetto and basically stole their business. He originally was not a hero, but rather a businessman. He opted for slave labor instead of paid workers and did whatever he could to make some money. Schindler understands that Stern really helped his business so he tried to help him and he began to stand up for the Jews who worked for him, even if not directly. I believe that Schindler really did the best that he could to save those around him. He is a hero and should be remembered as one, even though he was in the Nazi Party.

I feel like there are no uncrossable lines when fighting for your life. Even if it means that others are harmed, people will always look out for themselves and it is unfair to ask them not to cross certain lines. These were intense situations where large numbers of people were dying and they would do absolutely anything they could in order to live. Ideally, those people wouldn’t harm others, but I completely understand why they did what they did.

I really enjoyed hearing Rena’s story. I was surprised by how vividly she was able to recount what happened like it was yesterday, but it was 80 years ago. Hearing first-hand accounts is one of the most powerful ways to learn about something. I have the highest respect for Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Foundation for looking for and documenting these vital accounts of the Holocaust and other genocides. I am really afraid that once all the Holocaust survivors pass away, Holocaust deniers will begin to gain traction. That is why the Shoah Foundation is so important to our society, to stop history from repeating itself.

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