posts 1 - 15 of 26
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: 14

Schindler's List and the Holocaust

My reaction to the movie, interview with Rena Finder and the virtual tour of Auschwitz was just shock. I knew the general gist of what happened, such as the gas showers and cremations, but I had never known just how brutal it was. Hearing Rena's story made me realize just how scary it would be to live in that era, to go through the experiences she had suffered. I hadn't known or heard of Oskar Schindler or what he did before this week, though I am not exactly sure why at this point.

Schindler describes to Goeth what he believes true power is, using the word "pardoning". By that, Schindler meant forgiving, and his true view of power is to use it for good, and to give mercy. Goeth loves using fear and the ability to kill based off mood swings as "power". There were Jewish police officers working for the Nazis throughout the movie, and people tended to do desperate things to save their own lives. Doing as much as you can to live is something you should do, EXCEPT when it comes to the life of another person. Killing to get yourself ahead automatically makes you an enemy, and essentially you become what you're trying to escape. Schindler had ended saving hundreds of lives at the expense of his own wealth and fortunes. I believe his interactions with Goeth had made him change, as well as seeing Itzak put on a train to a death camp. He was definitely not heroic, but he was doing the right thing. Non-production was good way to bide time.

Rena Finder's words were like no other, and when she recounted her life and her story I think it's safe to say it affected all of us. Hearing a first-person account of what you only see and read through movies and books is something inspiring, as well as powerful. It is also timely, as we may not have much more time to hear these accounts. Hearing the human voice tell you what they went through seems to make it more... real, and it sticks in memory. "Visiting" Auschwitz was something of extreme value as well, as we saw how the monstrosities were carried out and the people behind it. Out of everything to preserve, I believe preserving the crematory is most important as it will always have the biggest impact. (Preserving the entrance gate would be equally important).

boston, massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

The importance of Schindler's list and Auschwitz

Watching the film itself was something that was extremely moving and definitely worth the time to watch. The way it was filmed along with the story made it truly an unforgettable movie. Schindler is a very interesting character and it really stuck to me when he talked about power and how he viewed it. He said something along the lines of, real power is being able to let someone go right when they think they are going to be killed for their crimes. This view really shows how this man really saw the value of a human life. He believes that you are truly powerful if you can use your power for good. This is comparable to Goeth’s view because he said he believed the real power was in control. I believe that Goeth’s view is more centralized on the benefit of the person while Schindler’s is more based on the well being of a community.

When considering a moral line it is important to keep not only your own survival but the survival of others as well. In situations like this it feels like there really are no “good guys”, but this doesn’t pardon you to kill and hurt other people just because others are doing so. I think that if you are killing or helping kill others you have crossed the line. You shouldn’t end someone else's life to put your’s at an advantage. Human lives are valuable and equal and you shouldn’t jeopardize someone else's life.

Although it took him a while to admit to it Schindler knew the killings were wrong and didn’t like to see other humans die. He saved so many people and although he tried to say this was a business tactic, I don’t think he would’ve cared so much for his people if he was just using them as workers. He also grew a very strong relationship with the Jews he met and didn’t discriminate against them like all the other people around him did. I do believe he was heroic because many Jews are alive because of him today. Although he could’ve done more, he did way more than many of the other German people around him at this time. He changed from a bystander to an upstander when he saw how wrong these systems are. A key point to this is when he goes to Auschwitz and saves his people, standing up for them as well as saving their lives. Even more so he was humble the whole time, stating that he wasn’t a hero because he was still a Nazi.

Hearing from Rena is honestly a once in a lifetime type of experience as the years go by. It is really important to hear her story from her because we can humanize the victims of these horrible events. Once all the holocaust survivors are gone, we wont be able to hear the voices and see the faces of these people in person, they will just be pictures, videos, and stories.

Going to places like Auschwitz change the way we learn because it makes the events real. You get to see the tragedy first hand. I think this helps you to connect to the event which is important. When learning about events like these it feels like they aren’t real, who would let such monstrous events happen. However, once you get inside and see where it all happened it starts to click. It feels like you can feel the pain and see the horrors first hand. Experiences like these are irreplaceable and need to be preserved. When talking about what to preserve, I think we should think about the spots that most vividly represent what was going on here.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

World Jewry: Symbols of Hope and Tragedy

In the movie, Amon Goeth and Oscar Schindler differ in their beliefs of power. Schindler believes that one who is able to pardon even the most useless people for their wrongdoings is truly in power, while Goeth kills anyone for even the smallest inconvenience. Schindler is trying to stop Goeth from doing so by sparking this conversation. Goeth seems to believe power comes through control of the subordinate and invoking fear in them. Schindler, on the other hand, sees power as more of a natural state that isn’t bought through instilling fear. If someone under your rule does what you ask them without your threats, then it shows you have true control over the people.

As for the people who helped themselves and others stay alive, I praise their hope and determination. Many workers complied to slave labor to live. I don’t believe this is a “line” one must cross when dehumanized; staying alive is staying alive. I would have worked as hard as I could, fighting with the hope for liberation, a better world, and the ultimate punishment for those committing these atrocities. The job of the Judenrat though does seem to be both ethical and unethical. While they must have saved so many by putting them into the “good line,” the Judenrat still had to put people in the “bad line” and favored people they knew for the “good line.” Still, if this meant keeping as many beloved friends and family alive, I probably would have done it as well. I’m not sure how much the Judenrat ratted out other Jews in their hiding places or elsewhere, but this does seem like crossing a line. While they are staying alive by doing the Nazis’ job, they are literally sending their own people to death. I understand where they are coming from, but I don’t know if I could do that to other people that I grew up around in my town. Again though, it is still being an upstander by saving people when you have the opportunity to, which is what Oscar Schindler did.

Schindler didn’t seem to be someone who ever hated Jews, but he wanted to be in business with the top Nazi officials to make money. Thus, employing cheap labor to make big bucks was the way to go for him. As he grew more attached to the money and his workers, he truly became an upstander rather than letting the men, women, and children under his factory roof die. In a conversation with Itzak Stern, Schindler at first felt conflicted with his reputation amongst Jews as being a haven for them. His priority was making money and pleasing Goeth, until Stern elaborated on the true monster in Goeth as he kills people just for the fun of it. Schindler could not stand for that as a human, not just someone losing his workers.

Moving on to listening to Rena Finder, I felt very moved by listening to her talk. We will certainly lose something as more and more Holocaust survivors die. Seeing her face and hearing the emotion in her voice has a deep effect in and of itself. You feel connected to her on a personal level, far more than just seeing victims on a screen, though viewers certainly feel for them as well. With new technology and books that survivors have written, their stories will live on even when they are gone. We need to teach our children from a young age about such tragedies to ensure they are never forgotten. Rena is an incredibly strong woman who was brave enough to share a story that many choose to keep to themselves because of the trauma that comes with it. Her sharing such a tragedy with us shows how impactful her story is, despite the pain it must cause for her. Listening to Rena reminded me of my own great-grandmother who passed away when I was 12. I never got to speak to her about the Holocaust because I didn’t now that much about it as my family didn’t speak of such dark times much. I’m grateful to have had this experience to actually listen to a first-hand account from Rena, as it made me feel more connected to her, as well as Holocaust survivors and world Jewry in general.

Similarly to people, places also have a symbolic meaning. Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, though virtually, opened my eyes to the actual conditions that prisoners went through. Beyond the gas chambers and crowded barracks, sterilization and medical experiments were also conducted, and seeing the places where all of these tragedies occurred was both harrowing and informational. Actually seeing this place brings it to life beyond the pictures and films. Seeing the drawings from children in the barracks also gave Auschwitz a sense of life and hope, though it was a center of death. The Jewish people persevered through such terrors. The debate on whether to reconstruct Auschwitz as its buildings deteriorate is a serious one. Letting the buildings decay could show that hatred ultimately never wins. Yet without the buildings, how will people feel the camp’s power and aura of life and death? It’s a difficult situation, yet undoubtedly, the museum in the town itself should stand for eternity.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 28

Thoughts on this Incredible Experience

I was astonished by the movie, Schindler’s List, Rena’s story, and the tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Schindler’s List has always been on my to-watch list but I have never got around to it and wow, it took my breath away. I really appreciate the time and effort Steven Spielberg but into the movie and making sure everyones story was known. Also the use of the color red was incredibly it showed the audience the innocence of all the Jews that were being murdered at the time. It was overall an incredibly done film that gives us a story of an upstander that needs to be recognized and all the other peoples stories he helped.

Schindler used the word “pardon” to represent his kind of power. He believes that his power should be used for good, to help people in need. Goeth’s power meant instilling fear into poor, innocent people by killing when he felt like it. I believe that Schindler brought up this topic to try to save innocent lives, it almost worked but Goeth had no self control. First we saw how he got absurdly drunk at a party and then he couldn’t control himself enough to not kill the little boy cleaning his bath tub. Goeth always needed to be above people and needed people to fear him, Schindler didn’t need that. Schindler found power in helping people instead of killing them.

The Holocaust was a dark time, people had to do what they could to servive, from the Judenrat to black market smugglers. I would hope I would be an upstander in this situation but I do completely understand why people joined the Judenrat and what not. They did it to save their own lives and their families lives. At that point, they had to look out for themselves to live. That little boy that was part of the Judenrat was probably just looking out for his family and wanted to save them from getting killed by the Nazis. I believe that the line is drawn when innocent people are being sent to be tortured and killed. I couldn’t see that happened, I would have to do something. Even to save my own life I could never kill another person, it is inhumane, and humanity is all we have.

Schindler was a man who loved his money, I mean he joined the Nazi party to make more money. So obviously when he started out he was only out for money and in a factory he didn’t have to pay Jewish people. As time went on he saw the horrors of what was going on in the ghettos and Stern helped him see that. Stern showed him what was happening to the Jews and Schindler couldn’t stand by and watch it. I believe that Oskar Schindler is very heroic due to the many things he did for Jewish people, big and small. Even at the beginning of the movie he made people essential workers and that could’ve saved their lives. Then to big things like bribing Auschwitz officials to save Jewish women from being killed. Schindler saved thousands of people and created generations of new Jewish people and for that he is a hero.

The value of hearing stories of people like Rena’s is something that you can never replace, it holds value beyond words can say. Rena makes people see first hand a person who lived through these atrocities. When you hear from her in person you get so much more person with the topic. You can put a face to the people who were abused and killed during the Holocaust and that makes it a lot more real. They aren’t just stories at that point, you see with your own eyes and ears what a woman first hand had to go through. I believe that the lack of Holocaust survivors in the next few years will deeply affect peoples understanding for the Holocaust. People will begin to distance themselves from it and stories will be forgotten. But I think we need to keep their stories alive. It is very important for student to first hand speak to a Holocaust survivor but if they don’t get to, they should have access to watching videos of those survivors telling their stories. Hearing stories first hand is a whole new feeling. You are overwhelmed with emotions and can’t fully understand what people like Rena had to go through, but it helped you comprehend a little bit more what these people endured.

Visiting places like Auschwitz is essential to understanding the Holocaust and what people in those places had to endure. Being inside the walls where these atrocities happened makes things like I said before a lot more real. You can see and feel the life that was tortured and you being to picture things more clearly. “The power of a place” is a very real thing. I have been to the 9/11 Mueseum and you can just feel the somberness of the place and you immediately are taken aback. I believe that it is essential to preserve places like Auschwitz and the barracks are definitely one of the things worth preserving. The barracks show people how these victims lived and died, it shows a lot about the camp. Also I think it would be important to preserve that gas chambers because they show outsiders how Jewish people and other victims were horrifically killed and people need to first hand see that life was taken there for no reason. Places like these remind the world of the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust and how to never let history repeat itself.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Schindler's List

I like to think of myself as someone that is in tune with their emotions. I can understand what I’m feeling and I know how to process it fairly well. That being said, there are some moments that hit a little harder than others, but these instances usually happen when I am watching a sad film and rarely when I am learning. Like one student said before the virtual tour of Auschwitz, there is a disconnect between me, the student, and what I am learning. I have never been particularly affected by a historical event before, but what I learned today, despite already having learned about the Holocaust in previous classes, was shocking.

As I stated earlier, films usually cause me to cry and I had expected to cry when watching the film earlier today, however, I had not expected myself to sob so hard my mom had to check and see if I was okay. The movie was incredibly moving and didn’t shy away from the horrible treatment Jews faced during that time, which made it that much more powerful. One scene in particular that hit hard was Schindler’s conversation with Amon Goeth about power. In the scene, Schindler states that a man who chooses whether or not to kill someone has more power than one who immediately goes for the kill. Later, Goeth is shown embracing this new style of rule through forgiving those who have done wrong. In one shot, we see a soldier dragging a girl over to Goeth who was smoking on the job. The soldier, with a gun in hand, reacts in shock when Goeth instructs him to advise her not to do it again and let go of her. This sentiment is incredibly relevant, both now and during WWII. Many people with higher status have a great amount of power, but it is useless if they abuse it.

Rena’s detailed experiences were very impactful as well. Throughout the discussion, she recalled how Schindler was looked at as a hero to all of the Jews he employed. I believe that he is absolutely deserving of his title. In the beginning, he was a man who craved money. In the film, I believe that the turning point was when Schindler saw the young girl in the red coat’s body being wheeled towards a fire. This highlighted that no matter how young or innocent, many were still killed. After this, Schindler’s goal transforms from gaining money to helping to rescue people. One example where Schindler’s change is shown is with how he treats his employees. At first, when the man with one arm came up to him to express his gratitude, Schindler is upset with Stern, who authorized the visit, and orders him to never do that again. Later, when the same man is killed, Schindler is furious, not from a humanitarian standpoint, but as a businessman. Finally, at the end of the war, Schindler breaks down when reflecting on what he has done and what he has failed to do. This contrast shows how the images of war have shaped his view and influenced his actions.

Obviously, Auschwitz-Birkenau is a very significant place given all of the history it has been through. It is crucial that people continue to visit to keep this history alive and learn even more about what went on. Even during the brief tour today, I learned things about Auschwitz that I didn’t know of before, such as the horrific medical experiments performed on women in the camps. Before today, I had no prior knowledge on Carl Clauberg or his experiments, and I am surprised that this part of the history is not more widely talked about. Even if you are not allowed into Block 10 on the actual tour, it is still important to attend the tour for the other added information.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Watching the movie was deeply moving and powerful. I find it even more powerful to watch it with 100 other people who are seeking change so that something like this doesn’t happen again. Watching with a huge group of people who all believe in a better future gives me so much hope. I think watching the movie without this huge group of people would have left me feeling hopeless and helpless.

Schindler is someone who we should strive to be in this world. If Schindler can save people in this environment where he is risking his life then we can all be better about saving others. One line that stood out to me about the way Okar viewed power was being able to recognize when your power is not going to benefit the person and being able to let them go. This shows his view leans more towards the betterment of the community than himself. Goeth believes in a power that controls people. Their views on power differ in a way where one is dangerous and the other is not. I think this idea of views on power was a determining factor in many of the events that led to the Holocaust and that happened during the Holocaust.

When it comes to moral lines I think it is important to lie by the value of “your rights end where someone else’s begins”. It is moral to help yourself and to put yourself in a place of advantage but you can’t help yourself to the point where it is going to hurt others then it is no longer moral. Many people helped themselves during the Holocaust which I believe is moral. But, then there were others who helped themselves and while they were helping themselves they were hurting others. And this is in my opinion not moral. To me the only action you can not take to save your life is an action that is going to hurt someone else.

I believe that saving one life is something that is very heroic. A life has no price on it and therefore it is necessary to keep everyone alive. We never know what one life can do. That life that is saved could be the life that finds the cure to cancer, or the life that saves thousands of other lives. With this being said it is imperative that we save every life. In my opinion Schindler was very heroic. And the lives that he saved are making a difference by speaking on their experiences, and ensuring that it is not going to happen again. I think Schindler made it a point to build relationships with his workers and I think this made a difference in him wanting to help save lives. While others were brainwashed by the Nazi’s, I don’t think Schindler was because he took the time to get to know you them. This is what is going to make a difference in his decision to risk his life to save his people.

Having a person share their experiences is so much more moving because there is a face, and emotion attached to the stories. This emotion is what drives people to make a change. Without survivors in the future we are going to risk losing the human emotion and connection attached to this tragedy. This loss is very grave and could have many consequences. We have to make sure we do not lose this. Visiting a place allows you to have an experience of reality and emotion that you can’t get anywhere else. It is imperative that we keep these places in tact so that people can experience them for generations to come.

Chestnuthill, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

From Bystander to Upstander

When Schindler was talking to Amon Goeth about pardoning people, Amon was not taking it seriously. He was joking around, thinking it was foolish to ever just allow people to go about their days after “disrespecting” them. Something powerful that Schindler said was that everyone else would have it on their conscious if they were to be the cause of someone’s death, but the Nazi’s are jumping to the opportunity to kill the Jewish people. It almost sounded like he was defying what the Nazi’s were trying to do, but Schindler was brave enough to say it to another soilder.

Watching Schindler’s character development throughout the film was powerful in my eyes. Seeing him go from a bystander to the massacre of thousands of Jewish people, to putting in all of his money to save as many as he could, was heartwarming and gave me hope that people aren’t all too bad. To know that one man saved around a thousand lives is amazing, and makes me think of what would happen if more people realized the horrors that were happening to others and tried to save them.

After watching the movie, hearing the story of Rena, and learning about Auschwitz-Birkenau, I believe that there is such an importance on teaching the history of what happened during the war. The movie is a great tool for many, as it shows the harshness of what the Jewish people went through. Personally, reading something may be horrific, but seeing it in person is much much worse because what you see is not based on imagination based on text, but rather history and what really happened. The movie also teaches many to be an upstander to those who are being suppressed or bullied in the world, as if there were more upstanders during the Holocaust, more Jewish people would have been saved.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 18


The experience as a whole today really open my eyes. Having learned about these events in history multiple times, it was incredibly interesting to see it from this perspective. Now, although I had seen the movie already, it wasn't until Rena started telling her story that it actually felt real. not to say that I didn't believe the events occurred, but listening to someone talk about their real life experience just made it that much more heart-wrenching. I am so glad that we were able to get this experience because like Rena said it is now our job to stop the hate. Rena is such an incredibly strong woman and she tells her story for the good of others.

Talking about these events year after year is not an easy task to do and I just want to credit her for it because she is so brave. Letting herself remember all those things just so that we can make tangible the situation. In my life, aside from Rena, I've been lucky enough to be in the presence of two other Holocaust Survivors. now I've never sat down and heard the entire story that they had to tell, but being in their presence gives off a sense of remarkable strength and bravery that I will forever be impressed with. no one with these people endured even a little bit, makes them to me the most courageous people ever. To have lived through some things with that horrible instill wake up in live life day after day is truly incredible and although I do not know Rena personally, the lasting impact that she will have on my life is insurmountable.

All three of these events that we participated in today were incredible. I learned things that I did not know I could learn about. going from watching the movie, to meeting someone who is directly related to the movie, and then going on a tour of the place where she lives for 3 and 1/2 Weeks really just helped me realize that this was not that long ago. when you learn about something in a history book your mind immediately thinks that it had to have been so long ago but there are people who are directly affected by it and endured it like Rena who are still alive today. I learned a lot from everything today but one lesson that I would take away from all of this is that you cannot take the humanity out of the world but you can have people who completely lose Humanity.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 11

Field Trip Thoughts

It is hard to describe what today’s lessons made me feel, but if I had to pick a word for it it would be shock. Of course most of us have a general grasp of the Holocaust and its atrocities, but I don’t think any of us had before really grasped just how horrific it truly was. Actually, we probably will never be able to, but today definitely gave me a much deeper understanding still. Listening to Rena really drives home just how terrifying and traumatic being a Jewish person during that era must have been.

In a conversation with Goeth, Schindler describes what he believes true power to be: he believes that power must be used for good, to “pardon” them, to show empathy and mercy. Goeth, on the other hand, sees power as simply the ability to utilize the fear of those beneath him and to be able to kill innocents on a whim.

It is much easier for one to draw moral and ethical lines to answer this kind of question than to actually obey those lines in a situation such as the Holocaust. To be clear, I am not trying to empathize with the Nazis — they were obviously and disgustingly wrong in every facet imaginable. Rather, I am referring to those who took morally questionable measures to save themselves, from compliant workers to black market smugglers and Judenrat officers. I would say ideally one should do as much as they can to live until it means endangering the life of another person. However, events like the Holocaust cause unimaginable circumstances in which it can be hard to blame a person for disregarding the life of another in favor of their own.

Hearing Rena Finder tell her story is valuable beyond words. Hearing such a personal account of the Holocaust cuts deep not only because it is an entirely different experience from learning through movies and books but also because as time goes by the world is slowly losing people who are still alive to tell such stories about the era. Our “visit” to Auschwitz has a similar effect, as it is likely that the buildings cannot be preserved the way they are for much longer.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Deepened Understanding

First of all, I will reiterate this throughout the post, but I need to say that this experience was incredibly valuable and I am so grateful that it worked out, even in a virtual setting. I have a lot of ideas about what we watched, listened to, and learned today, and I cannot adequately express many of them, but I will do my best.

To begin by discussing the film, when he speaks to Goeth, I think Schindler means that pardoning people is showing mercy by not indiscriminately killing. Schindler and Goeth have reverse views of power. Schindler views power through the lens of doing good, and Goeth views it through the lens of doing bad. Schindler sees pardoning people despite wrongdoing as powerful, whereas Goeth thinks the opposite: power is killing people for nothing. Then, when Goeth “pardons” the cleaner boy, he clearly feels disgusted with himself and continues killing for nothing. Schindler experiences the opposite: he “pardons” people and wants to pardon more, even regretting not doing more for them.

Schindler experiences significant development as a character in the movie. At first he is reluctant to help others, arguing to his accountant that it is dangerous to help, trying to rationalize not helping the unskilled. When the accountant describes how twenty-five people were killed, Schindler says the classic, “what do you want me to do about it?” But he is lying to himself, and the turning point is when he agrees to take the elder Perlmans to the factory. As he develops personal connections with Jews, the power dynamic changes. He sees them as human, and wants to do something to ease their suffering, such as spraying the trains with water on a hot day. The shift to an “upstander” is confirmed when he is willing to help as many people as possible at a high cost to him. He values human life, and wants to protect it, and always wants to do more.

Regarding the film in general, I would like to know what actually happened and what was an artistic liberty. I would also like to know what the survivors of Schindler’s list thought of it: was there a special screening? How much input did they have? Were most satisfied with it? I’m sure Spielberg was very sensitive in his approach, and it was a beautiful and haunting film.

The morals of risk avoidance versus helping others are certainly complicated. I agree with @alberic25 and other students that the line is when one allows innocent people to be killed to protect oneself. Everyone wants to survive, and the pressures of danger and other people’s actions can definitely be an obstacle. However, Rena made herself clear: “There is always something you can do.”

I find it difficult to put into words how valuable it is to hear from survivors like Rena. We are now a part of this living memory, something any number of books and movies can never match. As the sources we have read and watched have reiterated, the human mind cannot wrap itself around the sheer volume of death and trauma. Listening to Rena brought life to what we have learned, literally. I got a much better sense of what life was like, although I recognize that it is impossible to truly understand. I cannot imagine the trauma survivors carry, and I am in awe that Rena speaks about it so openly. @PineappleMan30 described Rena as “inspiring.” I wholeheartedly agree, and I have a lot of respect for her bravery in her advocacy and sharing her story.

History can feel distant without hearing personal stories. It is sobering to know that our children will not have this experience. I often think about how generations “transfer” history. It’s interesting to think about what the world was like when people who were or are alive in our lifetimes were young. When our parents were born, it had only been roughly thirty years since the Holocaust. Knowing that survivors are alive now reminds me that this is not such distant history, especially because we are young and this can be easy to forget. Hearing from Rena added a whole new dimension to my understanding. Again, I cannot express how impactful it was to hear from Rena.

In eighth grade English, we read a fictional passage set in the future, when the last Holocaust survivor is dying. I don’t remember the details of it, but I remember the takeaway: living history is important. It touched upon conspiracy theories denying or minimizing the Holocaust. We know that even now, when there are living survivors, some people deny that the Holocaust even happened. This is unimaginable to me. I could go on about this, but I would ask: What about all the testimonies? What about the physical records and tattoos? Why would anyone even lie about this? I worry about the future, especially because of the way harmful, often racist, lies, have been able to be amplified in recent years.

Now to discuss place. Similar to hearing from Rena, I think actually visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau would add something that all the books and movies in the world can never come close to. I absolutely believe in the power of place. I have never visited a concentration camp, but from what others have said and my expectations, I think that actually being in a place where such things occurred would add a much deeper understanding of this history. To know that you are walking through a place where thousands and thousands of humans were brutally killed, starved, and tortured… I can’t explain how impactful and emotional that would be.

Although we could not experience the power of place, I thought Wojtek did a great job with the virtual visit. There is something about hearing it live from someone so knowledgeable, and “traveling” through the place, that does make you feel more connected to the history. I know about the debate over what to preserve and what to let decay, and I really don’t have an answer for what specifically to preserve, and how. I think the exhibition of Block 27 is important to preserve, as it has already been modified. I think there is merit to letting nature take its course. @ilikekiwis brought up something that I had never even considered: “Letting the buildings decay could show that hatred ultimately never wins.” At the same time, the preservation of the power of place is important too. But would preserving it make it inauthentic? I think that if not everything was preserved, it would be valuable to preserve the medical experiment barracks, gas chambers, and crematoria in particular because of the sheer emotional power they have.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Moved Beyond Words

LIke @alberic25 says, watching the film was extremely moving and DEFINITELY worth the time. I’d never seen it before, and didn’t know much about Oskar Schindler or his list going in other than the bare minimum. I thought I’d be able to make it through the film without crying, but I lost it right at the end during Schindler’s speech about how he could’ve saved more people. Even now as I think of it I’m tearing up again. I think it’s one thing to read about the horrors of the Holocaust, even when reading firsthand testimonials, but it is another completely to witness the reality of it play out before your eyes.

Hearing Rena speak was also incredibly powerful. I couldn’t tell you why this one line stood out to me out of all the horrible things she said, but when she talked about being forced out of her apartment and having people shout at her as she moved down the line, she said that at ten years old, she couldn’t possibly understand what was going on. I started crying all over again. Maybe it was that it I finally understood that she was just a child when she was forced to endure that.

One part of the film I found especially moving, aside from Schindler’s speech, was the little girl in the red coat. When I first saw the tiny patch of red, it sunk in that little children were being uprooted from their lives, their homes, and their families. It hurt even more when I saw her body being wheeled out of the camp. I think that was Spielberg’s way of helping the audience understand that no one was spared from these horrors.

In the film, we witnessed so many tragedies, and the Jews all reacted different ways. Like Ms. Freeman said, some people took on roles that saved their lives, some refused to do so; others avoided risk, and more chose to take tremendous risks to save themselves and others. As for where I would draw the line, I don’t think I have any right to say what people should or shouldn’t do in that situation. I cannot imagine having to make the impossible choices that so many people were forced to, and I don’t think it’s fair of me to judge them for the decisions they made when there were no good options. It’s easy to look back now, in the safety of knowing that no one is coming to round us up tomorrow and obliterate our lives in a matter of hours, and say that we would never have done this, or we would have risked our lives for that. But in my opinion, the truth is you can never really know what you would do until you’re in that situation for yourself.

Some people, like Schindler, chose to become upstanders in that situation. Like @ilikekiwis says, I think it started out as a way to secure cheap labor for Schindler’s business, but over time, he got more and more attached. I think it would be difficult for any human person to be around the same group of people every day and not see them as fellow humans with likes and dislikes, hobbies and loved ones, no matter what propaganda a government was trying to spew about them. I do think he was heroic. In my book, risking your life for someone else’s makes you a hero, especially if you save over 1,000 people in the process.

In the scene where Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about being able to pardon people, I think he is trying to convince Amon Geoth to stop murdering the Jews in a way that will be appealing to him. Goeth wouldn’t respond to Schindler telling him that the Jews are people, but if Schindler angles it so that “pardoning” them seems like a mark of true power, which Goeth craves, and something for which people will admire him, it is more likely to sink in. I think Schindler’s underlying view of power is to be the bigger person, and to not abuse your power for no reason. I also think he believes in turning the other cheek, because in the example he used with the emperor, he said the emperor showed real power when he pardoned the man, even though he had stolen something. I think Goeth’s view of power is more dictatorial. He thinks true power is being able to do whatever you want to whoever you want whenever you want. He also thinks it’s all about personal gain.

I think being able to hear a survivor like Rena speak about what she experienced firsthand is priceless. We only have a limited time to hear what these survivors have to say in person before none of them are left, and as I said before, hearing someone speak about what they experienced adds an entirely new depth to one’s understanding of atrocities like the Holocaust. When you are speaking with someone, you can hear the inflection in their voice and see their expressions on their faces. Words on a page, as descriptive as you might be able to make them, will never be able to give you that. I am honestly very afraid of what might happen after all the survivors are gone. With the revival of Nazi ideology and the number of Holocaust-deniers growing, there will be no one left to contradict them. It might be easy for those people to disregard facts, but I would hope it is much more difficult for them to look a survivor in the eyes as they share the reality of what it was like for them and then tell them they’re making it up. However, once no one is left to testify to those things in person, there is nothing stopping those people from carrying on in denial.

I do believe in the “power of place.” I think being right where these atrocities took place has power. Just like hearing and seeing the realities of the Holocaust, I think visiting those sites is much more powerful than reading about them, and it definitely adds depth to your understanding of the history. Empathy allows us to imagine what all those people who were tortured and murdered must’ve been feeling, but being at the place in person aids us in helping us better understand what they were going through. For example, you could feel the cold air biting through your clothes, and imagine how awful it must’ve been to have your head shaved and stand in rags for hours on end. You could feel how sweltering a room is, and imagine having to work in it without water all day long. Words on a page will never have that kind of power, no matter who writes it. In regards to what’s essential to to preserve, as time goes on, I think it is most important to preserve the darkest parts of the history. As the Holocaust gets farther and farther in the past and the evidence deteriorates, people will start to believe that there’s no way anyone could’ve ever done such horrible things, and it’s at that point that the world is susceptible to having history repeat itself. Preserving the proof for as long as possible will force people to remember and acknowledge, and I have faith that as long as they remember, they will not allow it to happen again.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

A day I will never forget

Today was a memorable day for me. I was not exactly sure what to expect going into this movie and discussion, but I was taken aback by just how monumental and groundbreaking the things I learned today were. I have always been aware of the Holocaust, but I have never been truly aware. The screening of Schindler’s List, our talk with Rena, and the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau were events I will remember for the rest of my life. I am so glad I got to experience this and finally learn more about the Holocaust.

One of the most important scenes of the movie (in my opinion) was when Schindler is speaking with Goeth about “pardoning” people. This is referring to sparing a prisoner, subordinate, or really anyone’s life when you have every ability to kill them. This shows that power, for Schindler, is all about the control of it. It shows great self-control and morality to override what may feel right at the moment vs what is right in the long run. Goeth however would rather exert his power by stripping innocent [people of their lives and families, simply because he can. This is a disastrous mindset and I think that is part of the reason why the Holocaust went on for so long.

I wish I could stand here and say I would have been an upstander from day 1, and have never put myself before anyone else. However, that is untrue, and if it was a matter of saving me and my family's lives, I would have done some bystanderish things. It is cowardly of me to say that ( I know), but if I'm being honest I do not blame the Jewish people who worked for the Nazis or became “Judenrats”. They were doing what they had to do to protect themselves and their family. These Jews were victims as well. Although I may not have stopped every incident I could've from happening, I draw the line at killing someone, or directly contributing to their death. Also, even if I were to have been a “Judenrat”, I would still do everything I would to secretly help people or free those that I could. If I could protect those that I love simultaneously during such a horrible, disgusting time, I could also try to help those around me.

Although it started as just money for Mr. Schindler, it quickly became much much more than that. I believe what changed him, and what made him truly want to help was seeing first hand the brutal torture and murders of thousands of innocent people (including children). I think especially his relationship with Goeth opened his eyes to the minds of the terrible Nazi leaders. These men were on a power-hungry killing spree and 6 million people paid the price for it. I think Schindler finally realized he could use the power/money he accumulated to make a difference. His shift from bystander to upstander is phenomenal, and honestly even inspiring. I do think that Oskar Schindler was a hero because if it weren't for his perseverance and efforts, there would be thousands of fewer jews today and fewer people to tell the story of the Holocaust.

I do not think that there is any value or quantitative amount put on Rena’s life story. Meeting with her and getting to hear her answer our questions was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. There is so much to learn from Rena. Not just from her stories of the Holocaust, but her advice on spreading love/kindness, moving on, and dealing with immense pain. To think that within the next decade there may be no Holocaust survivors left is deeply saddening. It is important for us to not take advantage of this now, but rather deeply appreciate it. I just want to absorb as much information as humanly possible to be able to teach my children about Rena to ensure her story never dies. It was particularly moving to hear these accounts from a real-life human because it finally allowed me to connect with this story and start to fully process. While I knew before that this was all real and happened, there is sometimes a disconnect between the learning and the student (as another Facing History student said). Rena built a bridge between me and Holocaust, and I was finally able to see it in a much different light. Seeing a movie or article is eye-opening, but I just can't draw the same emotional connection to it which is so vital.

There is immense value in visiting Auschwitz, and I firmly believe that everyone should at least try to take a virtual tour in their lifetime. I never truly understood the “power of place” until we explored this camp. Even though it was virtual, there was such a story in every single building we saw, and it was almost as if I could feel it. I could feel the remnants of life lost there and of the atrocities that occurred. My understanding of the Holocaust has completely changed because I can now associate all these emotions and questions with my learning and use it to explore further. What I think is essential to preserve is the train tracks and the overall layout/foundations of the camp if buildings are not able to be salvaged as they deteriorate. I do not think that these buildings should be replicated or rebuilt.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Thoughts on the Virtual Field Trip

Schindler’s List is an incredible film that captures the tragedy of the war through the actors and actresses who are able to portray the fear that people felt at that time. This is the first time I have interacted with a survivor of the holocaust, so watching the interview with Rena Finder and the virtual tour makes the event seem more horrific because such cruel events had actually taken place and it makes everything more real.

Schindler believes that having control is having the power of “pardoning” people for their mistakes and to not kill people even if they have the justification to kill. Schindler shows his authority over others by creating a safe place for Jews to work instead of abusing his power as a member of the Nazi Party. On the other hand, Amon Goeth demonstrates his authority by maintaining concentration camps and randomly shooting the weak people that do not work as fast or as well. He believes that power comes from having authority over other people by instilling fear. Goeth acts in his self-interest while Schindler saves lives to benefit the community.

In times of desperation, it’s understandable that people will do whatever it takes to survive. However, there is a line that lies between trying to survive and harming others for one’s personal gain. The role of Judenrats in the film is controversial as people such as the boy can move their family and friends from the “bad” line to the “good” line or report the Jews in order to gain favor from the German officials, which obviously crosses the line. In my opinion, people should become an upstander and help save as many lives as possible instead of being compliant to the situation because the situation won’t improve if there’s no action taken to combat it. If the a person decides to risk another person’s life to save their own, then they are becoming the oppressor themselves.

At the beginning, Schindler is indifferent to the Jew’s situations, he only wants to become rich and successful in his factory business. The sole reason for hiring Jews for his factory was because Stern suggests for him to hire Jews instead of Poles because they cost less. Schindler was heavily affected from watching the massacre that happened during the liquidation of the ghetto on the hills and the close relationship that he had build with his Jewish accountant Stern, therefore he decided to help save as many Jews as possible. This was very heroic of him because he is risking his life to save other Jews and becoming an upstander. Schindler used all his fortune to purchase the lives of about 1,100 Jews from the concentration camps, provide food, protection, and shelter for them even though it was easier for him to become a bystander like many other Germans at that time.

Hearing the memories and reflection of a survivor like Rena is important because it’s very hard to comprehend that people have committed such evil crimes against humanity until you hear the testimony from the survivors. It’s really hard for someone like myself who have not experienced a genocide to imagine what it’s like to live through such traumatic experiences, which makes it even harder for people to acknowledge the importance of recognizing and preventing future genocides. The lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years means that it will be harder for the future generations to understand and build connection in order to acknowledge this part of history and the impact it has on the victims. Listening to a human being share their experiences is different than seeing it through the written word or film footage because you can’t interact or connect with films, while many valuable lessons can be learned from interaction with humans. Similarly, visiting a place helps better understand history. I have only seen Auschwitz-Birkenau in films and never in real life. Seeing the place where so many innocent people have lost their lives is overwhelming and daunting. But it helps me better understand the living situations of the Jews, what their daily live is like, and how people are coping and living with the constant fear of being killed. It is essential to persevere historical sites like these to serve as a reminder of the tragedy that happened in the past, which should never happen again.

Charlestown, MA, US
Posts: 18

Remembering the Holocaust.

From the very beginning of the movie, I knew that this was going to be a turning point in my life. I have seen Schindler’s List before but never really knew the immense effect it had on the audience as I was an ignorant teenager at the time. This movie has opened my eyes to the tragic events of what the Jewish population had to deal with on a day-to-day basis and how change is necessary to save thousands. Furthermore, when Schindler talked to Goeth about pardoning people, I believe that he was trying to convince Goeth to steadily try to overlook the meaningless wrongs that the Jews did in his eyes. For example, I remember when the boy put his saddle on the floor and the woman was being dragged by an SS officer for smoking, Goeth decided to pardon them and to overlook their actions. At that moment, I really thought he changed. I really thought that he was going to look the other way and start having compassion for these tortured people. I was wrong. Goeth’s view of power, in his eyes, is complete dominance over the Jewish population. He wanted to be at the top of the food chain while Schindler was willing to be fed just to save the other little fishes at the bottom. Goeth maintained his Nazi-ideology until the very end and had no intention of giving it up, including when he gambled Helen on a game of Blackjack with Schindler.

As we have seen from the movie, Mrs. Finder’s personal experience, and the tour, it is clear that there were no moral lines to cross. There was no morality and no ethics to uphold when choosing to kill at least 6 million people. If I was to draw a line, I would have drawn it at the very beginning when the Holocaust had just started. There is no justifiable reason to suddenly decide to ethnic cleanse a whole population. Crossing that line would identify you as a mass-murderer and a person who is brainwashed into believing that the Jewish were the ones at fault for Germany’s devastation. Therefore, if I was placed in the shoes of a Jewish woman in one of the concentration camps, I honestly do not think that I would even survive a day, not to mention try to survive for more than 3 hours. However, I can honestly say that I have no idea what I would do. Killing someone over a piece of bread for my starving stomach, or stealing someone’s blanket in the harsh winter are all things that I could possibly do that my mind has convinced me that it was okay to do.

Schindler did what he did when he decided to go horseback riding with his mistress. He saw a little girl with a red coat and also experienced change at that exact moment. The red in the movie--the only color besides the fire atop the candles-- symbolized all the innocent Jewish blood spilled from the hands of the Nazi party. He saw the killings of innocents and the first-hand abuse that the Jews had to endure every second of every day. He captured all the pain and agony of being a Jew during the Holocaust and decided to start straying away from the Nazi regime and to join in the revolution to start saving these people. From then on, he became the heroic man that is known to many worldwide. He began to reach out to SS soldiers and bribed them to allow him to employ as many workers as he can. He stopped ignoring what was happening outside and started paying attention to the lives that were being murdered every day. The sorrow he must have felt, as a human being, seeing all these people die within his grasp empowered him to stop being a bystander and to start being the change that needed to happen.

After hearing Rena talk about her own personal experiences of surviving the Holocaust and her efforts to empower others to condemn hatred is extremely moving. She experienced tortures, arrests, and killings all at the age of 10. Ten years old. It must have been so painful to see your family being ripped apart, both physically and emotionally, and to see everyone you love slowly drift away. Hearing her talk about her memories and her reflections has opened my eyes to realizing that these horrific events actually happened and there are first-hand accounts of the Nazi party killing these Jews for no reason at all. Without these memories and stories being told to the next generation, I honestly do not know what will happen to our future kids. Will they just assume that it was another war and never talk about it again? Will they deny that it ever happened? Or will they just stop teaching it to students forever?

There is just something different about hearing a person talk rather than watching it in a movie or reading it in a book. Movies and books are known to have fictional elements in them and are known to always have people suspecting whether or not something is a fact. However, having someone in front of you, telling you what they went through, creates a sense of equality between the two parties. It generates a visual in your head and further proves how story-telling is much more effective than reading in a textbook. Therefore, it is an honor to be able to speak and hear Mrs. Finder talk about her own personal experiences, especially at the age of 92, and to understand the struggles that she went through to get to where she is today.

The value of visiting a site like Auschwitz-Birkenau generates a sense of reality and how this is an actual place filled with ashes and blood spilling everywhere just 75 years ago. As mentioned briefly in the last paragraph, although story-telling gives the listeners a visual in their minds, actually being there physically provides an even deeper understanding of what has happened there. It gives us a chance to really internalize everything that has been said to us. If the bloodstains are still present on the walls, it humanizes us to realize that these were real people being slaughtered, not just another number in the statistics. The “power of a place” is the immense emotions you feel when understanding that the place you are standing right now is probably someone’s grave or the location of someone’s death. Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau allows students to think about these tragic and horrific events and to realize that genocide is not something that should be repeated; in fact, it should cease to exist. Furthermore, I believe that preserving a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau is essential for not only our education but also as a memorial for all that perished at the hands of Hitler and his regime. It is essential to preserve everything to show how vast Auschwitz-Birkenau really was and what lengths were being taken to destroy the entire Jewish population. Therefore, by preserving these sites and remembering the horrors of the slaughters there, it also acts as a place of honor for these victims and to pay our respects to these people who had to endure living under Hitler and the Nazi party. Although it is a place of death and murder, it should also be a place of remembrance for the Jewish population.

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