As someone who has never seen Schindler’s List, this whole day was incredibly eye opening and infatuating to me. The movie itself was a devastating, hopeful, and incredibly impactful story, and although it does have a very famous film about it, Schindler’s story is something that many people still do not know enough about. The film was an absolute tear jerker and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. However, these rather cliche ways of describing this movie are ones that I do not feel do it justice. He masterfully combines music, incredible acting throughout the entirety of the cast, and amazing cinematography to create a masterpiece. What Spielberg does perhaps the best, is let this incredible story tell itself. You can tell that Spielberg did his research, to say the least. Schindler’s List was far from a hastily put together film that relies on emotional scenes, over the top gore, loud war scenes, and falsified narratives to rake in a bunch of money at the box office, which is what many directors have done in the past when dealing with the topic of war. Spielberg instead creates a raw and powerful film, which at the end, transcends cinema and brings the story into real life, which cements Schindler’s story and impact into the viewer’s head.
Spielberg also wonderfully brings the power dynamics between Schindler and the others in the Nazi to the big screen. This is a film where Spielberg easily could have made Schindler a hero for the entirety of the film, rather than actually explaining the complex life and feelings of Oskar Schindler. It was true that Schindler was a member of the Nazi Party, a fact that Spielberg does an excellent job at explaining. It was also true that Schindler, at the beginning of the movie, was in it for the money. Schindler had his character flaws and his vices. They were glaring. He drank a lot, smoked cigarettes, loved to party, and was arguably pretty greedy. Spielberg shows us all of these in full force, which is what makes Schindler's transition and the film so great. What spoke to me the most about Schindler was how controlled, well spoken, and stoic he was throughout the entire film. This leads me to the question of what “pardoning” means in the film. Goeth and Schindler are cinematic foils in the film. Although they act together in business and labor operations (Schindler obviously often lying to him or swindling him), they have many opposite views in how they view the world around them, one of them being power. Machiavelli once said, “It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both.” This is Goeth’s view of power. He is consistently senselessly murdering throughout the film, shooting random people in the camp at point blank. He is a cruel and vicious leader who is feared by all. This is also in accordance with Finder’s impressions of Goeth, as she was exposed to him in her early life during the Holocaust. Schindler, however, is the opposite ois Goeth’s perceptions of power. He believes it is better to be loved than feared as a leader. This is evident throughout the entirety of the film. So “pardoning” means understanding the power dynamic at hand, and rather than exploiting it using violence to gain more power, using one’s individual power to contribute to the common good. And that is exactly what Schindler did.
The situations that the humans are put in during Schindler’s List boil down a lot to the question of selfishness versus altruism. Take Marcel Goldberg, for example, who selfishly cut a deal with the Nazis and became a policeman against his own people. This saved his own self, at the expense of other Jewish people. There is also Oskar Schindler, who is quite the opposite of Marcel Goldberg. He risks his life, and loses his wealth for the greater good of humanity. These moral dilemmas are beneficial for no one involved. They are deeply horribly and traumatic for everyone. To me, the line gets drawn when actions start negatively affecting someone else to a large extent. Obviously in the nature of the Holocaust, smuggling and eating food means someone else cannot eat it. Of course one will naturally place themselves first when it is a matter of life and death. But when one’s decision means someone else will die, to me, it is the wrong one.
Hearing Rena speaking is an unforgettable experience for anyone involved. The difference between watching a movie like Schindler’s List and listening to Rena speak is that one features actors and actresses and the other a real human being who lived through these lived experiences. You see the effects on Rena’s facial expressions and hear the effects in her voice and the way that she tells her stories. We can connect to Rena on a human level. Her stories cannot be replicated in any film or any book. I think that the effect of the lack of survivors unfortunately will be a disconnect between human beings and the Holocaust. The Holocaust will seem more distant in the future as time goes on. The Holocaust for us does not seem like it happened that long ago, as survivors are still alive and speaking to our generation personally. It is vital that we do not let these stories die. Of course in the future there will naturally be a lack of survivors, and eventually there will be none. But we must make sure that there is not a lack of stories and experiences.
Finally, there is a power of the place. It is similar to the phenomenon that humans experience when hearing Rena speak. When you stand on the same soil where a tragedy happened, something happens within human beings and the experience seems all the more personal. It is important that we preserve historical events for this same reason. The preservation of stories, locations, and experiences must be preserved in order to make sure they never get lost in history.