posts 1 - 15 of 16
Boston, US
Posts: 288

On Tuesday, assuming all goes well, you will have watched Schindler’s List, heard from survivor Rena Finder, and toured Auschwitz-Birkenau virtually. I want to thank you in advance (as of this writing) for your respectful response to Wojtek Smolen. And thank you also in advance for your questions for Rena; I’m excited to get you her answers later this week.

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 story, 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 77 years ago is remarkable and often unforgettable. (How much will you remember 77 years from now?!) Know that Rena, now age 93 (b. 1929), is currently recovering from a broken leg and won’t be able to speak with you directly thanks to that injury and concerns about COVID exposure. So we are left watching her on film. What do you think is the value of hearing her memories and reflections in any medium? What will be the effect of the lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years? ☹

  • 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: 25

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

Schindler's view On power is very much something that isn't straightforward. After watching the movie, I can conclude that he was a man who had people respect him and a man with a kind heart. One could argue that someone could belong to the Nazi party was someone with a kind heart? Although he had a lot of power, he was someone that used his power in the Best way scenario, considering the circumstances at that time. He overlooked mistakes and tried to see the good in everyone.

Like those in which the Nazi party was committing genocide on the Jewish people, I do support the illegal actions that many took to either help or entirely save lives. In other circumstances, I would say corruption is morally wrong. But when we talk about the lives of thousands to millions of people compared to illegally buying good food, I think it is an act of kindness and should not be punished.

I think Schindler Started as a man who belonged to the Nazi party and aligned his beliefs with those of Hitler. Until the lives of Jewish people were put on the line, we see this solid physical power from him, especially when he speaks to other commanders to get what they wanted. There you could see corruption and power. But we eventually see him as an upstander because he takes many risks in his career and reputation to create a safe space for hundreds of Jewish people. He is willing to open a whole new Factory and spends a lot of the money that he could have quickly just profited from. These acts of kindness were not taken for granted. Although it was more profitable for him to use Jews in his factory than poles, he went to great lengths to ensure he could liberate as many Jews as possible from the concentration camps and get them on the train to his factory. Any job opening was filled with a Jewish person, and the military was forbidden to shoot anyone innocently.

Regardless, learning about history is always something that everyone should do. Still, when you learn about history from someone who has physically experienced what they are talking about, it brings a whole new meaning to the situation. The facts that are being told hold more weight from someone who had to undergo this tragic and inhumane situation than reading it from a textbook from someone who could only gather this information from what he is being told. I personally enjoy hearing history from someone who has personally gone through it is also their tone because it shows a lot of how the situation that is being explained had an impact on their emotions. It's challenging. I can only imagine a time in which every second of your life was filled with fear of death, but I'm truly grateful to live when there are still people who can tell me their experiences. It's sad to think that eventually, fewer and fewer Holocaust Survivors will be alive, and future generations won't have anyone who lived to tell them how horrific it was. Just being said, I think it is essential to get as much information as we can from them in order to at least provide a better-detailed history for those coming.

I am incredibly grateful for the field trip we took today in Class via Zoom because it visually showed me the camps. It laid out a map of how I can imagine the surrounding of the Jewish and prisoners who entered the concentration camps. Although I think visiting monuments in specific places of history is more significant because it puts you in the shoes of those who lived there. Although seeing it could never compare to the burden that German prisoners paste during the time of the Holocaust, knowing that the same grass you're stepping on, might have been that of someone who the Nazis persecuted is genuinely fascinating. Specifically, I have always wanted to visit concentration camps in person during the winter to at least try to understand and feel the cold running through my bones. Putting myself in places where natural history took place is the best way for me to learn.

no name
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

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

Well I just wanted to say the movie was amazing. It honestly didn’t feel like 3 hours because the pacing was so perfect. Ralph Finnes and Ben Kingley were incredible as they always are and Liam Nesson was kind of surprised I will not lie, as most films he gets outshined. The only film that I can think of that fits this production scale of that time is Lord of the Rings.. The most obvious pivot in his arc is the contrast in dialogue between the beginning and end, like “Jewish workers are cheaper than Poles”. He originally only cared about making enough money to fill two train cars and how war really launched his career, yet when he sees the liquidation of the Ghetto and the girl in the red dress something changes in him that is the real pivot in his arc. Another minor thing is he loses interest in partying over time as well. I cannot say if he was heroic or not, he was an upstander in a time of desperation. He had a level of empathy others didn’t have, seen with the firehose everybody thought he was being cruel but he was saving them from heat and thirst.

Goeth attempting the pardoning power is similar to the moment where he almost cracks and gives into empathy; when he talks to Helen in the basement and with Schindler, you can see everytime in Ralph Fiennes’ face (he is just too good) snaps back into the Nazi mindset. Schindler means that being able to show mercy is self control of power, telling the world you are not only above others but also yourself. Schindler is a businessman, he understands what makes people tick and he figured out Goeth real quick. He is clearly narcopathic(narcissistic psychopath) and being able to compare himself to an emperor makes him crave even more power.

It is extremely difficult to draw a line because we have never been in a situation close to them, but it is so easy to judge people’s choices to save themselves or others. I think many of the crimes committed to save people were completely fine as it was miniscule to what the Nazi were doing. I do think the preservation efforts should continue however I believe there should be a discussion soon of reconstruction. My parents’ friend has been to Auschwitz and every single one has said two things: it is a must visit and no place feels this heavy in the world. I desire heavily to see Auschwitz especially with time senitivity as it is unbelievible to be walking in the same place where so many walked their last steps . Rena’s testimony really personalizes it similar to the ending where the Schindler kids and their descendants gave Schindler a Jewish funeral. Like Steven Spielberg said in his Best Picture acceptance speech, don’t let the Holocaust become a footnote in history. Sadly as living Holocaust survivors diminish I do think Holocaust denial will begin to rise whether by a small margin or large depend on how we act to keep teaching it.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

The conversation between Schindler and Goeth about "what is power?", for me, was an interesting part of the movie. Pardon is defined as the action of forgiving a person for a wrong. In Goeth's view, control equals power. The type of control he is talking about is control over others, in this specific movie, it was control over all the Jews. There were many points in the file he can be seen killing Jewish laborers for no apparent reason. His control over the Jewish laborers allowed him to do whatever he wants to them without facing any consequences. In Schindler's view, this is a lack of power. Goeth lacks control over himself which is ironic but then again he can do this because of his role as commander. He cant be challenged, therefore whatever wrongdoing he deems a jew has committed, he can punish the jew in whatever way he deems fit. Schindler sees this and calls him out on it. Schindlers see power as control over oneself even when a wrong has been committed. The emperor pardoning a person who has committed a wrong demonstrates true power and control. Even though the emperor would have justification for punishing the person who committed the crime, he extends mercy. Controlling his actions as well as not having his power not being diminished. Schindler's view of power is a mix of self-control and mercy.

Schindler first started gathering the Jew as a workforce within is his factory so that he can make money. When his assistant, Istak stern ( I think that's his name) was going to be sent away, he hurriedly rescues and says something along the lines of, if he lost Stern then that would be bad for his business. He was more focused on himself than Stern, but at least he save him. I think one thing that made him change was when he sat on the hill watching the liquidation of a ghetto ( I forget the name in the movie). His face looked filled with horror. He then realized the impact he had on his workers' lives. He seemed reluctant to help people but eventually, he always came through. Another important event that changes Schindler was when he saw the same little red-dressed girl dead on a stretcher, with her body cremated. This was the same girl he saw running alone as he was watching the liquidation of the ghetto. Schindler took a lot of risks and spent a lot of money to save several Jews from camps. He was very persuasive and deliberate with his actions. Schindler was a hero because he saved people at his expense. When the women and girls were brought to Auswitch he made sure he got every woman back, including the girls that almost got left behind. At the end of the movie because he thought he could save more people. The tears were a clear indicator that he cared for the people he saved and wished for their well-being.

There is value in hearing her story because it lets us know that what happened under the Nazi party actually took place. Hearing her story also makes it feel like this event was too long ago and she holds a part of that history. The lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years can potentially make it feel like history is long gone. It makes it feel like the history is looked away. Thankfully with the internet and video hopefully people can look back and hear testimonies as we did in class today. Also, there are offspring from Holocaust survivors that might potentially continue to carry their relatives' testimonies and can share them with the public so that the Holocaust and the crimes against humanity that sprung from it can never be forgotten.

Viewing Auschwitz allows one to have a better picture in their head of what it meant to be in a concentration camp. What it looked like, where certain things happened, how did the prisoners and Jewish prisoners live their day to day, etc. Also, it shows a piece of evidence that the Holocaust was a real event in the real world and in a real place.

I thought the film was very intense. For me, it was a roller coaster of several different emotions. I was in utter shock when the man with one arm just got shot. It was in front of everyone and all, on top of that it was totally uncalled for. Of course in the soldier's mind, it was because the man was "not valuable". Throughout the entire movie, I just had immense anger and hatred for Goeth. Credits to the actor that played him thought, he did very well. Yeah but Goeth was just a straight-up murder and I'm glad that he was caught and, in my opinion, got a just punishment. I felt for Schindler when he sees the little red-dressed girl's dead body, as well as when he breaks down. On a scale of one to ten Shindler's list is definitely a ten.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Schindler's List is a cinematic masterpiece. The cinematography was one of the few that I felt true admiration for. And the content of the film was profoundly moving, causing me to face horrible histories and realities of humanness.

The scene where Amon Goeth pardons himself in the mirror was one of my favorites. It captured perfectly the aspect in which we arguably find most shame, where vanity and egotism play. Goeth understands power as the ability to play with immorality outdoors, for the eyes of the world. Goeth’s “power” is the ability to not be condemned for acts of absolute evil. In stark contrast, Schindler notes the strength to rise above instincts of immorality and weakness as “powerful”. So it is natural Schindler’s List is also a story of Schindler’s growth to great goodness, from a dutily flawed man. His attempt to teach Goeth of the respectability of “pardoning” people represents his notion of “power”. For it shows he believes kindness takes more strength, and therefore deserves greater respect.

We were asked where we would draw the ethical line in the hypothetical that we were faced with experiencing the Holocaust. I do not know, I do not think I am in a right to name the responses of the victims of the Holocaust as shameful. They faced earthly hell. Though, in theory, one should not believe their life holds more value than multiple. Or rather, one should never feel justified in saving their life in exchange for the lives of multiple others. But, ofcourse, this is not a monochrome matter.

From what I observed in Schindler’s List, it was Schindler’s friendship with Itzak Stern that called him to action. It was mindless to bystand before the killings became innumerable and at his feet. But as his exposure and the horror grew, it was near impossible to ignore. Important exposures shown in the film was the removal and relocation of the Jewish community and participating with a concentration camp. What set Schindler apart from his fellow Nazi Party Members was his close friendship with a Jew. He watched as his friend was forced into a concentration camp. And he watched him survive it. He witnessed his friend break, and ask for a final drink. I believe it was this moment that made inaction impossible for Schindler.

It is rather hard for people to face horrors of the past. It can be hard to comprehend and truly process. Survivors who can account for the reality of the inconceivable, such as Rena, helps us conceptualize such histories. Witnessing survivors also leads people to care more. And living survivors produce a greater response within generations spared of this trauma, because we understand that this happened very recently. Not even a whole lifetime ago. Without living Holocaust survivors, people won’t understand that humanness has not progressed yards away from this tragedy. We are still capable, and we must still be warned.

(Excuse me, answering this question without mention of spirituality is unavoidable.)

There is such a thing as “the power of place”. There is energy in life, energy that connects all things living. Auschwitz holds the lives and despair of millions of lives. And visiting it’s memorial will amount to a great conceptualization of the reality of the Holocaust. One would understand better how it would feel to experience what the victims of Auschwitz endured. I can not decide what is essential to preserve, though I would say that the facilities for the Nazi workers would be the least important. But I can not choose whether the place people lived and despaired is more monumental than the place they died.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 24

Pardoning: That was such a powerful memorable moment. Unlike Amon, Oskar did not stand on his balcony and shoot the Jews for fun. He did not feel powerful through his action of hurting others. Oskar is intending to help Amon see that what he is doing isn't the actions of a good person nor a powerful person. Being powerful meant to Schindler that having the power of killing but choosing not to. Having the power to make everybody fear you and know they could be killed at any moment, but not doing that. Because killing someone means they are worth something. If they are worthless which Amon thought the Jews to be, why even use them for a killing spree? It was a clever way of attempting to show Amon the truth of his actions which ultimately didn’t work. Having power means to have people fear you but almost respect you so that they think they will die, but respect you because you choose not to kill them. Schindler could’ve done more like his regret when the war ended but that moment where the real Jews who worked for him were placing rocks on his gravestone made me not angry at all with Schindler, but grateful for the little things he did. It seems silly and it must’ve to the Jews as well to see a Nazi as a savior but he was even if the way he did it was still oppressing these people.

Crossing the Line: This movie did a great job at showing some ways Jews could almost “hack the Nazi system” through faking documentation or helping one’s neighbors get to safety. It’s sad that the fortune some Jews had couldn’t be given to everyone. They were desperate and I would’ve tried everything I could to stay alive despite ethics. I think I would draw the line at possibly taking someone else’s place or getting benefits for hurting someone else, a fellow Jew. I don’t think you can compare the value of the Jewish victims' lives no matter their age or abilities so simply put, a life is still a life. There was also the mechanic who pretended to be clearing the street from luggage as he watched before his neighbors getting shot down in the sewers. The Jews witnessed so much death that when the girl in the red jacket was being watched by Schindler, it seemed to be because she wasn’t paying attention to the people around her dying but rather focusing on her one survival. When she shows up dead at the vile burning pile of corpses, it’s a loss of hope and shows that even if you escaped, you never could escape trauma and the losses suffered around you. The scene where the kids hid in the toilet was very smart of them and I would do it if my life depended on it. The conditions were so degrading, it’s painful to see even reenacted. I thought it was smart when Goeth was shooting a group of Jews for stealing a chicken and the boy said the culprit was the man Goeth just shot which was brave of him and then nobody had to accuse their own people.

Schindler: Schindler did care about money like the other Nazis and at the end, he cared more about saving the Jews as people who could have a future although he was still cautious of how people saw him because he sympathized for Goeth. I see him as heroic and Spielberg seemed to as well, as did Rena. He spent millions and risked his life, even though he’s just one person, to help his workers. But as they said, one person has the power to change a million lives and the Jews saved had thousands of children and grandchildren. I think Schindler wouldn’t have been able to change if he was as corrupted by power as Goeth, who tried the whole pardoning act but resumed killing people. Schindler seemed to find purpose through being a safe haven for Jews and someone they could honestly confide in. He also established friendships with the Jews like his accountant Stern. When he listed his workers who he knew he was saving, he understood that these were whole lives he was impacting and like Rena said, she viewed him as a father figure because he listened to them.

Rena: I thought after watching the movie that Rena’s experience added realness to Schindler and the victims. As Rena described the process of being young and first not finding your neighbors, then being separated from family, and arriving at the camp, I pictured the scenes from the movie and tried putting myself in her shoes. I find Rena to be very brave for being so scared but not letting her fear interfere with her drive for survival. I can’t imagine being separated from my father and grandparents. She still seemed to stay hopeful like her expression as she spoke was with sadness but she still maintained a smile because she understood how lucky she got as Schindler’s worker. These people were real people who lived through a genocide to tell the tales. I wonder if the Schindler workers felt any guilt for being a few of many to survive, and they shouldn’t feel guilt but humans have weird tendencies. When the Holocaust survivors are no longer here, something will be lost from the world. These few precious lives that survived of the Jews will be lost along with their current efforts to make their experiences heard and remembered.

Auschwitz: I’m wondering if the camp at Auschwitz was used for anything after the war ended and before it became a museum. I would think it should be preserved but there is something honest about letting it go to ruins because the Holocaust survivors will start passing away and this massive part of history that the Nazis built will fall apart. But the slave plantations that we looked at earlier this year are being preserved and memorialized to remember that part of history. Auschwitz is online, something I found useful and interesting today to be able to walk the path of the prisoners. It was memorable to see the starvation cell and getting walked through the process of gas chambers, a horrifying truth. Seeing the camp in ruins and unoccupied, especially the marks on the walls, makes the Holocaust real. It’s strange to see such a chilling place in a pretty part of Poland today. The camp does have a power from the eeriness and even photographs of prisoners living there. I agree with what the guide said today, that they should preserve everything they can but it wouldn’t be the same if they had to rebuild everything when it falls apart. I can’t believe Hitler never visited because I would’ve thought he’d want to see how it was going and it would enforce his purity of race ideas, but he was busy doing other dictatorship-related things related to the war. It still baffles me how during the war, Nazis could kill any Jew they wanted but when it ended, they realized they were committing crimes against humanity which they were doing in the first place.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Amon Goeth’s scene where he watches his reflection as he practices the pardoning motion was certainly intriguing. It almost appeared that Amon was pardoning himself for his unjustified murder sprees, yet failing to because his corrupt and insane side of him ultimately dominates his life. Amon makes it clear his understanding of “pardoning” is straightforward: let people live for making simple mistakes, so that they fear you more because you still have the power to kill them anytime and free exercise over this power. His idea of power is that people will not listen to you unless they are terrified of you. On the other hand, when Schindler initially shared the idea of pardoning with Amon, he was suggesting to the power to treat others with benevolence and tolerance. This can be interpreted in two ways. First, it is expressed more so in the first half of the film that Schindler would allow people to seek refuge in his factory because he could make money. Schindler was thus granted control over their lives as he determined whether they would live or die. Later on in Schindler’s List and based on Rena’s recount, Schindler “pardoned” folks and treated them kindly because he doesn’t want to control animals, but rather to treat people as humans who are not perfect and deserving of respect. Moreover, by being compassionate, Schindler was given power and respect from the Jewish workers because they wanted to work for him.

Clearly, Jews and other Nazi prisoners cannot be blamed for complying with their work because their only alternative was death. Any jobs that would have been filled by Germans had Jews not taken the job are also ethical. For instance, Judenrats like Goldberg were looked down upon for helping the Nazis, but there would have been more German soldiers if there weren’t Judenrats and no opportunity to save more people. For instance, the little boy hid Danka and her mother from the patrol and snuck them into the good line; had this been a German soldier, Danka and her mother would have been instantly shot. Similarly, the black market smugglers are not immoral because the white market, dominated by Nazis and corrupt industrialists, was infinitely times more immoral. I think one only crosses the line if they know that their actions will result in serious harm to others who are innocent. Examples include ratting out Jewish children that were hiding with German families or stealing from other families at concentration camps. While it can be argued that one is just trying to save themself, they are being selfish and allowing the same harms to occur, just to another person. It is even more despicable if your life isn’t on the line, such as when families ratted out hiding Jews for a sack of potatoes. All of these decisions essentially put a price on another human’s life and well being.

Schindler took the actions that he did because he had a moral conscience. It is undeniable that he was an incredibly brave person for saving over 1,000 people from the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and the Schindler Jews and their descendants are forever grateful. After witnessing so many atrocities and injustices at Plaszow, Schindler could not allow such inhumane treatment to continue to his workers. At the same time though, I don’t think he was necessarily “Moses”. He was “selfless” and spent most of his fortune on protecting his Jewish workers, but he only earned that money off the back of those workers as he did not have to pay them a salary and regarded them as skilled machines to profit off of. In fact, Schindler detested the girl that asked him to save her parents and was irritated by the old one armed man who came to thank Schindler. His moral conscience starts to kick in later, however, and he returns this money back to the Jews by buying their freedom. Then again, my perception may be biased by the film portrayal of Schindler, whose personality may have been altered for theatrical purposes. According to Rena, he had genuine empathy for his workers and treated them like family. While not perfect, Schindler was a hero for protecting over 1,000 people and risking his life in the process.

There is great value to hearing from Rena because she humanizes the entire story. I actually think that listening to her story changed how I thought about Schindler the most. Her sincere gratitude and fondness for him paints a rather different picture of Schindler from the movie. It was unexpected to hear how he defended a 17 year old girl and would give her a little tap every day. Thus, it will be tragic when there will no longer be living Holocaust survivors, because the Holocaust will feel more distant and simply another historical fact that future students will memorize for history tests.

Both a physical and virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau helps one envision how certain events occurred. When we are read of the concentration camp in books or learn from short clips in movies, students are forced to make up what the rest of the camp experience was like. For instance, I had no clue how big Auschwitz-Birkenau was and didn’t expect it to be 1 mile in length and ½ mile in width. I think it is essential to preserve enough of the buildings to showcase a complete story, or rather horror. For instance, only one row of the barracks were left standing, but you could see inside and imagine what row upon row of these barracks would look like. It would have been invaluable to have one of the gas chambers preserved because as it was mentioned during the Zoom, it is hard for someone who didn’t see them firsthand, to assume how inhumane they were. I do believe that the tour could have been better if it was on another day because I was still overwhelmed by the film in the morning and unable to process so much information in such a short amount of time.

Ultimately, my favorite scene from the film was the ending when the Jews bid Schindler farewell. First, I was incredibly moved by the letter that was signed by all the Jews Schindler had saved because in the same way that Schindler had typed out their names individually to take them off the list being sent to Auschwitz, they individually signed their names to try and help Schindler from a terrible fate. The second scene that made a big impact on me was when the children were hiding at Plaszow and a little boy jumped into the latrines. You expect to feel awful for the boy that he had to resort to such terrible measures, only to find out that other young children had already hid there and wanted to kick the boy out. It seemed like the situation could never stop getting worse and reality was indiscriminate to children. By showcasing this dystopian reality, Schindler’s List is such a powerful film.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 7

I think that watching Schindler's List as well as having the chance to hear Rena's experience and taking the tour of Auschwitz was an absolutely profound and amazing experience. My mom told me that when she saw the film in theaters with her German friends, she was so impacted by it that she didn't want to talk to them when the movie was done. It really opens the eyes of how severe and horrific the Holocaust was and doesn't sugarcoat the events for people, because it is important to know with all accuracy what happened.

- When Schindler and Goeth speak about pardoning people, he means that he has to ability to save Jews from being killed and spare their lives, but he chooses not to. Schindler uses his connections to his advantage and uses the power he has to save Jews by having them come work for him at his factory, while Goeth uses his power to kill people or set them aside and make them believe they're going to survive just to have them be killed later on.

- If it meant killing people of a group that I belong to and hurting my own family and people I know and care about in order to advance or save myself, I wouldn't cross that line.

- I think Schindler's professional relationship with Itzhak Stern and witnessing the shootings and killings of Jewish people while on an outing made him realize that these innocent people are being targeted and massacred for no reason at all, and that he should do what he can to help because he has the connections and power to do so without being caught or arrested.

- Hearing Rena's testimonies about her experience made everything that I saw in the film seem so much more real and gave me full awareness of how terrible the situation was. It was heartbreaking to hear an actual person describe how she went through all of those traumatic times and it gave so much more perspective. The lack of living Holocaust survivors as the years go on is going to be a problem because people won't have a primary source and a first-hand account of what happened, so everything will just be secondary and passed on in ways that wrong information can be spread and the correct history won't be taught to people.

- The value of visiting a place like Auschwitz is very significant, and it captures the true essence of the events that happened. It makes everything feel so much more real and makes you think "Wow, this actually happened." It paints a picture that real people were once here, experiencing this torture on these very grounds so many years ago. It's definitely important to preserve as much as we can of what's left when it comes to historical places like these so that many more generations to come can learn about it and see it in person and have that idea.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

Reflections on Field Trip and Oskar Schindler

Overall, today’s field trip was very valuable. Although I have watched Schindler’s list before, the film is as powerful as the first time I watched it. I think watching the video on Mrs. Finder’s story was perfect after watching the film since she puts her personal experience on top of it. She filled in details that the film didn’t cover which makes today’s field trip so much more interesting. I did find it hard to clearly hear in the virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau and wish we could actually be there but I think it was pretty comprehensive. I especially enjoyed the Q&A part of the virtual tour.

Schindler’s view of power contrasts with Amon Goeth’s view on power. Schindler was a very charismatic, and influential person. Throughout the film, Schindler is shown bribing and persuading people to get what he wants. But he never uses violence like Amon and always gets the other party to comply without feeling threatened. His view of power is being the person that offers and being the person the other needs. For example when he was persuading Jewish investors, he told them how pot and pans would be more useful for them since they are going to the ghettos. Amon on the other hand, isn’t liked by many. His view of power is being able to control people forcefully. When Schinder told Amon that being able to pardon people is power, he means that power is when you have enough influence to prevent harm. This reflects how Schindler is able to free so many Jews. It can viewed that he, as someone in the Nazi party, “pardons” and therefore saves the Jews with his influence. And to him here power is the ability to go against the system or norm.

I think hurting another human being is the line that divides what is bad and ok/good. Amon is the “devil” in the film as he would kill people. There isn’t any justification or arguments that can be made to say that what he did was ethically ok. But Jews working for the Nazis to try to get into the “good” line is hard to weigh. One could say it’s selfish but it’s not evil the same way Amon was.

In the film, it seems like when Schindler sees the girl with the red coat in mist of violence and chaos that he changes from being blinded by money to caring for the Jewish. Witnessing people treated inhumanely caused him to change.

Hearing Rena’s memories is extremely valuable because it's a first-account witness. It overall humanizes and brings history to life. Survivors are the only source in which we can actively interact and learn. In the future when there are no more living survivors, it would be a lot harder for people to realize how real the events were.

I do think there is such a thing as “the power of place”. Similarly to talking to survivors, t convinces and gets people to care and have something in our brain click and realize the events are real. When reading about ancient wars or recorded history in documents and textbooks, there’s less engagement. It’s hard to picture wars and events that don’t have pictures and also hard to fully immerse into events in history without experiencing something tangible. When given the challenge of preserving, I think preserving the gas chambers is most important if we had to choose because that way people cannot be in denial of such important events.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 26

Schindler’s conversation with Amon Goeth was one of the most intense and disturbing moments in the film for me. The way each of these men is drawn to power in their own way is quite upsetting. Schindler, despite his good deeds, still has a desire for power and control, and the reason he is in this mess in the first place is because of his attempt to rise to the top and earn as much money as possible. Schindler's deeds are framed with the obvious fact that he needs to have some sort of power. Goeth is similar in his deep rooted desire for power, but the way he abuses this power is orders of magnitude worse than Schindler. When Schindler, likely trying to save a few lives (but not fully disbelieving of his phrase) tells Goeth about how powerful he would feel if he would pardon people, Goeth relishes in this feeling of making Jewish people bend at his will, but soon his hate and destruction take over and he is tempted back to killing Jews for the most minor of offenses.

In a time of war, and of genocide, the lines of right and wrong are often glossed over in the fight for self preservation. People’s area of interest shrinks to just themselves and close family members, and they seek to protect this nuclear unit above all else. This is understandable given the horrific situations these people are forced to endure, but I believe the line is drawn at willingly putting others in harm's way to save yourself and family. When the men became part of the Jew trooper force, they believed it would protect them and their family, so it is hard to lay blame, but as a consequence they helped along the destruction of their own people.

Schindlers spends much of the first part of the film as not just a bystander, but an enabler, befriending high ranking Nazi officials and becoming an immensely wealthy war profiteer. Schindler is enjoying his position, and reaping the benefits, but as the situation for the Jews becomes more and more dire, Schindler realizes it is his duty to try to protect as many people as he can. I think the turning point is when he witnesses the massacre and forced removal at the Ghetto, where he understands that the point is no longer to control the Jews, it is to exterminate them. Using his power and privilege, he saves a large group of his Jewish factory workers from sure death. Does this make him heroic? Yes and no. It is a heroic act, no doubt, but the reason he was in that situation in the first place was from an understanding that he would be profiting off the suffering of the Jews.

Hearing Rena’s reflections make all the difference in the world. Schindler’s list is a powerful and heart wrenching film, but it is also just that, a film. Hearing Rena speak about some of the same events that were mentioned in the film makes every event feel far more real and far more present. It is easy to deny historical events when there is no one alive from the time period, and without the accounts of a real survivor, many things do not carry nearly the same weight. The holocaust was one of the worst human atrocities in our entire history, and it should be treated as such.

There is immense value in visiting a place such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. The power of a place is very real, and visiting the location of such an atrocity can cause one to almost feel the death and destruction that took place there. Seeing the physical evidence of terrible massacres among other things can chill one to the bone. Seeing the animal-like treatment and devices used on human beings is almost unimaginable. It is essential to preserve some of this for the rest of time as a warning to all future generations and holocaust deniers. While it is upsetting that one has to preserve such dark reminders of our history, these reminders are absolutely necessary. For history to not repeat itself, we must learn from it.

South Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

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

Schindler even at the beginning seems to understand the value of people, in the sense that he needs all of them to work and if he were to kill someone that's one less person who is going to work and money that he is losing. Schindler's underlying view of power is that if you treat your workers right, your company will succeed. He seems to have worked his way up, so he is a people person he has probably been in every position, from the worker to the boss, he knows how to work his way to the top by making friends in high places, and using people he knows will benefit him. During the first scene he sends drinks to important member of the Nazi party and instantly falls to their good graces, with charm, wit, and a little money. Then in the church, he knows how to talk to the people who are buying and selling material goods. Then when he sees that Jewish people are unable to run their business he is able to befriend a Jewish person who was a good accountant and basically has him run the business. Schindler seems to have an understanding of people because he worked his way up and was able to stay on everyone's "good side". While Amon, either inherited or never really had to work, so he immediately sees himself as better than everyone else and almost godlike which is why he seems so inclined to take people's lives, and why he thinks he is also very powerful when he pardons someone, he literally thinks he is some type of god who can take and give lives to people.

It is incredibly difficult to judge anyone who was put into the position the Jewish people were put into during this time. People just wanted to survive, which is the definition of human nature, and they were thrown into impossible positions when it comes to survival. The Germans knew this, and would make people choose between themselves living or others living and our human nature wants to keep ourselves alive. One could try and argue they could have done more for each other, but in that situation all our human nature wants to do is protect ourselves and our family, and not everyone wants to be the hero. Some people just want to make sure they'll make it out alive, which is completely reasonable. Personally I can theorize what I would do in this situation, but you never know until you are truly in a life or death situation what you would actually do. I want to say I would let someone hide with me, or make room for people to hide,for example those scenes when someone was trying to find a hiding place and where ever they look the people already hiding would say there's no room, I want to say I'd let someone hide with me but you never know until your in that moment. I'd also like to say I wouldn't join the "judenrat", I don't think I would be able to rat someone out or send people to the "bad line", but that is easy for me to say.

Schindler always seems to understand the value of human life as I said earlier, he was a businessman he seems to know that if one were to kill a worker that's less money he's making, because that's one less person working. Where we see him realize this is when the woman comes to ask him to take her parents because his factory is a haven, he seemed unaware that people thought of his factory that way simply because he didn't kill people. This is when he sees the inhumanity of his "friends in higher places". He is working with the people he is, at first because he knows they will be able to make the most money, because his accountant is the best and he doesn't have to pay for the labor. He gets to know the people he is working with and he seems to always know that they are human. Even in the beginning when he is talking to Itzhak Stern and Itzhak says "by law I am supposed to tell you that I'm Jewish", Oskar almost immediately dismisses this and basically says ok and? Good for you. I need an accountant who is good at their job. So throughout the film he seems to have humanity the whole time it is when the woman asks for her parents to come to his factory does he act on it, then once he does this he realizes the inhumanity of what is going on and then continues to act on and ends up saving thousands of lives.

Sophomore year we where able (via zoom) to listen to a holocaust survivor, and my teacher said that we are probably the last generation who will hear from holocaust survivors. With living people recalling historical events make them so much more powerful because you are with the person who went through these events. It really puts into perspective that these events really weren't that long ago and make them more significant. Unfortunately when there are no more people left to tell those stories who witnessed historical events, then it is left up to the history textbooks to tell their story (but we all know how inaccurate textbooks can be). Unfortunately there will always be a few people, who will deny atrocities simply because it's hard for them to handle or they just don't want to believe it, even though there are eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust, people still deny that it happened, will that number of people go up when there are no more survivors to tell their stories? We look back at wars, genocides, and other atrocities in ancient times or colonial and seem so passive about it as though because they existed 100s of years ago that for some reason they aren't human. I hope this doesn't happen once there are no more survivors to tell their stories.

There is definitely such a thing as the power of a place, I can only imagine the feeling one gets when walking around there how strange/powerful/ weird/ sickening (I don't know the right word). Watching the zoom tour where the pictures were obviously taken on a nice day, where you can see the sun and grass growing. It made me question, how could the sun even shine there? How could there be life(grass) growing? I almost expected it to be in some sort of bubble where there is no sunlight, or life. It seems so strange, in the movies, or in pictures in textbooks, I usually see it snowing, or the pictures are in black and white. Places in textbooks also seem like this distant place, as though reading about a fantasy place where something bad happened, you can feel sad and understand why a place would be sad, but the fantasy place isn't real. Auschwitz-Birkenau is real, and it is important to preserve it so it doesn't become some distant fantasy place in a textbook, but an actual place that you can go and see and feel the power that comes with going there.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

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

In this scene Amon Goeth pardons himself in the mirror while fixing his hair. My interpretation of this scene is that it is a sort of justification for his violence against people. Amon hold all the power against the Jews. He has the free will to free them or to kill them. He chooses violence and murder. Schindler in the other had holds wealth and connections, as well as power. Schindler had a good heart even if he didn’t want to admit it. I think his underlying view of power is that anyone can obtain it, but it is what you choose to do with power that matters. Goeth’s view of power is to make people afraid of him in order to listen.

This question about drawing the line certainly has no right answer. I have never been in the situation where I am forced to make decisions in order to survive. I understand working and obeying the German’s harsh, harsh laws in order to stay alive. If I were in the position I would do anything just to be able to survive. I think this question is difficult to answer because it is easier to judge others than yourselves. Of course everyone will say that the line is violence, but I’m sure if most people came close to a situation even remotely similar to that, everyone would save themselves first. I am in no way justifying the means of genocide or murder. I honestly don’t think this question can be answered nor should be answered. Nobody will ever come close to what the Jews were forced to do in those Concentration camps. I think it is kind of questionable to say “This is what I would do in the Holocaust…” because these people had to fight to survive every single day.

Schindler ended up building a strong connection with Stein before Jews were sent to concentration camps. I think meeting Stein helped break Schindler’s harmful views on Jews if there were any in the first place. In my opinion, I believe Schindler never even intended on being a hero. I don’t think he wanted to be seen as a savior in the beginning. We can see this when the woman came to Schindler to ask him to “save” her parents. He got extremely angry at this. However, he was a savior. He did not want this at first, or do it intentionally. I believe as the war went on, Schindler saw first hand the more violence and killings that occurred. His unintentional saving of the Jews became intentional. He changed because he had a heart. He started this as a business plan to make more money, but as he built more connections with Jews he began to genuinely care about them as people and what was going on.

Hearing Rena’s personal stories about her living through the Holocaust gives this a personal feel. It was already a very heavy and deep topic but hearing her story just digs that hole a little bit deeper. We can hear the pain and emotion in her voice as she recalls the memories of living through that time. It allows us to put ourselves in her position for a moment. We imagine our childhood and being a kid, versus Rena’s childhood and how much she had to endure as a young child. I’m sure she has a much different view on life than we do. Being so close to having your life being taken at any second and having to leave all of your loved ones is something that would make you not take life for granted. Her story is powerful and should be heard everywhere. Any one who has lived through the Holocaust is extremely valuable to how we preserve history.

The value of visiting this place is to feel the eerie feeling that is left behind. It feels heavy. We get to see the harsh conditions left over from 70 years ago. I believe there is such thing as “power of place” because we feel physically heavy when looking at the gas chambers and camps.

Boston, Massachussetts, US
Posts: 27

Today, my classmates and I sat in the Sevak Room to watch Schindler’s List, listen to some of Mrs. Finder’s story, and attend a virtual tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Not only was the entire experience insightful, it was also amazing, eye opening, and emotional. Those adjectives all pretty much mean the same thing, however, the day was well spent. I would say that watching Schindler’s List was my favorite part of the day. The movie was very heartfelt, and it captured a lot of accurate aspects of what happened to Jewish people and the Nazi party during the 1940s. A lot of my lingering questions about this time were answered by watching the film. I was intrigued by Schindler, given how he was a Nazi who saved the lives of over one thousand Jews. My favorite part of the film was honestly the ending, where the movie depicted the real survivors of Auschwitz accompanied by the actors and actresses who played a younger version of them in the movie. Another moment that caught my attention was during the tour of Auschwitz. Our tour guide, Wojtek, focused especially on a prison cell in the basement of a building in Auschwitz. It was a room that prisoners would all sit in together. They would be squished into the cell in large groups, deprived of food and water until they died. It’s a depressing yet effective and slow tactic used to kill people. Seeing this room and understanding the history of what happened in here was sickening. I liked Rena’s testimony, too, because it was a very personal way to learn about the events of the Holocaust. Hearing from a woman who went through this as a little girl, she had very particular stories to tell. While these are extremely sad, it was cool (in a way) to learn about this. She talked about large dogs barking at her, guards shouting all over the place, and huge towers all over the place with smoke. I also decided to answer these questions:

What will be the effect of the lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years?

As more and more Holocaust survivors pass away, there are less personal stories to tell. Survivors tell the most accurate stories because they were the ones who experienced the Holocaust. They can tell it better than any document or any scholar. It will have a negative effect as the survivors pass away because their memories will be present instead of them.

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”?

Schindler was definitely a hero. By being a Nazi and running a secret business in order to make money to save lives, he did a smart thing. While he did benefit financially from running this business, I believe he tackled this in the safest way he could. I think that if he tried to shut down the abuse of Jewish prisoners, he would have been immediately killed. By putting on a persona and working undercover, he was able to save the lives of over one thousand Jewish people being abused. I think that Schindler was mostly an upstander because while he didn’t do the most, he still did enough for those he saved.

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)?

There is a value in visiting Auschwitz because you are honoring the lives of all the innocent people who experienced awful treatment here. Virtually visiting this place broadened my understanding of what the camp looked like, as well as what went on there. It is essential to preserve all of the structures so that they don’t turn into more confusing ruins than they already have. It is imperative that people do as much as they can to keep the memories alive for the honor of the victims, and they can do this by preserving the buildings and structures.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

  1. When Schindler talks to Goeth about being able to “pardon” people, he is telling him to be merciful with the Jews that are living in his camp, and that he shouldn’t be cruel to them or shoot someone who is just trying to work. In the film Schindler compares this type of mercy to the mercy that God gives people when they have “sinned,” although to the Nazi party, if you were Jewish and alive, they considered that a sin in itself. I believe Schindler views power as a necessity, but he uses that power discreetly and in the film he mentions how there is more power in being merciful than being cruel because, unlike his fellow Nazi party members, Schindler doesn’t view the Jews as parasites or rodents, but as actual people who are being treated inhumanely. Goeth has a different meaning of power. Schindler tries to influence the way Goeth uses his power over the camp, but Goeth quickly reverts back to his horrifying ways because he believes that having power is having the ability to make a group of people fear you so much that they will do whatever he tells them to do. Obviously, Schindler’s views are more humane and just compared to Goeth.
  2. To be completely honest, this is a very hard question to answer. In terms of Jewish people policing the streets for the Nazi party, I would say they were doing what they could to stay alive as well as doing what they could to stay in the ghetto. Since it was early in the Holocaust, I don’t think they realized that they helped send Jews to concentration camps like Auschwitz and Plaszow. I think the line is very vague when it comes to what you should and should not cross when you are trying to survive, clearly the Nazi party crossed the line way before the descriminated groups felt their flight or fight response. A line that should not be crossed when trying to survive is knowingly making it difficult for someone else in your same situation. I know this is a horrific tragedy and people may not clearly process their actions when they are looking for a way out of this genocide, but I don’t think you should actively try to survive by putting others in the same situation in jeopardy or peril.
  3. From the beginning of the movie Schindler never seemed to have a problem with anyone who was Jewish, he actively sought out Jewish investors for his enamelware factory and his Jewish accountant, Stern, was a good friend and loyal employee. I think he seemed to change because he spent so much time with Stern and around his factory workers that he realized that Jews were people just like him, and he saw how inhumanely these human-beings were treated and he wanted to help. In the movie, when we see a woman come to his factory and beg him to let her parents come to the factory to work for him, Schindler realize that he is viewed as a savior, and he is doing a lot of good for the people who are trapped in the Plaszow camp. I believe that he enjoys helping the people in that camp, and that he likes knowing that he made a difference for the better in this war, which is what changes him from a “bystander” into an “up-stander.”
  4. Listening to Rena speak was incredible, and it was amazing to see the parallels between her life and the movie. It was honestly shocking and horrifying to hear that the events in the movie and the events during the Holocaust matched up almost perfectly. Her reflections on the event were so powerful and I was hooked on every word she said, it was really unfortunate that we couldn’t return to Rena’s speech after lunch because I feel like we could have learned so much more about her life experience during the war/ genocide, including her time in Auschwitz. It’s unfortunate to think about, but when there will be no more Holocaust survivors I feel like we won’t get the same effect from the history of what we are told. It’s an incredible experience to hear from someone who was there to witness and experience the atrocity of the Holocaust, and amazing to see their perserverence and courage to talk about it. It will still be an important and saddening event in history to talk about, but I fear that future generations will not get the same effect of the tragedy.
  5. I think there is a lot of value in visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau because it really grounds our understanding of the Holocaust and genocide that was committed during the war, the zoom call was also a good way to prepare us for what we will see next year, if the Ukraine war is over, when we go on the Eastern Europe trip. It is really sad to learn about the harsh treatment and murders that the discriminated groups had to endure at Auschwitz, but I fully believe it is important to learn about this history and the truth of what happened at the camps. It is extremely important to preserve sites like Auschwitz because it shows the brutality of what happened, and if you visit the camp it will completely solidify the disbelief that is the Holocaust. Especially with survivors getting older, it is important to have a solid representation of the genocide.
boston , Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

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

When Schindler asks about being able to pardon people I think he means that he wanted to pardon them from going to camps etc, and instead come and work with him and his factory. He wanted to essentially take an amount of jews and have them come work for him, even though they didnt get the money and the money went to the Nazis, it saved them in the end. I obviously cannot put myself into the situation completely because I will never know what it is like to be under those circumstances and having to make decisions. I think even the illegal or morally wrong ones are okay if it means helping the jews. In the movie you can see how scary it must've been to be them, and you didn't know what to do in fear that you would get killed. I think the line that I wouldn't cross would be if it gets to the point where I am killing my friends/family or others like me to save myself, I wouldn’t be able to do that I don’t think. I definitely think you could characterize Schindler as being heroic, even though yes he did start off being in the Nazi party you can tell he had morals and decency unlike a lot of the other Nazis. Towards the end I think it really spoke volumes, when he said how he wish he could’ve saved “just 1 more”, it shows that he was genuinely a nice man and had good intentions with what he was doing. I think just the fact that Rena was able to remember details and remembered everything just shows how much they actually went through, and how traumatic it was. It was very powerful hearing her speak because it is real life, she is a real person telling a real story. Even though we were only able to see it virtually I think there is a ton of power that comes with that, especially after hearing and seeing what went down in the camp, then seeing how it is today. Obviously though, there is probably nothing that compares to actually being there and walking through it yourself, and that is something I am so interested in and hopefully will be able to do someday. I really liked the film, it was very well made and there was never a moment where I was bored or didn't think it was good. It was extremely captivating and was just unexplainable, I think everyone needs to see it.
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