thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler and our field trip more broadly
The scene when Goeth and Schindler talked about power was definitely one of the more memorable ones and an interesting conversation to include in the movie. I think when Schindler talks about the ability to “pardon” people, he surely was trying to protect the Jews and others in the camp who Goeth was mercilessly killing, but I also believe he truly felt it was true. I think this plays into the idea of having self control and being the bigger person, in which you can take confidence from because, for many people, having good morals and being successful while having integrity makes them feel good. When you have power, it is better that people follow your orders because they respect you, not because they fear you. This is a clear contrast between Schindler and Goeth because everyone loves and respects Schindler and follows what he thinks, however they only follow Goeth because they do not want to be killed. It is important to have compassion and Schindler here tries to show Goeth that having power is less meaningful if you abuse it and never restrain yourself from doing whatever you want. The murder and other atrocities Goeth commits are something that should never even be questioned if you should do, but the restraint from losing control and doing things so horrible is having power. It is more powerful to be able to forgive and evolve because you have more control over your actions and feelings.
I think it is really difficult to make a judgment about what is crossing the line when you have not experienced something as horrible as the Holocaust, but I would say that an action that shouldn’t be taken is giving someone up to the Nazis or else being partially responsibile for their death. There was a lot of smuggling and hiding both people and goods throughout the movie, and though it was illegal, it was to protect themselves and each other from a corrupt government that was making horrible laws, so it was ethical and how people managed to survive. However, there were also people who would give up Jews to the Nazis in exchange for compensation, which is wrong even if they were struggling because of the criminal things they would do to them.
At the beginning of the movie Schindler was a bystander, like when he relaxed comfortably in the bed that belonged to a Jewish family just a little while before when they were forced into the ghetto or hiring Jewish workers because they were less expensive than non-Jewish Poles. He would party with other Nazis, buy them expensive gifts, and even just being apart of the Nazi Party was a bad thing. Despite this, he was a hero to the Jewish people he hired to work in his factory because he did his best to make sure they were as safe as possible by checking in on them and trying to ease Goeth and then gambling his money in the end to save their lives. I think he “changed” because he became more involved emotionally in their lives and actually knowing Jews that were being sent to camps and killed had an effect on him. He never really had a prejudice against them, despite being a Nazi, and spending so much time with them created a connection between them. He was heroic because he did everything he could to keep them safe. He spent money to move them from the camps to his factory and then didn’t make a profit because the factory never made anything sellable so he had to buy from other factories to sell. Although he wanted to have a successful business, he still did not care about it anymore because he wanted so badly to protect as many people as he could.
It is immensely powerful to hear from Holocaust survivors about their experience becasue it is a reminder that people who lived it are still alive and it isn’t ancient history and they can also share a firsthand experience. Much of the information we get about the Holocaust are from survivors because a lot of documents and other evidence was destroyed by the Nazis. Hearing Rena’s story was really powerful because she experienced the horrors herself and could recall what happened so long ago so clearly. It was also interesting to watch Schindler’s List and then hear her story and the ways that it connects to the movie and her own personal experience.
Visiting a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau is valuable because it helps to know what the camp looked like and to visualize what occurred in them. It helps make something that seems like it could never happen since it is so horrible seem real and serves as evidence that it did happen. I thought the movie was really good and showed how atrocious the Holocaust really was. It was really powerful to watch the movie and then see the survivors at the end as well as hear Rena talk about her experiences.