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.

Posts: 18

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

1. During their discussion of power, Schindler states that power is pardoning people even when one has the knowledge that they’ve done something wrong. Amon and Schindler disagree fundamentally on the meaning of power; while Amon believes that power is control. This is highlighted by his position within the Nazi Army- he’s incredibly high-up in the ranks, and his villa looks out over a camp where Jews are forced to work. He has extreme control over them, as highlighted by the scene where he randomly shoots some Jews working one morning, and so therefore believes he has power. Schindler on the other hand believes that power is restraint and goodness within a person. He has power over his workers because he has exhibited goodness by helping to save them, but restraint over what he says and to whom.

2. I’m not sure I could answer the question of where I draw the line or what I wouldn’t do. For one, I’ve never been put in a situation where I could imagine making that decision, or a situation even remotely close. I have absolutely no idea what it must have felt like to be those people during the Holocaust, and as a result, honestly don’t know what I would do. I’d like to believe I wouldn’t take another person’s life or allow another’s life to be taken in order to save my own, but as we’ve seen in the movie and throughout our interactions with the history of the Holocaust, many people became desperate enough to do just that, and we cannot blame them at all. If it came down to another’s life over mine - especially someone I didn’t know- I may have chosen myself. Again, though, I have no experience to go on with which I could provide any true answer to this question.

3. Throughout the movie, I began to notice Schindler change as he saw more and more of what was happening to the Jews. At the beginning, he seemed to be a nice man concerned for the country, but not incredibly concerned for the fate of Jewish people - maybe because some of the policies enacted were concerning, but by that point, the genocide had not yet begun. I noticed a pretty major shift after he saw the ghetto massacre, as well as those that were being forced to incinerate the bodies of the dead. After that, he established “Schindler’s List” and seemed to work hard to save as many Jews as he could. Before this, he was certainly doing good with the pots and pans factory, and the audience could see his goodness when he saved the parents of the woman who came to him, but it seemed that after seeing the absolute horrors these people were being put through did he push to do as much as possible. He most likely did this because from the very start of the movie, it is clear he doesn’t align himself morally with the Nazi party. Witnessing these atrocities, however, put him over the edge. He then seemed to go against everything his colleagues in the Nazi Party were saying, and work much harder to save many more Jews- as exemplified by the scene were he is making the list, and keeps saying “more”. I would most definitely call Schindler heroic. He did save thousands of Jews, and as stated at the end of the movie, there are now over 6,000 descendants of Schindler’s Jews. However, we cannot ignore the fact that he used Jewish people for slave labor. He may have not created a factory with conditions that would kill them, but they were not compensated, and most likely worked long hours at the first factory.

4. There is immense value in hearing her memories and reflections, especially with the technology we have in this age. As we saw today, we were still able to hear her testimony despite her not being able to be with us. To hear the direct thoughts and memories of Holocaust survivors makes it much more personal to many. We often learn about the Holocaust as something that happened long ago, as something that could not happen today, and that the the Holocaust was the beginning and end of anti-semitism. It allows us to distance ourselves from the true tragedy of it. However, hearing directly from a survivor puts the emotion back into it, and allows us to hear about the small things. We hear all the time that over 6 million Jews (and 11 million total people) were killed, which is a massive number. And we only ever learn about Hitler and the main powers of the Holocaust and World War II. Hearing testimony from survivors reminds us to think of those that lived in the ghettos for so long and were killed. It reminds us to keep learning about them and those most affected along with those that caused so much harm. The lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years is most definitely concerning, as it will be more difficult to recall the personal stories and horrors of the Holocaust. However, as previously mentioned, today’s technology will hopefully allow us to preserve their testimonies, thoughts, feelings, and names for many, many years.

5. I felt a lot of value in “visiting”, mainly because it’s such an important place. Once we were shown the actual camp, I leaned over to a friend and said “that is not what I imagined it would look like”. We all probably come up with this picture of a dark, muddy, gloomy place that is crossed off and quite literally the picture of death. However, when I looked at it, if I didn’t know what it was, I may not have guessed that it was a death camp (although this may be due to the fact that our visit was virtual). Visiting it most definitely helped deepen my understanding of history, especially with Mr. Smolen explaining everything and showing pictures and maps of the camp as a whole or specific parts. It was deeply powerful and definitely difficult, but necessary. I would say that everything is necessary to preserve- especially the maps and pictures. While it should not be touched and rebuilt in ANY way, pictures and maps were particularly helpful to me to help me gain a more full picture of the area, and so I feel those may be particularly important.

6. This experience was a really difficult one for me. Each aspect of the “field trip” provided its challenges, particularly watching the movie and seeing people go into the gas chambers. I honestly don’t know if I will ever get the sounds of those people out of my head. It was an experience I will always remember, and one I feel everyone should have, despite the fact that it is so incredibly difficult. While it may be easier to process if done in pieces, hearing testimony, watching this movie, and taking a “tour” of Auschwitz helped me to better understand the Holocaust, as well as how everything happened and the true horrors committed.

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 26

Thoughts on the Actions of Oskar Schindler

  1. Even though Schindler and Geoth are both members of the Nazi Party, their approach to power is extremely different. Geoth is, what I think, a generic, sadistic officer that gets out of control when given too much power. From what I saw in the film, Geoth’s view of power is being able to kill any innocent person because you feel like it, or beat someone because you’re angry, and there is no punishment and no one can tell you to stop. On the other hand, Schindler’s idea of power allows him to use others to help himself. During the conversation between the two, Schindler tells Geoth that he can “pardon” people, meaning that even though he does have the ability to do almost anything, he shouldn’t take it out on innocent people. In my opinion, Schindler’s idea of power is having people fear you and no one can tell you what to do, but at the same time not blowing it out of proportion.
  2. Honestly, there is no way I could know where I would draw the line if I was put in a situation like this. I understand that people want to save their life and their family members' lives, and some wanted to help save as many others as they could. I think the moral and ethical line was crossed when the Holocaust began, and the decisions one makes in this situation are impossible. I think I would put myself or my family first, but I can’t really give a definitive answer.
  3. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to watch going into the movie; especially because in the beginning scenes Schindler was getting dressed and put on a Nazi pin, and he seemed overly confident at the bar. Considering this, I am not surprised that he complied so easily with slave labor from Jewish people. I think he “changed” because of his relationship with Itzhak Stern. The two were very close throughout the movie and this relationship made him realize that Jews aren’t the enemy that they’re made out to be. Then when he meets all of the people in his factory, but sees the life they have outside of it, he begins to sympathize with them, and I think that’s why he works so hard to save them. I feel conflicted calling Schindler heroic for two reasons; one, because he was part of the Nazi Party, and two because he was using slave labor. He changed into an upstander when he created “Schindler’s List”, and because of this many generations of those people lived. Despite him being a part of the Nazi party, he did have contrasting ideals that allowed him to help the people in his factory.
  4. I think hearing Rena’s memories and reflections is extremely important, and this goes for any survivor of tragedy. I say this because when watching a show/film/documentary about a tragedy this deep, it is easy to get lost in what’s real and what’s not. For example, Schindler’s List is labeled as historical fiction, even though it’s really not. Hearing memories and recounts from survivors themselves emphasizes the reality of what happened in the past, and reminds us that even though we think it happened a “long time ago”, it really didn’t. In the coming years when there are to be a lack of Holocaust survivors, it is really going to take a toll on the information shared with people learning about it now. I hope that as people continue to learn and reflect on the Holocaust, they will try to search videos of testimonies or read them online.
  5. I think the value of visiting any place is important because there are things that just cannot be transferred into an online platform. I think there is such a thing of the power of a place because there are so many untold stories in the walls and just an overall vibe that you can get only by physically being there. I agree with @runningdog96 when they say that it was not what they were expecting because I was thinking that it would look so bright and sunny, despite the tragedies that occurred there. I don’t think Auschwitz-Birkenau should be touched, preserved, and no one should spend money to help it continue to be visitable. I say this because it is an important building but it represents so much hate and indescribable tragedy that once it falls, we should just let it.
  6. I think this movie is going to stick with me for a long time. I had trouble deciding whether or not I liked Schindler and I was left with so many questions at the end. I think Rena’s testimony was so moving, and being able to hear a victim talk about what happened really put things into perspective for me.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 28

1) When Schindler talks to Goeth about pardoning people, he’s pointing out that Geoth is just as powerful when he kills someone as when he decides not to. On one hand, Schindler believes that power comes from choice, therefore, Geoth making the choice to kill or to pardon are both powerful. On the other hand, Geoth believes that he is powerful just because he kills people. Schindler recognizes the power of deciding if someone lives or dies, but Geoth only feels powerful when he kills. Within this conversation, Schindler was attempting to push Geoth to be less violent, and to recognize that there was power in not killing people. We saw this turmoil manifest in Geoth when he was more merciful to people, but ultimately, he still killed. That was still how he felt powerful.

2) I think that the Jewish people that took on ethically questionable roles, for the most part, did not cross ethical boundaries at first. I’ll take the Judenrat for an example. The Jewish men that joined the police force did it to protect themselves, and for the most part, they did not carry out actions that directly contributed to the deaths of other Jewish people. I think one thing to consider here is that within the Holocaust, there was virtually nothing that citizens could do. I think that this makes the line of what is ethical or not a little more extreme because trying to do anything from the inside was so risky. I think the line comes when you directly contribute to the death of another person. For example, if a Jew was going to be killed and a member of the Judenrat was asked to do it, that’s over the line.

Nevertheless, this is still tricky, because what does “directly” even mean. For instance, what if a member of the Judenrat found Jewish children hiding and there was a chance that if he left them he could be found out for that. In that case, I think that morally it could go either way because, if you think about it, that member of the Judenrat could save those people and then be killed, or he could tell on them and save someone else later. Yet still, I think that saying that you found those people would be crossing the line because that member of the Judenrat is directly putting his life over others. In that moment, he chooses whether they will live or die, when whether he will live or die is undetermined. I think that’s where the line is. If you do something that will directly lead to someone else’s death, when you don’t know how it will affect your survival, it’s over the line. Yet still, even if you know that what you’re doing will lead to your own death, I think that directly leading to someone else’s death crosses a moral boundary.

3) I think that Schindler made the change after he saw the liquidation of the ghetto. One thing that seemed to represent his “change” in action was the little girl in the red jacket. He saw her walking around the ghetto when people were being killed, and then he saw her again at Auschwitz. He saw her dead at Auschwitz. I think this was significant because when he saw her at the ghetto, he made an emotional connection to her. He was scared for her---she was all alone in a chaotic and dangerous scenario, and seeing that someone he made an emotional connection to had died, changed things for him. I think that he was heroic. Obviously, he was still a member of the Nazi party and in many ways he did indirectly contribute to the deaths of so many Jews; but, even in the beginning, he was only in it for the money, not for the death of Jews. And eventually, that money saved 1,100 Jewish citizens. I think he changed once he saw the death and the horror. Schindler didn’t want people to die. He wanted to take advantage of an economic situation, so when he really saw Auschwitz and how horrific it was, he changed his mind and began to things to actively help the Jews.

4) When I talk about the effect of different forms of media and information on me, I often talk about how it “humanizes” things. Watching the WWI film, hearing their voices, humanized it for me. Reading first hand accounts of what occurred in Congo, humanized it for me. But this, this humanized things in such an extreme way because this was a human who had actually experienced these horrific things. It made me realize that almost nothing in Schindler’s list was exaggerated; everything in that film was accurate, and that makes the horrific actions so much more real. Hearing a real person talk about it and thinking about the effect that this event had one just this one person makes me realize how severe the effects of the Holocaust really are. When all the Holocaust survivors are gone, in a twisted way, it’s almost a good thing. It means that a significant amount of time has gone from that event. However, especially for people with generational trauma for this event, it removes people from their community. Additionally, the event may not get the recognition that it deserves anymore because it was “so long ago.” I hope that the end of Holocaust survivors will not cause people to diminish the event, but I see how it could.

5)Similarly to hearing the first hand experience of Rena, seeing what Auschwitz actually looked like makes it all so much more real. After spending so much of my life reading and watching films about the Holocaust, it can lose its reality. Seeing the actual place that it happened in grounded me. I move from thinking of the event as a whole to thinking of each person that this happened to. Each person that got off that train, each person that walked through those showers, each person who stepped into that gas chamber stays in my mind. I think that this is something that is lost in history---the value of the individual. Both Rena’s testimony and the virtual tour of Auschwitz brought this back to me.

Altogether, I really valued today. I gained a perspective about the Holocaust that I didn’t have before. I learned to think about each and every individual person and how they were affected, not just to view the event as a whole.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

Thoughts on Oskar Schindler's List

  1. To pardon someone you are forgiving or excusing an offense they have committed, so what I feel Schindler was trying to get Goeth to do is to look over the small mistakes the Jews were making instead of just randomly shooting them because he could. This ties into Schindler's view of power. To him power is having the ability and means to do something but choosing not to because it will benefit no one and just harm them. In the context of the movie, just because Goeth could kill the Jews because he had the ability, guns, and wouldn’t get prosecuted for it doesn’t mean he should. Goeth’s view of power is that of control, but not in the sense of “I am in control so I am in power” but “because I am in power I must be in control”. Goeth is correct that being in control means being in power but he uses it negatively and his control is through fear which isn’t a stable control system and it just breeds more hate.
  2. For me it would be killing people, but even then it would depend on the situation. If it was self-defense like me or you, or someone I care about or you, then I would choose the other person. Another one I feel would apply to this situation is selling other people out so you remain because that would end with either both of us killed or them killed which would mean I indirectly killed them. Like that woman who had a hiding place and took Danka but not her mother, it was good that she took the child because children matter more in this situation, but it was bad that she refused the mother because that could have gotten her killed.
  3. Schindler originally saw the Jews as cheap labor and access to black market goods so he could make a profit. But after he learned about the reputation he gained from Stern taking in Jews, and seeing the woman's desperation to have her parents saved, I think he finally saw his purpose and thought of a better way to spend his money. He seemed to change because originally he was more profit focused and gaining a higher standing, but now that profit focus and higher status was to help others and not for his own gain. I think he was heroic because he did all of this right in front of their faces multiple times. He would even help the Jews who weren’t working for him, right in front of the officers. He went from a bystander who profited off of Jewish labor being cheap and easy to get, to being an upstander who would hire anyone and everyone so they are safe and not to actually produce things.
  4. The way we learn things now is from reading textbooks which causes the stories to lose a lot of their detail and importance that really conveys the severity of what happened. So being able to see in more detail what happened in Schindler’s List and then hearing Rena basically retell the story but from her perspective it really hits you as “this really happened and it is not just some story in a book”. Yes there are various artifacts and posters and pictures to prove it happened but meeting people and hearing it directly from their mouth just gives it a new level of genuity. The lack of living holocaust members will put us back at just reading them without the emotions of story telling, and it could bring up the possibility of forgetting the situation entirely because there is no one left to prove it was real.
  5. Much like hearing the stories straight from the people who experienced it, seeing the actual places gives you a more visual part to those stories. Its future cements the fact that it was real it happened. Even if you didn’t hear the first hand recounts of the things that happened there, even just having a visual you can try to picture what could have possibly happened there. Preserving the place itself would be great but obviously not possible, but having the videos and virtual tours will still be able to preserve that sense of realness and that it happened.
  6. Overall I feel like all three were really good things to watch and learn about. The history text books don’t even compare to what I learned in that three hour movie. The text books gives you the overview while the movie and testimony gives you the personalities and perspectives of all the people who experienced the Holocaust.
Bumble Bee
Posts: 25

The film had many well done scenes. It captured the severity and cruelty of the holocaust. However, Schindler seemed to be a version of a white savior. He didn’t sadistically murder people and treated Jews like human beings. He was praised for doing the bare minimum. On the other hand, his actions were risky. If the Nazis caught on that he was sabotaging his factory’s production of bullets or even that he was sympathizing with the Jews he could’ve been killed. He took full advantage of using Jews as slave labor, but if they weren’t in his factories life might’ve been much worse for them.

Hearing Rena speak about her experience in the Holocaust, especially as a Schindler Jew, helped with my perception of the film. Since Schindler's List was a hollywood movie, it’s hard to be sure how much of the story was dramatized or modified. Rena corroborated a lot of what went on in the film and clarified a few things too. Hearing her talk so highly about Schindler helped me understand how beneficial his actions really were to Jews. The lack of Holocaust survivors in a few years will mean a lack of living sources of the tragedy. No more first hand accounts can be made and no more testimonies can be taken. Hearing from a survivor like Rena made everything so much more real. Watching a movie or reading a book is one thing, but hearing what actually happened from a real human who went through it just puts everything on a whole other level. Visiting a place like Auschwitz has a similar effect. Seeing where these awful events took place again makes the events feel so much more real than just hearing about what happened. Having the tour guide point to the rundown buildings and say this used to be a gas chamber was so powerful. Seeing these places that once caused so much pain be in ruins sort of gave me a hopeful message. No matter what horrors happen, eventually humanity will persevere.

Now to address the question about Schindler’s change from a bystander to an upstander. In the beginning, he made a choice to basically make the Jews working for him his slaves. Once he got to know the workers, he saw them as his friends according to Rena. All other Nazis saw Jews as less than human and closer to rats. Schindler actually acknowledged their humanity and the worthiness of their lives. Once he formed bonds with these Jews, he did everything in his power to protect them. In the movie, we see the head of Auschwitz offers to provide Schindler with 300 new workers coming in soon, but he insists on taking the women who were accidentally brought there. This is another complicated aspect to the film because he clearly still valued some lives more than others. It still shows the importance of the people of the factory to him and not just as workers.

Goeth views power as control through fear. People obeyed him because they feared, and knew, that any wrong move would get them shot. Schindler believed that power is in pardoning someone. He means that you are powerful when you could just brutally murder someone and be done with them, but instead you show mercy to them hopefully leading them to be grateful and make sure they never make a mistake again. His charisma is one of his greatest tools. He uses it to gain a great reputation among Nazis. His merciful nature helped him gain loyalty among his workers in the factory. A loyal and grateful regime means a powerful one. Plus if you kill everyone then there will be no one left for you to hold power over.

One person who absolutely crossed the line was Goeth since he literally hunted people for no reason at all. I understand why some of the Jews would work for the Nazis in exchange for saftey and preferencial treatment. I in no way fault them for this. I think if they go out of their way to do the Nazis biding for them or to negativley impact their fellow Jews then they crossed the line. I feel like a moral middle ground would be that of the little Jewish boy in the beginning of the movie who was a Judenrat. He was asked to search the building to see if anyone was left. He lied in order to protect his neighbors, and then he put them in a “good” line. As just a little boy he holds little power and has a high risk of death. He used what power he had to try to help at least a little.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 32

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

  1. en Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about being able to “pardon” people he means that they have the ability to decide the fate of people and that within itself is a massive amount of power. Schindler’s idea of power is having the ability to do something, but having the strength not to. Schindler believes that real strength is having the ability to do something or get away with something, but choosing not to in the name of being more powerful than the action itself through resistance. Goeth’s idea of power is being in total control and doing whatever he pleases. This means instilling constant fear within the Jewish people by committing acts like shooting at random.
  2. I think it is impossible to be able to think about how I would act if I were in that situation. With that said, I can’t give a complete answer to this question. What I can say is that I would do everything and anything I could to protect my family and those that I love. If that means breaking some lighter morals, I will.
  3. I think Schindler originally took the actions he took for money. I think at first his involvement was solely for his business and had little to do with the ethics, or lack thereof, of the world around him. I think a changing point for him was his exposure to that little girl in the red coat. Once he had seen her lifeless body being carried off to be burned, I think only then did he realize the extent of the Nazi genocide. This killing of an innocent child was the spark that convinced Schindler to become an upstander and a bystander no more. It is an interesting question to answer if he is heroic or not. How can we deem a Nazi and slave labor manager as heroic? But also, how can we not view someone who saved around 1100 Jews as heroic? I think Schindler was decent rather than heroic. I use this world strongly in the sense that he is worthy of recognition for his good and bad.
  4. There is so much value in listening to Holocaust survivors like Rena speak. Firstly, it personifies the genocide and its effects. By witnessing a survivor tell their story, you are reminded that this happened to people— real people like yourself. Secondly, you are reminded of the time. To have someone come before you and speak of the Holocaust and their own experiences in the concentration camps and working for Schindler, you are reminded that this did not happen that long ago. You are reminded of the lasting impacts of this mass genocide. With that said it is sad to think that in just a few years, there will be no Holocaust survivors left to tel their story. Yes, we then may run the risk of even more Holocaust denial, but we may also run the risk of forgetting how the Nazi regime targeted and massacred people… real people. We run the risk of looking back at the Holocaust at just another story in a history textbook and becoming ignorant to the complete reality of it.
  5. The value of visiting a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau is to be reminded of its significance and again be made known that this is more than just a place you learn about in history. I’d imagine that walking through the camp is an unexplainable feeling that is only felt when walking through such a place. I believe that as Wojtek Smolen said, this place was not built to last, so why help it stay up? I understand the importance of this place, but do not believe that preserving its infrastructure is the best idea. I am conflicted over letting such a hellish place stand in the name of remembrance because I believe that the remembrance of the Holocaust should go further than acknowledging the death site of millions.
  6. Overall, this experience was unlike anything I had ever done before in school. I feel very fortunate to have been able to have this experience and learn so much from our speakers. I think there’s something very important in film that allows us to feel even more connected with a story and Spielberg achieved that so well in Schindler’s List.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 24

Schindler's List and Our 'Tour' Of Auschwitz

  1. The conversation between Schindler and Amon is one that I believe to be of greater importance in the movie. Although it seems like it is just two men making conversation over drinks, it demonstrates to viewers how two different people view their own power, and what the do with that power as a result. When Schindler talks about the power to be able to 'pardon' people, I think he is talking about the ability to forgive. One of the reasons why Amon was so feared was because he had no mercy, he would kill people for no reasons whatsoever, so if they were to make a mistake, the punishments would be brutal. This ability to assert dominance, and give people consequences, is what Amon's power is, but where he thinks that the killing itself is the power, Schindler argues that it is the ability to freely kill. The conversation is so important because not only does it contrast two different perspectives, but also two different levels of humanity.
  2. This second question is a tough one, and personally, I don't think a general line can be drawn for society as a whole-this is a matter of individuals morals and ethics. When Jews started working as police for the Nazi's, I don't think this is considered crossing the "moral line". It wasn't an action taken out of hatred, but instead an action taken as self preservation for one self and one's family. Many of the Jew's who were police would even help out the other Jews, as seen in the movie with the young boy helping the older woman hide during the Krakow Ghetto Massacre. A lot of people will probably argue that it was unethical to tell one's secret hiding spot, or secrets along those lines in order to save your own life, but I think this is a really hard argument to make. When presented in a situation being killed, or contributing to someone being killed, a lot of people will instantly act in a way of self preservation. I am in no way saying this is right, or that it is the most ethical thing, but I am saying it is understandable, especially when someone is also taking into account the safety of their loved ones.
  3. I think what made Schindler take the certain actions he took was who he surrounded himself with. It was easy for so many of the Nazi's to make inhumane decisions because they didn't know the people they were killing, they weren't even people to them, they were just numbers. But for Schindler, he worked closely with the Jews, and it could even be argued that Stern, a Jew, was his closest friend. So if Schindler were to just remain a bystander, he would have to watch all the people he knew and loved slowly disappear and die.
  4. In my life, I have talked to one Holocaust survivor, when I was in seventh grade. She was a survivor of Auschwitz, and the only survivor of the Holocaust within her family. Although listening to a recording of Rena speak was extremely moving, I would have to say it was no where near as impactful as seeing a survivor in person. When you personally see a survivor you see someone who has survived these horrors you constantly see about, you see a living (recent) story. When there are no more Holocaust survivors left alive, there won't be as much of a realization of how recent this atrocity was, but also there won't be as much of a personal impact.
  5. The value of visiting a concentration camp I believe is similar to the value of meeting a Holocaust survivor, they are both physical things that tell a story. But the concept of visiting a concentration camp is a bit more scary to me, just knowing that I would be walking the same grounds as both people of my culture who were being killed and tortured, but also their murderers. Although I don't know if I will ever be able to go into a concentration camp, I do know they are extremely important to preserve; we need to keep history intact.
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

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

When Schindler describes “pardoning” people, he is talking about forgiving someone who has made a mistake, or done something wrong— in the case of Goeth, these were usually small things that should not require a pardon, but given Goeth’s sadistic nature, they are things that he actually had to be told to pardon. Geoth’s view of what power is is the power to take away life, and through this, to exert complete control. Schindler’s idea of power also has to do with control over life, but his is merciful, while Goeth’s is simply cruel and violent. As Schindler says in his conversation with Goeth, he believes that power is holding the choice between life and death for a person, and choosing life. However, I do not believe what Schindler was doing for the people he hired and eventually saved would fit this definition of power, because to him (or at least his character in the film), it was not really choosing to let them live as an act of mercy, it was helping them to live as they deserved to live as an act of humanity.

I think it’s difficult to answer what line can not be crossed to save your own life, as I have never had to experience anything even remotely close to what the victims of the Holocaust experienced, so I cannot say that I would not have done the same things they did to survive. I think in the case of the Holocaust, the ethics of the Nazis and people in power were already virtually nonexistent. At that point, almost nothing any individual did to save their own life or the lives of their families seems “too far”— especially because every one of their decisions regarding these situations were impossible choices that no one should ever have to make. I do think there are exceptions to this (such as the examples that @frued gave), but in most cases, what people did in self-preservation during the Holocaust is very difficult to judge as “too far” given the circumstances.

Based on the movie, Schindler began the actions he took simply for profit, not for the actual people, but it clearly switched to becoming about protecting people relatively quickly. I think what made him change his mind was a combination of recognizing the humanity of the people he was employing, and the inhumane ways in which they were being treated. In the scene where he was talking to Stern after the woman had confided in him about how she believed his factory was a haven. He initially sympathized with Goeth, but his mind seemed to change completely after Stern told him the stories of Goeth’s cruelty. Coming from someone else, I don’t know that he would have listened, but he had built a relationship with Stern, which allowed him to trust Stern’s opinion and understand the perspective of at least one Jew. That scene was a turning point for him, but that was not the only thing that prompted him to shift from a bystander to an upstander. Another major point for him was when he witnessed the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, when he saw the true level of brutality that his party was willing to use against innocent people— including the child with the red coat. It seems like when he saw her, he saw her as an individual, not just another faceless member of the group. I do think it is fair to say he was heroic, because although it was not originally his intention to help people in the way he did, and in the beginning, he was definitely profiting off practices like slave labor, because of him, so many people who would almost definitely not have survived were able to live (and continue to live, in Rena’s case), and he made a difference in the lives of so many people and generations to come, and even if it seems small compared to the massive toll of the Holocaust as a whole, it was incredibly important.

Hearing directly from survivors of the Holocaust, like Rena, reminds us of how recent and real it was. Oftentimes, when people (especially those who are not part of groups who were affected by the Holocaust) only learn about the Holocaust in history textbooks, it can be difficult for them to realize that the people who experiences it were real people, and that it is not ancient history. In the near future, it may be difficult for younger generations to comprehend the reality of the Holocaust. I think in any situation, it is best to listen to the people who are/were directly affected, so in the future, people will have to rely on recorded evidence and testimonies, like the video we watched, and I hope that they will continue to listen to the people who were actually there, even after they are no longer here.

I think visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, albeit virtually, allowed me to really see it as a place that does not only exist in old photographs. It allowed me to imagine (perhaps more vividly than I would have liked) what it must have been like to have been forced to live and work and die there. It made me think about the disgusting disregard for human life that existed in that camp, with the way the gas chambers and crematoriums were designed to be as efficient as possible in exterminating as many people and as quickly as they could. I think I agree with the preservation policy of Auschwitz, in that we should try to prevent further deterioration, but not restore anything. I think rebuilding the destroyed parts of Auschwitz would be disrespectful to the memories of those who died there, as to me, it feels like it would be like trying to recreate this horrible place which should have never existed in the first place. Although it is important to teach people about the Holocaust and for them to understand the reality of it, I also think it is important to realize that it is not just a museum, it is a place where crimes against humanity were committed. When it eventually is no longer recognizable as what it once was, it signifies the time that has passed since then, and the distance and progress we are making from the Holocaust (although, as we’ve studied, multiple genocides have happened since the Holocaust, so it can be difficult to say this as well). Although we should never forget, I think letting this one artifact of the Holocaust eventually disappear is important in the process of recovering (if that could ever truly be achieved— I don’t think recovering is the right word, but I don’t know what better word I could use) from it.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Field Trip

1) When Schindler talks bout being able to pardon people, he means the ability to move on when someone has done something wrong. The whole scene is Schindler trying to get Goeth to see power the way he does. Schindler views power as being able to turn a situation around without causing further pain or suffering. Goeth, on the other hand, views power as (violent) control and authority. When I saw the following scene with the boy cleaning the bathtub, I thought “there’s no way Goeth is actually making a change in himself for the better so quickly.” And sadly I was right because he assaulted Helen and returned to his violent ways right after.

2) I honestly don’t think I can answer the question of where I would draw the line because if I were in the situation the Jews were in, I would go into complete survival mode and most of the morals I say I have now probably wouldn’t apply. I think I would do anything for survival, even if it means working for the Nazis. I would like to say I would refuse to do anything of that sort, but again, I can’t speak for the lengths I would go to in order to survive. I can’t imagine how incredibly painful and crushing it was for those who had to work for the Nazis and turn away fellow Jews. I think the one line I would definitely not cross is having to harm my own family in some way.

3) I think the turning point for Schindler was when he witnessed the ghetto evacuation and the brutality the Jews faced. Before, he wasn’t employing Jews to save them, but rather to make the most profit by not paying them. However, after seeing the ghetto incident, he realized that he had the power to save lives by employing Jews. Others have mentioned the girl in the red coat and her role in Schindler’s “awakening,” and I agree that she had a significant impact on his shift in thinking. Her oblivious wandering was so haunting to me, and it probably was to Schindler as well. I do think that Schindler was heroic because he rescued and employed Jews with the intent of saving them from death. Going back to the conversation he had with Goeth about power and “pardoning,” I think Schindler’s belief in what true power was strengthened after he realized how many lives he was saving.

4) Hearing firsthand testimonies from survivors is the most powerful way to learn and understand these types of tragedies. It adds a very personal, humanizing element that cannot be found through reading something on paper. However, sharing the experiences of Holocaust survivors is something that needs to be done, no matter what medium. Listening to survivors speak reminds us that the Holocaust was not all that long ago, and the lack of living survivors in the coming years may affect others’ understanding of this. I also found it extremely moving listening to Rena speak right after watching the film because I had a good understanding of what took place regarding Schindler and his factory, and hearing her recount memories that lined up with the film was unreal.

5) Because we took a virtual tour, it was harder to fully rebuild and conceptualize Auschwitz-Birkenau, but the experience was extremely valuable. I do think that visiting the site in person, similar to physically listening to Holocaust survivors, is the most powerful. Those who are not survivors will never understand the trauma of experiencing the camps, but being there forces us to think about what took place. With that being said, I’m not sure how I feel about Auschwitz-Birkenau being preserved because I don’t feel like my opinion is necessarily valid. I do think preserving it is a way to honor and remember those who were killed, but there is also a valid argument for wanting to leave it be. The most riveting part of the virtual tour for me was seeing the train tracks today. I have seen so many photographs of people stuffed into train cars and there was a lot of emphasis on trains in the film, so it was even more eerie and stirring.

There were a few scenes in the film that were just so haunting, and I don’t think I will ever forget them. A lot of these moments wouldn’t really be considered “central,” but they evoked so much emotion in me and I think that is the beauty of film making and these types of visual experiences. The close-up shots of the faces of Jewish people, especially their eyes, were so haunting (I really can’t think of another word). I had a conversation with my friend about what we think the girl in the red coat symbolizes. My first impression was that she represents the generations of Jews lost, because of her death and the color parallels in the film. The survivors at the very end were in color and Stern also said that generations were created as a result of Schindler’s actions.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Schindler's post

Schindler and Amon Goeth have very different ideas of power, and it is shown very clearly in this scene of them discussing it. Goeth is quite sadistic and cruel, and power to him is control, being able to do whatever he wants to do. The control he holds over the Jewish people makes him feel powerful, and the atrocious things that he does to them. Schindler is very different from Goeth. At first, power to him seemed to be money. He did not care about the Jewish people very much, as long as they were bringing in money for him and his business. However, this changed as the film went on. Power to Schindler became the ability to be merciful, and to be almost kind in a way. He explains that just because one has the power to do something does not always mean that they should.

This is a question that I believe cannot be answered unless you are put in that situation, and I say that with complete honesty. I have no idea how far I would go, or when I would draw the line. It would also depend on the circumstances, some of the Jewish people working for the Nazis might have been protecting their families. Even if it was only to protect themselves, I believe that we do not know every individual’s exact circumstances, and therefore we cannot really judge them. This was the Holocaust, one of the worst atrocities ever committed, and moral and ethical lines could have been blurred for some Jewish people simply trying to survive. So I can’t fully give this question an answer, I have never been in a situation like the Holocaust.

Like I stated before, Schindler only cared about money at the beginning of the film. He had no objections to using slave labor, as long as it got him paid. But when he saw the liquidation of the ghetto, he seemed to realize in a way that these people were in fact people. The exact moment he seemed to realize this was when he saw the little girl in the red coat walking around alone. Later, he saw her body, still wearing the red coat. This is the only time we see color in the film until the very end, when we see survivors of the Jewish people that were in Schindler’s camp. I think this symbolizes the moment when he realized that these people are important and should be saved. Later, when he is at Auschwitz, he saves a group of little girls who were most likely going to be killed. They may have reminded him of the small girl in the red coat from earlier. After he saw the girl, it opened his eyes. Another reason why he became a kind of “upstander” was his friendship with Itzhak Stern. He only saw him as someone who could run his company at first, but he began to see him as a friend. Schindler contributed to the Holocaust, as he said at the end he was a Nazi and used slave labor. But he saved 1,100 Jewish people, and there are now over 6,000 descendents of these people.

There is a large amount of value in watching and listening to Holocaust survivors, because they give first-hand accounts of what happened. It helps people feel greater empathy for Jewish people who were victims of this. We understand at a greater level the horrors that Jewish people went through. Just hearing about the facts about the Holocaust in school makes it hard to feel it at a personal and very emotional level, but listening to Holocaust survivors’ accounts make this easier. The effect of the lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years will be difficult for younger generations to understand it. However, we have videos like the one we watched today of survivors telling their stories, and so I think those will have to be enough.

I thought that “visiting” Auschwitz today was interesting, but I know that it would have been much more impactful if we had been there in person. I personally felt as though I was not very impacted by this tour because it was virtual, which is unfortunate. However, all of the facts that Wojciech (Wojtek) Smoleń told us were impactful. Much of it I did not know. The images were interesting too, but I had already seen them. I do believe that there is such a thing as “the power of place” and I have already stated that I was not able to experience this with virtual, but I have a feeling that I would have if this was in person. My understanding of the history has certainly improved after the tour. Documents should be preserved, everything that proves that it happened. But other than that, when Auschwitz deteriorates, people should probably just let it, because that place really is just an awful place, and honestly is not worth saving. People should continue to visit to learn the history and to understand better, but they should see it how it really is today or whenever they go in the future, not as it once was.

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 29

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

Schindler explains to Goeth the power of pardoning as a demonstration of absolute power. Giving an example of an emperor who is faced with a thief on his hands and knees begging for his life. The man believes he will die, but instead, the emperor frees him, displaying his authority. The emperor had the ability and cause to kill the thief but chose not to. Schindler wanted Goeth to learn from this story that to pardon people is not an act of weakness but one of power. Schindler, in this story, sees himself as the emperor as we see when in the mirror he says to himself, “you are pardoned.” Schindler viewed himself as the graceful, forgiving emperor who has so much power but chooses not to kill, whereas Goeth is the stark contrast to this; he seeks power as justification to kill.

The lines between "bad" and "good" in war are opaque. It’s not easy to try and put yourself in the shoes of people in a mass genocide. I can’t say I blame compliant workers, black market workers, or Judenrats because they were doing what they had to to survive. The amount of fear the groups Hitler targeted faced is one that’s hard for most people to imagine. Murder, however, as Schindler mentions, is one of the most identifiable acts most people draw their line at (including myself). As Schindler offers at the end of the movie, he gives the German troops an option to go home as men or as murders, and every single one turns around and goes home. It’s easy to draw up metaphorically lines we think we’d make in a situation like this, but at the end of the day, I don’t believe anyone who didn’t live through this era has the right to scrutinize this time with a judgmental outlook.

Schindler, at the beginning of the movie, was a seemingly very unlikely aid of the Jewish workers he hired as he hired them simply to bring himself great wealth. Had it not been for the meeting of Stern at the Judenrat, it is questionable whether Schindler’s List would’ve ever been made. It’s the budding friendship that stemmed from Stern becoming Schindler’s accountant that Schindler saw the value and importance of each Jewish worker he hired. The scene where Stern is loaded on a train to be sent away is what makes the situation a reality for Schindler. Seeing the fear in Schindler’s eyes when he is not easily able to find Stern makes it clear this was his turning point. He decided then that he would no longer be a bystander and that he would do whatever he could to save Stern and everyone like him. From that point on, he used his status in the Nazi party to his advantage and manipulated Goeth and countless other members into helping him save over a thousand Jewish lives with his list. In the end, he could be deemed heroic, considering he gave up all his wealth to save as many people as he could (always wishing he had saved one more).

I think hearing directly (via Youtube) from Rena is incredibly important. While the movie was based on real events and portrayed to the best of its abilities the lives of people living in Auschwitz, that will never be the same as hearing directly from someone who lived through it. Rena was able to tell us the thoughts, emotions, and beliefs she had during the events of the movie. The movie focused mainly on the life of Schindler and did not provide first-hand accounts from any Jewish people that lived through it, but Rena can. I think the lack of living Holocaust survivors will be immense; without Rena or others able to share their stories, the atrocities they faced may seem to become most distant. Rena is living proof of how real these events truly were.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the physical, material proof of the Holocaust. Reading about the Holocaust in a textbook doesn’t do it justice; there’s a chill that you get from looking at the pictures and videos of this still standing, preserved place. The value of visiting is that the photographs Wojtek Smolen showed us made it real. The “power of place” is definitely real, an in-person experience where you see with your own eyes the place where an event such as the Holocaust happened most definitely has power. Looking at it deepens your understanding of the history and helps to better visualize the time. It is essential to preserve as much as we can of places like Auschwitz-Birkenau because it is history; it is the history of six million Jewish people.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

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

  1. When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth, he says, “power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.” This context in which he says this is important as Goeth’s view of power is the ability to kill without consequence, since he is the sole determinant in who lives and dies at the concentration camp at Plaszow. The Jewish people at this concentration camp have obviously done nothing wrong so there is nothing to “pardon” them from, Schindler uses this language to put it into a sense that Goeth can look through, Since Goeth only sees Jewish people as the scum of the earth, he finds them inherently criminal, so Schindler uses the word “pardon” he is trying to say to Goeth that relentlessly slaughtering the people he considers to be criminals isn’t a true expression of power. Schindler is trying to point out to Goeth that his idea of power isn’t necessarily the right one since showing self control is the truest form of power. Goeth shows no self control whatsoever, killing people as he pleases which Schindler was well aware of. In the movie it is clear that what Schindler says to Goeth sticks and he finds himself reciting it in the mirror, and it even causes him to be merciful up to a point. Goeth quickly resorts back to his view of power when instead of continuing a pattern of mercy with a young boy in his employ, he shoots and kills him as he is walking away just because he can. He made a weak attempt at the self control Schindler’s idea of power was based off of, but he simply didn’t have the character to sustain it.
  2. It is impossible to know how one would react as a victim of one of the most horrible crimes against humanity. Right now I know I would do anything to protect my siblings and if that meant crossing moral and ethical lines that would be something I would do. If it came to my survival or theirs I would choose theirs every time and I believe I would choose them over anyone else. I don’t think I would cross moral or ethical lines to save my own life, unless I was sure my siblings could not survive without me. In terms of the “Judenrat” they may have betrayed their people but it is impossible to understand their perspective from a modern viewpoint or whether or not they had much choice or power themselves. They were just another tool the Nazis used to break solidarity among Jewish people, so while they might not be innocent they were still victims.
  3. Rena Finder mentioned that Schindler became friends with the people that worked in his factory, so maybe in real life it was the humanization of his workers that would make him fiercely protective of them and their fates. In the movie it was a combination of the relationships he had with his workers, particularly Itzhak Stern, as well as witnessing the horrors of the genocide first hand. When Schindler first met Itzhak Stern it seemed he was only interested in how Stern could make him money, but as they spent more time together Schindler’s respect and concern for him grew Schindler stopped at nothing to make sure his safety was secured, including pulling him off of a moving train. When he realized that Stern was using the factory to save people, Schindler initially seemed upset and even snapped at a young woman who wanted to save her parents. However, his factory became exactly what he claimed to object to and he would go on to bring that woman’s parents to his factory. The horrors Schindler witnessed would also persuade him to take a more active role in saving Jewish people. When he witnesses the liquidation of a ghetto, he sees a little girl in red walking around the carnage the Nazi soldiers are inflicting, later in the movie he would see her body among a pile of corpses. He knew that Jewish people and Jewish children had done nothing to deserve the horrible fate he witnessed, persuading him to create his list, turning into someone that was using the war for profit into someone that saved people from genocide. I think he is heroic of course because of the number of people he saved, but most importantly because the people he saved considered him a hero and honored him long after his death. There are thousands of descendants from Schindler’s list, reinvigorating a Jewish population that was meant to be eliminated.
  4. It is incredible how much Rena remembers after so many years, especially of such a traumatic experience. I can not imagine what it must be like to have to talk about these memories over and over again in vivid detail. It is an honor to be able to hear her speak. Her story is invaluable, as a movie like the Schindler’s List may be based off of a true story there is no comparison to hearing the true story directly from the source. I believe my classmates and I can all agree that Schindler’s List was one of the hardest movies we have ever had to watch and being able to place a person we can talk to into that setting makes it all the more disturbing, but essential to our understanding of the Holocaust because we thought it was so horrible. I am afraid that the lack of living Holocaust survivors in a few years will lead to more Holocaust deniers and an uptick in anti semitism. The world will no longer be able to learn from its mistakes in a way that it is now able to do.
  5. “Visiting” Auschwitz on top of watching Schindler’s List and hearing Rena speak tied everything we saw and heard to a location. We have learned about the Holocaust for years put being able to visit Auschwitz anchored our knowledge into place, tying it to a tangible location. It also forces people to form a more personal connection to history, since if someone visits in person you stand in the same place the victims once stood. Losing a place like this would be devastating for human kind, I think it would be important to preserve the gas chambers and buildings/rooms of torture, to help future generations fully grasp the magnitude of the Holocaust.
  6. I knew that Schindler’s List was going to be difficult to watch, but I was not prepared for how difficult it would be. This was an important experience for me since I had an idea of what the violence would look like, but it is an important lesson to learn that knowing about it isn’t nearly the same as watching it. Learning about tragedies by reading won’t fully encapsulate the same feeling of horror. In regards to Rena’s testimony, I’ll be honest I don’t understand how she does it. She describes her experiences so vividly and so eloquently despite the terrible nature of her words. It made me wonder what kind of healing process she has gone through to get to the point of where she is today.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

Thoughts on the Actions of Oskar Schindler

When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about being able to “pardon” people, I think that Schindler means that he (Schlinder, but also Amon) has the power to choose which people die and which people live. In my opinion, I think that Schindler’s view on power is that it is fluid and that control is power. I believe that Schindler thought that the ability to control one’s behaviors and make independent choices within the influence of another person, i.e. free will, is what gives someone power, not the blind obedience or whatever Amon Goeth believes is power. Similar to other movies I’ve seen, there is an emphasis that controlling and choosing when to make certain decisions is actually what power is. I think Goeth’s view of power is the ability to kill people in order to dominate society. Throughout the movie, we saw that Goeth ruthlessly shot and beat up a lot of Jews and believed and carried out Nazi ideology without question.

After seeing the movie, I would draw the moral line at betrayal of family and of group because I feel like cheating your family, friends and other members of your ethnic, religious, racial, etc. group is something that is a bridge too far in terms of morality. You literally are being so solipsistic and selfish if you choose to betray, cheat, and rat out your own people just to save your own life. The line that cannot be crossed is cheating out your family and friends in order to survive. If one chooses to be a “Judenrat,” one would rather choose to stay alive themselves and to be a perpetrator in the violence for backing/supporting the Nazis’ policies. At that point, that person doesn’t care about his/her family or friends but is so evil and self-centered.

At the end of the movie, Schindler took the actions that he did (i.e. making lists that saved the Jewish workers in his factory from getting exterminated and then giving them the because he saw the brutality of the Nazi policies. Although he did change and made sure that the Jews who worked at his factory lived by bribing officials and other illicit activities, I don’t think that Schindler was particularly heroic because at the beginning of movie and until the end he was a member of the Nazi Party and used slave labor. He benefited from the system installed by the Nazi regime of racial/ethnic/religious hierarchies because he was able to make a profit without having to pay wages to any workers. In another class I’m taking right now, we are discussing what makes someone courageous and a hero. As we discussed in that class, the characteristics that make people heroes are that they have some moral/ethical standard that influences them to act in a certain way and short-term benefits in comparison to the long-term benefits of acting that way. As previously written, I don’t believe Schindler was particularly heroic for choosing to save his Jewish workers at the end of the movie because, in the movie, he was developed as a character who only cared about profit and making money. Therefore, I feel like Schindler would not have qualified as a hero because I believe that he thought about the profit he would be making and not the Jewish workers that he had. Although I have this opinion, I don’t feel as though Schindler can’t be considered heroic because he did eventually save the Jewish workers. Furthermore, Schindler spent most of his profits bribing Nazi officials and buying shells from other companies to send to the armements department in order to protect Jewish workers and I don’t think this was because he was doing it out of greed. Instead, I feel like at that point it could be pointed out that Schindler was actually being heroic because he actually had a moral standard. I would also like to point out that this question is hard to answer based on the movie and Lena’s recording because the movie didn’t provide the viewer with Schindler’s inner thoughts or feelings and therefore it is harder to decipher Schindler’s true purpose behind the lists. We should remember that he told Stern to stop after a certain number of names and chose not to save anyone else. I think that Schindler changed from a “bystander” to an “upstander” because he saw the inhumanness and suffering of the Jewish peoples.

Posts: 26

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

Schindler means to “pardon” people contains great power because you hold their lives in your hands. All humans can kill another, and being able to assert the fact that you have that power by pardoning someone instead of killing them tells them that you have power, and that person will live to tell the tale. This is what Schindler was trying to convince Goeth of, although he probably believes that power comes from being able to save people in trouble. Goeth’s view of power is having the ability to destroy someone with little energy, which Schindler knew and tried to use his understanding of power to convince him Schindler’s “way” of asserting power is better.

It’s difficult to say for sure what I would or wouldn’t do because in a situation like this, where human beings are purposefully stripped of their humanity and hunted and hated, I know that I wouldn’t be who I am now. I would be terrified, desensitized to death and on autopilot. If I could decide what I would do now, though, I would decide that I wouldn’t kill anyone or lead someone to their death purposefully. I would take every chance I could to protect people and stand up for people. I know I wouldn’t be smart about it but I would be loud about it. I know I would die immediately, but if I could save someone or give someone hope or show someone humanity it’s what I would want. I wouldn’t want to live through a genocide anyway, so I hope that I could be a source of light in a bleak time, even for a little bit.

The turning point for Schindler was when he and his wife were watching the mass murder happening in the camp from the hilltop and he saw the little girl in red murdered. It seemed like from that point on, he realized the position of power he held. He was one of the perpetrators. An enslaver, worse than a bystander. He was friends with those killing children, women, men, people. He realized he had the power not to pardon people, but to convince everyone that there were people worth pardoning. From that point forward, he slowly changed into the upstander he became. His actions were heroic. He saved people from harm. It’s what everyone in his position should have done, and the fact that he didn’t do it at first shows that not everyone would have.

The value of hearing memories and reflections reminds us that what happened was real. The photos and the movies and the history books can only capture the facts and feelings, but not the realization that the Holocaust was tangible, real. It seems so easy to say this is obvious but it’s not. As more and more time comes in between the years of the Holocaust and present day, we’ll begin to feel safe from the atrocities in history. But we’re not. In a few years, Holocaust survivors won’t be there to remind us. We’re lucky to live in an age of videos like the one we watched that can be at least a peek into the long term effects of the Holocaust. Although, even with living Holocaust survivors, we can’t say we haven’t forgotten. Since then there have been multiple genocides with only a few people like Schindler stepping in, and entire nations stepping in too late, if at all. There’s erasure and there’s propaganda. To make sure this doesn’t happen to the Holocaust, we will tell their stories to our children. We will teach both the videos and the humanity that are necessary to learn about when learning about the Holocaust.

I’m sure that visiting Auswitz in person would have been a hundred times more emotional than getting a virtual tour, but the tour, especially right after the movie, was extremely impactful. I imagine that visiting in person would carry with it emotions impossible to explain but necessary to understand even a little the atrocities that occurred there. I wish I could say let it crumble. Let it slowly fade away into the ether as we forget that the Holocaust ever happened and never have to think about what it means to truly be “human” again, never have to doubt our morals or our “humanity.” I know that we can’t do that, though, because we need to remember, we need that indescribable feeling, we need to question our very essences and the meaning of our existences, because, as the famous quote says, how else will we learn?

Finally, I’d like to say that the actors in Schindler’s list were amazing. How they could possibly go to such a mentality of being able to express such sheer terror and vulnerability was necessary for the effectiveness of the film and is incomprehensible to me.

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