posts 1 - 15 of 28
Boston, US
Posts: 350

On Wednesday, assuming all goes well, you will have watched Schindler’s List. We will most likely not have heard from one of the few remaining survivors, Rena Finder (age 94), but on Thursday in class we will probably hear a bit from her on film. Rena is not well at the moment, but she is eager to receive and respond to your questions. So as part of this assignment, you are to pose at least one question for Rena.

A note: I have tremendous respect for the array of reactions that I anticipate you will have in response to the film. 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. 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 addition in a 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”?

  • At the end of the post, in a separate paragraph, pose a question for Rena Finder. Know that I’ll be copying and pasting, combining similar questions/topics and getting her to respond.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Reaction to Oskar Schindler

I think “pardoning” people in Schindler’s view was the ability to be known by other people and respected as a protector. His underlying view of power is that he is known as an important person, and especially one that people respect too. I think a large number of his ideas stem from his wealth, as he often bribed people to get what he wanted, but I think that networking allowed him to create a greater respect for himself, and a name for himself. He also did notable things (that are bound to be discussed) in non-violent ways, which offered people the ability to see him from different points of view. But, in the case of Geoth, before he had discussed the idea of “pardoning” people, he believed power to be the ability to hurt, bully, abuse, and kill people with little to no consequences. Geoth’s view of power fed off fear-mongering and murder, whereas Schindler’s was fueled by his notability and wealth.

I think that it’s hard for me to say exactly what I would or wouldn’t due because I wasn’t in and hopefully never will be in that situation. I think I would want to help other people out, when it came to hiding or running away from the Nazi soldiers, instead of keeping a place to myself or a few others. I think that would especially take place with whatever children I was with. I think I would want to gain some sort of protection from the Nazi police, while still helping out those being captured and sent to concentration camps because I think that should have been done more often. I would protect myself and loved ones, but what’s happening to others and helping others would also be a large part of my consciousness and my actions.

I think the reasons that Schindler took those actions changed throughout his life. In the beginning, he was mostly in it to helping the Jewish people because he wanted to use them as slave labor to make himself a profit. However, as time went on, his accountant helped create bonds to these people with him, and he began to see them as people, not just hunted things that work for him. Over time he gained a real connection with with them and even took part in letting them practice their religion while under his care. He went from not caring and trynig to capitalize them, to thinking he didn’t do enough to help them entirely.

How did you begin to rebuild your life after the war ended and Jewish people were liberated? Were you able to go home or find your belongings or did you start completely fresh like most people. Was anyone welcoming in helping you rebuild your life and future, and were any of those people you met during that portion of time in the camps? Did you stay connected with other survivors?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

By being able to “pardon” people, Schindler’s most direct, and simplest, meaning is to excuse them from being executed. Instead of murdering innocent people on the spot for any inconveniences, one can now pardon them for their mistake and give them a chance at improvement. I feel as though Schindler’s underlying view of power derives from self-control. That is, being so strong with yourself that you hold the ability to spare others from torture is something so rare that only a powerful man may experience. In addition to that, “pardoning” people may have likely benefited his business. In sharp contrast, Goeth’s underlying view of power is purely based on control and domination. This can be seen over the many executions he carries out, which in a sense is his version of demonstrating his power and free-will.

I would consider the bottom line to be risking other lives in order to save yours. In times of a crisis, it is sometimes necessary to do things you're uncomfortable with. That may be working for the enemy, crossing ethical lines, or other illegal activities. There are different levels of sensitivity for this and I am not the one to control where people draw the line. However, once your actions begin to affect the lives of others and put them in danger, that is where the line must be officially drawn. In doing so, you are now practically killing others to save your life—evidently putting more people at risk because of your selfishness. I would definitely want to be the hero who saves everyone, but with that comes risk. In times of terror, I feel as though fear would have taken over and caused me to isolate myself from other’s in hope that hiding would somehow save me.

To begin, Schindler’s original intentions weren’t necessarily to save any particular jewish people, but rather merely just a business operation to make capital. This can be seen in the scene where the younger woman comes to ask for Schindler to take in her parents, in which he responds furiously about how he doesn’t want his name to be associated with anything related to a refuge. From that point on, his tone and view of his operation change for the better. I’m not completely sure what caused this shift, but my guess could be that his experience with the war and treatment of jewish people—and the fact that those under his command showed him gratitude (a big theme in the movie)—served as some form of awakening to the injustice and inhumanity of the situation. Overall as a moral person, dubbing him as “heroic” is a bit controversial. However, his contributions to saving over 1,000 jewish people from execution is nothing short of that. From his original capitalist character, he transformed into someone who genuinely cared about jewish people. From him came “pardoning” people, showing compassion to those who were suffering, single handedly saving so many jewish people, and also showing empathy when he finally registered what his true efforts meant to the jewish people.

How has the entire experience shaped your life moving forward from it? I don’t expect you to ever be able to forget such horrible times, but has it inhibited you from doing anything/is it too hard to deal with at times. How, if at all, has this view changed over time?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Thoughts On the Actions of Oskar Schindler

Schindler’s underlying view of power rests in respect and trust. Goeth’s underlying view of power rests in fear. A man who fears no one answers only to himself. Goeth, although displaying a carefully constructed facade (one of delusion and unrest), is a fearful man. As we have discussed before, the Nazi agenda was inspired by a fear of Jews and the German perceived threat of replacement and corruption. Thus, the only solution they saw was to commit countless atrocities against a minority population incapable of defending themselves. Goeth’s insecurities manifest so intensely that he seeks satisfaction and release through inflicting pain (both physical and mental) and suffering from his victims. Here is where Schindler separates himself from his SS comrades. The act of pardoning suggests that Schindler practices pure self restraint and acknowledges his priorities above all else. From the opening sequences of the film, we learn that his primary goal is legacy. How will he be remembered? If I recall correctly, Oskar questions how his name will be remembered in 300 years. Here we are, only eighty years later, trying to understand how one man may have secured the legacy of countless generations initially by mistake.

I think many would agree that most moral and ethical lines are drawn at the risk of losing human life. In this case, I find myself asking these questions: “Am I willing to take a life?” “How are my actions responsible for the lives of others?” “Who is to blame?” A disturbing reality of the Holocaust exists in the fact that many sufferers sacrificied the lives of others in the hopes of their own survival. No one can judge these actions, for no one will ever truly understand the circumstances under which the Jews fought for their lives.

Schindler’s actions throughout the film are greatly affected by his material wealth. He enters the war determined to make money quickly, and to make lots of it. Oskar Schindler was a very self-aware man. I do not believe he was a careless man, although his drinking and gambling habits might suggest otherwise. When it came to establishing himself within the Reich and cementing his position in Krakow, Schindler carried himself with composure. He was certainly aware of the rumors being spread about his factory as a haven; and although he denied such truths, he continued to operate with the same composure and dignity he promised himself and his investors. However, there is basis for an argument to be made that near the end of the war, Schindler continued his bribery and continued growing the list only because it was too late to stop. Being said, Schindler was forever committed to his workers. Selfish or selfless, pure or impure, the actions of Oskar Schindler saved hundreds of innocent lives at the cost of his own wealth, health, and legacy. Whether he, or anyone else likes it or not, I am prepared to call him a hero.

Was there ever a time where you felt guilty, or perhaps were made to feel guilty, for enduring such atrocities and surviving when so many died? How did you process those emotions? How were you able to express those feelings?

Posts: 20


Well, Schindler attempts to remind Goeth that what is sometimes more powerful, is the art of forgiving. Clearly this stirs something in him that makes him “pardon” (or forgive) the boy who couldn’t get rid of the stain in the tub. Yet, after questioning his own actions (saying “I pardon you” in the mirror), Goeth becomes disgusted with himself. How could he, a prestigious Nazi commandant, stoop to that level? This thought ultimately overtakes him, and he kills the boy. Clearly, Schindler leads with some sort of humility. His view of power is giving back to people–– providing support and being the role of a loving leader. Amon Goeth’s view of power is instilling fear in people. His “power” is recklessness, manipulation, and blatant disregard for human life.

In all honesty, throughout the entire film I was just thinking, I would rather die than go through anything that these people went through. Even if I somehow had survived, I feel like I would have no one and nothing left for me. Yet, my mom reminded me of something, hope is the last thing that dies. In that case, like many who were desperate for their lives (who wouldn’t be) I would do anything and everything to survive. If that meant hiding in a toilet, or like the other things we talked about, unfortunately I would have to do it. Nevertheless, I think crossing the line would be directly working for those Nazi officers. Seeing Helen Hirsch work for Goeth and being subjected to his nasty pervert-self, made me so angry. Seeing her submit to such a low level made me so angry and hurt. I think here is where I would draw the line, but there are so many unknown circumstances. Pertaining to the “good line” “bad line” question: I would feel immensely guilty seeing my counterparts on the other side of this spectrum. To be honest, I don’t really like this entire question because when it comes to life and death in such gruesome conditions there is no telling what anyone would do when their life is on the line, and it doesn’t feel completely right to cogitate on this.

I think in the beginning I was worried about Schindler’s character. He seemed quite pompous and overly arrogant, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. The scene in which he first asked for the accountant scared me because I didn’t know what his intentions were with him. Even throughout, it seemed like it took until the very end of the movie for Itzhak Stern to fully trust him. Because he always distanced himself from Schindler, it made Stern and the audience wary of him, until we felt like we could fully trust him. At first, the only reason he gathered the Jewish people was to make money––presumably to buy more booze and women. As the movie progressed and Schindler began to see how horrible Jewish people were treated, as well as build a bond and connection with his workers, viewers witnessed a different side of him. Seeing him so anxious and frantic about Stern being misplaced, and the train sent to Auschwitz, revealed that he cared more about the people than I originally thought. Him breaking down in front of all of his workers, was perhaps the most heartwarming and wholesome part of the film. I don’t really think there is a way to describe how beautiful that moment was.

My questions for Rena Finder are: what was Schindler really like? Did you grow to like him or were you always wary about him? Did he ever talk to you personally? What did you do when Schindler left and you were all liberated? How did you get to where you are today?

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 20

Goeth’s view of power is very simple and barbaric. He thought that, since he held so many people’s lives in his hand and could decide any of their fates in an instant, that he had power. I think Schindler’s view of power is being able to be the bigger person, being able to restrain oneself even if the other has committed a wrong. Goeth’s acts of “justice” by killing those who weren’t working are just acts of immaturity to Schindler. This is why, even when Schindler’s factor wasn’t producing anything, he still kept them safe from the Nazis. Not only did he want to save many lives, he was able to look past the factory’s unproductivity. Personally, I think Goeth is literally incapable of this trait. Even when we thought he developed as a character after pardoning the young boy, he turned around and shot him.

Personally, I don’t think there is any line that the Jews couldn’t cross to protect their own lives. It would be really unfair for me to say that they couldn’t do something because I haven’t been in a situation that causes even a close amount of fear and desperation as the Nazi take-over. As much as I would like to preach putting other’s lives over mine, I really don’t know what I would do in that situation. Like you really have to put yourself in the moment to actually gauge what your actions would’ve been, and honestly I might’ve left my own people. The Nazis were a killing machine. The Jewish population probably knew that if the Nazis didn’t see any benefit in keeping one of them alive, then they would be dead.

Living with this knowledge would definitely change you as a person.

I think Schindler’s shift came from actually interacting with Jewish people. When he heard people yelling for water in the train carts, he was able to attach faces to those suffering and thus wanted to help them. I think this is a major theme throughout the war. The Nazi soldiers antagonized the entire Jewish population and probably didn’t have any close connections with any of them, which is why they were able to kill so many without second thought. Even when Goeth had romantic feelings for Helen, a Jewish girl, he wanted to believe she wasn’t a Jew, saying she doesn’t have “Jewish eyes”. He didn’t want to live with the fact that all Jewish people were like Helen: real, living and feeling people. He even tries to antagonize them further after this incident, claiming that working in close proximity with Jewish people allows them to “poison” you, which is just him trying to rationalize how he fell in love with a Jewish girl.

My question is based around the first prompt. Did you, at any point, ever consider becoming a “Judenrat” in order to protect your own life?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 6

What Schindler probably means is that those who are truly powerful don't need to pay any mind to those below them or those who are neither a hindrance nor a benefit simply because there is no need to. On top of that, while Amon believes that those who are feared are powerful, Schindler knows that those who are respected are more powerful. By being a pardoner, Schindler was able to save more people than Amon killed (directly, anyway)(At least in the movie) and gained the respect and appreciation of hundreds of people. All Goeth got in return for his actions was death and hatred.

I know that what I answer here is definitely going to be much easier said than done in desperate times like those. The line is drawn when what you do both a) *only* saves yourself and doesn't protect others (being selfish in horrible situations is usually not beneficial to either person) and b) causes the death or torment of multiple people, and not in a "no choice/other people are making me do it" but in a "I am actively choosing to do this whether someone makes me do it or not." Self preservation can be a really strong thing, but as we saw in the movie, even the Jews that worked with the Nazis chose to save their people when they could even though it meant risking their lives. I guess in short, self-survival is only really useful (not a great word to use, I know, but I can't really think of a better one right now) if it can help the survival of others as well.

I think originally Schindler was really only doing what he did for financial purposes. He wanted money and nothing was going to stand in the way of him achieving that, even if the means could be seen as highly controversial and even dangerous. His workers were very disposable to him at first (caring little for the armless man and only cared when he died because he lost a worker). I think what really made him become more empathetic was his bond with his Jewish accountant. From the beginning he relied very heavily on him and he even saved him from the train the first time because he was so important to him. He began to see him and all the other Jews as actual people. There was also the scene where he changes his mind and decides to take in the girls' parents despite claiming that he refused to be a haven for Jews, and I think this was the first instance of his character switch.

Questions for Rena: Were you ever afraid that Schindler had ulterior motives of some kind? What did you hear about Schindler from other Jews? Have you ever talked to Schindler personally?

Freight Farm Enjoyer
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Thoughts on the Actions of Oskar Schindler

It's clear from the moment that Amon Goeth is introduced to the film that he has a very different view of power than Oskar Schindler. Goeth's view of power is that power is inherently sadistic, and that power consists of not only being able to exert power over others, but doing so in the cruelest ways possible. The movie does a very good job of demonstrating this while still making him seem like a realistic person who did indeed exist, not just some cartoonishly evil supervillain. Schindler's view of power, on the other hand, is not sadistic at all, although it's not really particularly merciful in any way. Schindler does not go out of his way to be a bad person at any point in the movie unless he feels that he can profit from it. In the earlier parts of the movie he seems very visibly detached from morality, but never seems to take pleasure in harming others. For most of the movie Schindler was not really trying to be a savior of the Jews, he was just trying to make a profit, and his main goal was always to act rationally. When he tells Goeth that true power involves pardoning someone, he shows that he views it important to be powerful enough to be able to punish people, but to be rational enough to know when he shouldn't do so. Power, to Schindler, comes from what can be done, not what is done.

I find it difficult to criticize people who joined the "Judenrat" because at the end of the day, people were literally being murdered almost at random, and it's completely understandable that people would want to be able to protect themselves and especially their families by any means necessary. It's extremely difficult to point to one specific moral or ethical line that can't be crossed, however I will say that being oppressed and having your life threatened does not guarantee that whatever you do will be morally justified. I would definitely say it's wrong to try take actions which would lead to another innocent person dying in order to save your own life, but most of us will never wind up in a situation where we have to make that life-or-death decision, so it's hard to say that our survival instinct wouldn't kick in and we wouldn't do the same in a heartbeat. In other words, I think it would be immoral to kill someone innocent to save your own life, but I have no way of knowing if it's hypocritical of me to say that because I've never experienced something like that.

It's clear that the the beginning of the movie, Oskar Schindler is absolutely not a hero. He is a member of the Nazi Party trying to profit off of slave labor and showing zero regrets about it. I think a major reason for his change of heart was simply that he grew emotionally attached to his workers over time. By the end of the film, he seems far closer to the character Itzhak Stern than he did at the beginning of the movie, viewing him as just another person there to help him make money. As Schindler grew closer and closer to the people who worked for him, he probably began to come to his senses about just how horrible the actions of the Nazis were, as well as realizing that what was happening in the world went so far beyond the manufacturing of pots and pans that anything he did for his own personal profit was going to be completely trivial in the long run; saving people's lives, on the other hand, was a genuine contribution he could make to the world.

As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer remaining Holocaust survivors alive, and it's likely that our generation will be the last one to be able to meet anybody who can remember living through the war. Without being able to hear directly from Holocaust survivors, it's possible that future generations will disregard these events as old history and something that would never happen in the modern day. What should humanity as a whole do to ensure that these atrocities remain fresh in peoples' minds and don't just fade into obscurity as time goes on?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

Schndlers underlying view of power is all about secret manipulation and respect. Goeths view of power is simply instilling fear and gaining dominance. Schindler talks to Goeth while he is drunk, knowing that he could be easily manipulated and forced to think. He then tells the commandant about how he, a very successful and respected businessman, would want to gain power. Goeth, a very power-hungry man, was then sort of envious by this approach, and since he was drunk, he wanted to try it out. This was after schindler realized the severity of the situation, and i think he was telling Goeth about "pardoning" in order to get him to try to stop killing people and to become a little more "human". It even kind of worked (but only for about one morning). Schindler was purposefully trying to help save a couple of lives, while also keeping a good relationship with Goeth. Throughout the whole film, Schindler effortlessly manipulated the people around him in order to get what he wanted, while simutaneously saving people, and in the end he remained in power, while also becoming (arguably?) one of the most respectable men of all time.

This is a difficult subject. I feel like an action you simply just can't, or shouldn't, take in order to save your own life is letting innocent people die in order for you to live. Even letting one innocent person die on your behalf is kind of crossing the line. Its hard to say. Other than that, i feel like everthing else is still on the table and is still valid. In difficult times you have to do what you have to do in order to stay alive. I would assume that most of us writing these posts havent been in any situations that have even compared to the horrors of the holocaust, so its hard to know exactly how people would react. Many of these events in the movie were split-second, life-or-death situations. I would bet that almost every single person that did some type of "un-ethical" thing in order to survive didnt WANT to do it, but they just had to, or even just panicked.

Schindler changed because he came to a realization. He realized that these were real people being killed. He originally didnt see them as people, and then he only saw them as factory workers, but then as he got to individually know some of them, i think he slowly started to gain a feeling of regret and sadness. I feel like he only wanted to save a select few at first, realizing that they were useful to his business and to his wealth, but then he realized that if he could save some, then he could save others too. He realized how awful of a person that Goeth was. He realized how bad the whole Nazi party was. He realized that each person has a name, and often times a family. I'm not exactly sure why it took him so long to come to these realizations, but its very relieving(?) that he did. He was heroic. Yes, he could have made these realizations sooner, and yes, he enabled some things that he shouldnt have, but I think that we should all be proud of him and thankful that he took a turn for the better. He saved hundreds of lives, and because of his actions, whole generations will get to live and tell their stories.

My question for Rena is: What was the first thing you did/the first place you went to after being told that you were finally free and able to do whatever you wanted? I simply can't imagine the amount of emptiness, confusion, and worry that you must have felt after hearing those words.

Boston, Massachussetts, US
Posts: 16

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

When Oskar Schindler speaks to Amon Goeth about pardoning people he is trying to change the mind of someone who is purely evil to hopefully persuade him that violence is not power so that he will stop killing Jews, most importantly his Jews. It works for a split second when Goeth lets the boy who failed to clean the tub go, but by the time the boy made it down the stairs he had already changed his mind back to his evil ways. Unfortunately Schindler and Goeth view power differently. Schindler sees power as gaining the respect and gratitude of people and doing the morally correct thing always. Also by ensuing fear in people without violence, but by the use of his social status. Contrary to Schindler’s ideology, Goeth sees power as gaining absolute control over people with violence and ensuing the fear of death into people every time they see his face. The question is though, who had more power? Because horribly enough Goeth was insanely powerful by the sheer grasp he had over the Jewish people and his own Nazi soldiers. But in the end most people would say Schindler did because he was able to befriend and gain close connections with the higher ups of the Nazi party while pursuing his master plan of saving as many Jews possible. He gained the respect of both the Nazi’s and all the Jewish people while consistently doing the right thing. That is true power. And who’s to say Goeth even had that much power because when he was with other members of the Nazi party who he was of lower ranking to they refused to shake his hand and there were no instances where he bribed other officers like Schindler did. Also he was quite weak because he was so ashamed of being attracted to a Jewish woman that he took out his anger on her instead of owning up to the truth. Both were “powerful”, but Schindler was powerful and showed moral excellence while Goeth was powerful and, to say the least, purely evil and psychopathic.

We will never understand what it was like to be Jewish during the holocaust. We will never understand what it would be like to get your house that you paid for stripped away from under your feet and moved to a ghetto where living conditions were horrible and you feared for your life everyday because of your religion. We will never understand what it would be like to know you are going to die soon everyday, but not know when. We don’t know what it would be like to be packed in a train, survive without sufficient food or water for days, maybe weeks, and be in the line entering Auschwitz. So how can we blame them for doing anything they could to survive. In the case of the Jews during this time I think doing anything to survive would be worth it. But the line for me morally would be killing someone or having to sell your body or give up your body to someone. But who knows, we can’t know the sheer desperation these people must have felt. We cannot blame them for doing the things they did to possibly get a chance to see another day. The only thing that really stuck out to me is how in this time of desperation and when your true life instinct kicks in, it completely overrules your brain and you only focus on yourself and won’t even try and help your peers because all your brain can focus on is you surviving. Those poor children hiding in the floorboards and secret compartments were so focused on them surviving that they would even make space for one extra kid who was one of them. That’s how terrified they are. That is the only thing that really bothered me personally is that they wouldn't even help one of their own. But you can only imagine how terrified and truly scared for their life they were. Their life. Little children worried about being killed. So I think in this situation everything is excused in order to survive other than killing someone, giving up your body, and not helping your peers. But then the biggest moral and philosophical question of them all, if you were about to die and you could kill someone, sell your body, or not help someone else who will die if you do not help them in order to live would you?

The way I saw it was that Schindler never “changed”. His plan the entire time was to save the jews. He definitely went from bystander to upstander though, because who knows what he did before this. Maybe he too was someone who was killing Jews, but I like to think that he didn’t and that he was witnessing it happen and was determined to save as many as he could. His master plan was to save the Jews. He knew he was in a position to do so by being a Nazi officer and a wealthy one without a doubt. So he took it into his hands to befriend all the important Nazi officers and soldiers around him by buying them drinks and making them remember him by having a good time. Also he paid the camera man to take pictures of them so they would have a memory of that great time and always see Schindler as a good man. Then making Itzhak Stern his assistant and buying the factory and employing Jewish people to work for him. All of this was acceptable to the other Nazi officers eyes and he maintained relationships, attended events, and laughed at the jokes of other Nazi’s. I feel that saving the Jews was his master plan the whole time. But the question is how did he have the realization or the epiphany that what was going on around him was wrong and every other Nazi was ok with it? Why weren’t there more Oskar Shcindler's?

Questions for Rena Finder : First off I would like to say that I am very sorry to hear that you weren’t feeling well enough to join us today at the theater because meeting you would have been life changing, but I am so happy that you are even offering us the chance to ask you questions. So I have a couple questions for you. First off, how did you get on Schindler's list? Was it by pure chance or did you find out about it and try and get on it? Also did you help other people get on it? And lastly was there anything you regret not saying to Oskar Schindler or do you regret saying something to him that in the end you didn’t mean? That is all. Thank you so much Rena, you have my utmost respect.

Posts: 18

I think Schindler’s view about “pardoning” people is about simply being able to spare another person’s life from the tragedies they might face. His view of power definitely is from his wealth. I don’t think Schindler ever had the idea of being a savior for the Jews, specifically also from that scene where he is almost baffled by his factory being called a haven, when he only expects work from these Jews. And he expects them to work for him in this factory so he gets money. Multiple times throughout the film, Schindler is depicted with how much money he has, and I think this clearly shows his true desire in running the factory. Goeth’s view of power is completely different, and this is even reflected in how the two characters’ life ends. Goeth’s point of view is much more literal, if you were to compare Schindler’s view as more of a personal desire. Goeth sees his power as being able to be physically more powerful than others. The treatment of Helen, his maid, clearly shows this when she was tortured physically in the basement, or when he shoots the Jews walking across the field from the balcony of his house.

I would personally draw the lines of morally and ethically correct at simply life or death. That would at least be my first and most basic line. However, I believe that the line is also drawn at one’s basic human rights. Humans have more to life than just living, at the start of life, I believe one always has some rights within the world. These two for me are the lines that can’t be crossed, especially with simply life or death. At the same time, if it was my own life personally, I think that I would do almost whatever I could to save my own life, going back to the first line that I think absolutely can’t be crossed.

To me, it seems that Schindler did his action at first because of his desire for money. His focus wasn’t to save Jewish lives, but rather to make sure he has some sort of wealth. The “change” in his character, I think, is still due to his desire for wealth. I don’t think he necessarily realized that at first, but by the end of the film, this great desire of his turned into so much more than just making money. I definitely agree that Schindler was heroic. At the end of the day, he saved lives, and that’s the first step to treating humans morally and ethically, as I stated in the paragraph above. Who knows how many Jews would remain in Poland today, if it wasn’t for Schindler’s list and efforts. He became an upstander simply by wanting to be wealthy and to make sure that he had enough workers to keep his income happening. I don’t think it was ever intentional, but in this case, the greed for money worked in a very positive fashion that saved so many lives.

As a question to Rena, I was wondering how the Holocaust affected how you view life now, and how you live life. I was also wondering what happened immediately after it was announced that the Germans were surrendering the war. In this movie, the Jews didn’t have much of a path, and were just told they were liberated, so I was hoping to hear more about your own experience in this regard.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts on this film but honestly it’s just so hard to articulate what I think about this film. It was a lot, and I think that that is the point that Spielberg wanted to make. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget this and that just shows how powerful this film was.

I think that Schindler thinks of power in the way of morals and being the better person while Geoth thinks of power as something that has to be created through fear and intimidation. Schindler shows a sense of humanity throughout the film, especially when he sees all of those people getting killed in the ghetto, while Geoth doesn’t even try to change his ways because of his fear of losing his power. This fear of losing power dictates his actions heavily, and I feel as though this theme has a strong connection to events in the modern time as well.

I don’t know where I would draw the moral and ethical lines at. I don’t know what line can or cannot be crossed. These people were in such awful situations that I can’t judge any of them for what they did in order to survive. I don’t think I could reasonably project my boundaries on other people when I haven’t lived through what they have lived through. I think that we can all claim what we think is right and wrong but I really don’t know if those standards would stick with us if we were in such horrific conditions.

I think that Schindler’s change started when he saw the girl in red running around the ghetto. I think he realized that all of these people didn’t do anything wrong but they were still getting killed. Schindler’s character is complex to me. At first I was very perplexed by how he was at the beginning, like I didn’t really see how this man who was money driven could save all of these people. For example, he doesn’t really see Jewish people as people in the beginning, really only as a cheap source of labor. But in the end he spends all of his money to save more and more people. I think that he is a hero in a way. I think that his prior actions just show how human he is. He has his flaws but it doesn’t take away from all that he did.

My question for Rena is: What was your story after the war?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22
  • 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?
    • Goeth’s view of power is having the ability to control people using their fear of you. Schindler’s view of power is having the ability to forgive others and being able to do good for others instead of yourself. What Schindler means by pardoning is being able to let go of your ego (I think). Or, like someone else said, pardoning could also mean having the power to protect rather than to destroy.

  • 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?
    • I’m not entirely sure how to answer this question… because personally, I wouldn’t be able to predict what I’d do. War and fear brings out the worst in people, and it’s hard to predict what you would actually do if you were in a situation like that. Everyone wants to live, and everyone wishes to protect those they are close to. Some would go through drastic measures to either protect themselves or to protect others, but it’s hard to choose between that sometimes depending on the circumstances of the terrible scenarios. With death being so prominent for the Jews and occurring at random for no good reason, it’s hard to be ethical. Personally, I think the line that shouldn’t be crossed is being part of the police force…. An action I would have not been able to take is probably hiding inside a toilet. Just the mere thought of it takes me out… which makes the movie even more impactful because it showed the kids’ desperation for salvation :(.

  • 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”?
    • I think it was harder for him to be an upstander because he saw the direct effects of the Jews disappearing. His whole labor force being taken out of thin air, and seeing his factory become empty, his perspective on staying as a bystander started to change. After seeing the brutality of the liquidation of the ghetto as well, and the girl in the red jacket getting incinerated at the camp, he knew that what was happening was unjust and disgusting. He shifted from being a bystander to being an upstander by constantly making sure that his employees were not taken by the Nazis, and doing everything in his power to make sure that they at least had some way of staying alive.
    • I think another thing that made him start being an upstander was when Helen Hirsch begged him to hire her family members after telling him her experience at the camp, because after that, he started wanting to hire more workers. In the end, he bought (from what I remember) a total of 800 Jews to save them from concentration camps, and through bribing the Nazi officers, he became broke for the sake of keeping his workers alive (for more than it being profitable).

  • At the end of the post, in a separate paragraph, pose a question for Rena Finder. Know that I’ll be copying and pasting, combining similar questions/topics and getting her to respond.
    • My questions for Rena Finder are these:
      • When did you start working for Schindler?
      • What did you do after you were liberated by the war? What was your experience like?
      • Did you make any good memories while working in Schindler’s factory? What do you remember most from your experience working for him?
coffee and pie
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 18

Schindler's List

When the movie finished, I began sobbing for a good bit. The entire experience of watching a well-made, powerful film combined with a enormously sad part of history portrayed made me cry, like it did for many others. The film portrayed the experiences of a Jew at the time so powerfully. Some scenes that stuck out were when all the homes were being raided and everyone was hiding or swallowing their jewelry or going in the sewers, just the pure desperation and fear you could feel from the screen. All to be met with soldiers with stethoscopes listening for steps, treating it like a game of hide and seek. Another was Amon sniping people. This was near the start and among the first couple shots, but it shocked me to my core that not only he could kill human life that easily for fun, but that it happened in real life. It’s difficult to pick just a few scenes because every single one was significant and deliberate. I could write a paper on each one because of how well the movie navigated this story.

When Schindler and Goeth have their talk about power, I interpreted Schindler’s explanation as power being hypothetical. That it is better to hold it over people’s heads than to simply use it, and to let people live even though you could kill them. I think he purposefully used ‘pardon’ to compare it to a religious power or absolute power to appeal to Amon more. Schindler’s underlying view changed through the movie, I think. At first it was all about money - more money more power. It shifted though to involve human life - although he still used money to do what he did, it was focused on the ability to save lives. A power based on good rather than fear of bad. The latter can be seen in Goeth, who although tried out Schindler’s ‘pardon’ method, went back to killing left and right. He simply does not care for lives, and thinks power should be used and is the ability to kill them (and actually killing them).

I think it is unfair to judge someone’s actions when they are in the face of life and death - humans become irrational and desperation to survive come out. We lose our ‘human’ and become animals in the right circumstances. I could not possibly say where I would draw the line and where I would cross my ethics and morals if I were in a situation like that. It would be nice to say that I would never kill anyone unjustly, or that I would stick with my family, or that I would never join and would rather stay with my identity in hiding. However, who is to say I might not change my mind? I could become desperate to live a good life, I could erase those lines just as easily as I drew them. In the end, there is absolutely no guarantee I will follow the rules I set. I simply don’t know what the future holds.

I think Schindler was depicted as a real human rather than the black and white ‘hero vs. villian’ characters we are often used to. The best people can do bad things and the worst people can do good things. Did Schindler do bad, bad things? He did more than that. However, did he do good things? Sure, in that situation he did an incredible thing. Like a real person, the Schindler depicted in the film is difficult to define as a hero or not, for he has multiple sides and is affected by context like anyone else. He did heroic things - does that make him a hero? I guess it depends on what your definition is. Why did he change, though? The obvious answer is that he realized what was happening was wrong and wanted to fix it. But theres more to that - he specifically only saved the people who worked at his factory - why? He was offered a huge train cart of ‘fresh Jews’ he could have saved, so why was he adamant on getting the women in Auschwitz back? He also obviously shifted from being all about money to saving lives. I think it was just regret and sympathy becoming stronger everyday.

For Rena Finder:

  • What do you want the future to look like regarding the Holocaust, especially given that there won’t be survivors for the new generation? Things like education, memorials, general public.
  • If you could see Schindler again, what would you say/do?
  • If you could tell your younger self before or during your time in camps, what would you tell her?
  • As students and the new generation, is there anything you want us to do?
  • Was there any source of hope you could look to during your time there?
  • Did you have a set of rules, moral/ethical, that you followed? Did you break or remake any?

Posts: 10

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

My overall reaction to the film was that it's pretty hard to watch, but that's what makes it so essential to watch. A recurring thought I had throughout the film was that Schindler reminds me of Shaw as portrayed by the film Glory (a film we watched in APUSH). Both Shaw and Schindler are questionable men, especially at the beginning of their respective films when they show that they have some biases towards the people they're working with. However, both men end up doing great things for the people they work with despite their initial hesitance so this comparison was definitely something I had in mind while watching it.

I think that when Schindler talks to Amon Goeth, he was trying to convince him that having restraint, pardoning people instead of killing them, is power. Schindler views power as having every right and ability to condemn someone, but being merciful and making them realize that they were saved because of you. Goeth’s view of power is that whatever makes you feel power is power, so for him, that means killing whoever he wants without consequences.

I don't think I really have a right to draw the line. Personally, I'd like to draw the line at committing violent crimes against innocent people, but I really don't know how far I'd go to survive. I would say the phrase, "It's an explanation, not an excuse," can be applied to these situations because the horrifying treatment and options Jewish people were given explain why some chose to collaborate with the Nazis. Does this mean what they did was "good?" No, but any reasonable person would agree that the circumstances of the Holocaust are more than enough of a vaild excuse, and for an incredibly understandable course of action.
In the beginning, it was money and the desire to be wealthy that drove Schindler's actions. Schindler seemed to change because for one reason or other, he started to view Jewish people as actual people, having as much humanity and worth as any German. Particularly, the relationship Schindler has with Itzhak Stern as portrayed by the movie gives us insight into how Schindler's view towards Jewish people may have changed (regardless of whether there was creative license in this aspect or not). The movie depicts Stern as taking his job seriously (likely because he had to), almost being loyal to Schindler, and shows Schindler witnessing the horrific treatment of Jews and how many Jewish people defy Schindler's assumptions and ideas about them, all of which might have changed his view. Schindler wasn't exactly heroic because his actions, although risky, weren't exactly brave because he was in a position of power and influence and could more easily help people because of that. Although I personally don't think he's heroic, that doesn't mean he wasn't a hero of the people he helped.

1. If you've seen or heard about the movie, what would you say is most inaccurate thing about the way concentration camps or the Holocaust as a whole is portrayed in the film?
2. What is one of your memories from this time period that is the most memorable?
3. If you've seen or heard about the movie, would you say it accurately portrays who Schindler was and how Jewish people viewed him?
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