Oskar Schindler / Schindler's List
When Schindler was telling Amon that it was powerful to be able to pardon people, I saw that scene as him trying to use Amon’s need for power to convince him to stop hurting the Jewish victims. At this point in the movie, he is slowly becoming more and more sympathetic towards the Jewish people. I believe that Schindler was also trying to tell Amon that cruelty is not a necessary action when trying to control others. To Schindler, having power over yourself and your own feelings is a much greater feat than allowing your anger to control your actions. Having the ability to “pardon” or forgive others is a demonstration of self restraint. Schindler is a man who loves money and gaining influence, and he often uses his charismatic personality to get his way (such as convincing Amon to hose the Jewish prisoners when in reality, he was just trying to give them water). Schindler’s view of power is based off of the respect of those around him, which he manipulates to get what he wants. Amon’s view of power is different because it centers around him doing whatever he wants using fear tactics, not respect. Amon showcases his power by constantly showing those around him that he can do as he wishes, including committing random killings. Schindler recognizes this and tries to change Amon’s perception of what power actually is. By telling Amon that being able to pardon others is a powerful characteristic, Schindler is able to save a couple of Jewish people from Amon’s wrath before Amon allowed his need for control to get the better of him again.
Honestly, I’m not so sure where I would draw the line since this is such a horrific situation. Anyone could argue that during such a terrible event, there is no line that cannot be crossed when trying to survive, which becomes especially true for those that are trying to protect other people such as family or children. However, me as a person, I think I wouldn’t be able to force myself to do anything that would endanger others around me, such as snitching on someone else to try and save my own life. But then you also have to take into consideration that many people had families to protect, which is a whole different mess because then it leads to another question: How far would you go to protect your loved ones? Judenrats are simply Jewish people that had to take these jobs to protect themselves, and I honestly think they should not be judged for it. The Holocaust was just such a horrible situation that it feels wrong for me, who obviously did not experience it first hand, to try and argue for a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
I think the main thing that caused Schindler to “change” and begin sympathizing much more with Jewish people (even as a member of the Nazi Party) was working with Itzhak and many other Jewish people to gain money in his factory. Itzhak basically ran his business for him and because of that, the two became close enough to almost treat each other as friends (though not quite, because the power imbalance still throws everything off until the end of the movie where Schindler breaks down and fully realizes that the victims of the Holocaust were also just human beings). Also, whenever Schindler is called a “good man” by any of the Jewish people, he grows visibly uncomfortable and often lashes out. I believe that this is due to his underlying feeling of guilt for taking advantage of the Jewish people as his time around them made him see them as actual people. I’d say that he finally decided to become an upstander because he realized that he had genuine influence that could be used to save the lives of these people. Witnessing all that death and cruelty forced him to act. As for the question of whether Schindler is a hero or not, I’m honestly not quite sure what to label him as. He’s rather interesting because his morals are all over the place, especially when it comes to women. I still don’t fully understand why he kissed that Jewish girl (Amon says that it’s because Schindler just likes beautiful women, but it’s Amon saying that so I’m not so sure). However, despite his flaws, I think it is still important to recognize his role in saving the lives of hundreds of Jewish people from the concentration camps. As a man that seemed obsessed with money at the start of the movie, I was incredibly surprised by the fact that he was using up all of his savings on maintaining the Jewish people of his factory (also, the factory was a “model of non-production,” which was also interesting since I thought he would have still made them work so he could still partially profit). His actions all began with his greed, but his recognition of the Jewish people as actual human beings was what pushed him to be an upstander in the end.
Questions for Rena Finder: What was your life like after the war, and how did you cope with all the trauma that came from it? Additionally, I think it would be very interesting to hear about your thoughts on the moral question: Was there a line that you swore to never cross?