posts 16 - 24 of 24
Steely Gibbs
Posts: 22

When Schindler talks to Goeth, he talks about pardoning people. This stems from their conversation about power and how real power is having the ability to pardon. Showing restraint from killing, even with justification. In my opinion, Schindler's view of power is one that corrupts and that it is more about resisting that corruption. It's a main contributor to pushing people to do things without realizing the ramifications. Goeth's view of power comes from fear mongering. He kills and acts without remorse, seen by sitting on the balcony killing people. He holds himself above Jews, literally and figuratively.

I don't think there is an exact place where I could draw the line, especially with all the different examples seen in the film. The worst part of this is that I think I would display the same actions that occurred in the movie. I'd try to help others as much as possible, but fear is one of the greatest motivators. I think that an action that I cannot bear to take is ousting someone from hiding with me. The scene of the boy running from place to place to get a spot to hide, but getting rejected from everywhere is something that I just can't do.

Schindler acted the way he did because he witnessed how barbaric the Nazis were. He saw the merciless killings and couldn't bear it. His alignment with the Nazis changed from him trying to progress his business to trying to save as many Jews as he could. I don't know if Schindler is necessarily heroic or not. Heroic is defined as being very brave or behavior that is bold or dramatic. I suppose that, by definition, Schindler is heroic. Stepping up to make the list isn't something that most people would've done.

My question for Rena Finder is: Where did you go after the Jews were liberated? How long did it take to get back on your feet per se.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

  • When Shindler discusses the idea of pardoning people he is referring to fact that someone with power must be able to recognize when to it is just, and when it is unjust to use your power. In Shindlers mind, he believed that these jewish captives would be much safer under his control, versus being under the control of Amon Goeth. Given that they have polar opposite view points on power. In Shindlers mind, power is being able to responsibly weild the power that a person possesses and not letting sheer emotion get in the way of facts. Amon on the other hand believes that power is something that can be used to suppress and hurt inferior groups.
  • I draw the line when I can determine the outcome of someone's life. Crossing this line is not only morally and ethically wrong, but I am also only buying myself a small amount of time. It is inevitable that if they threaten my life once for information, they will likely do it again and who am I to wield the fate of someone's life only to buy myself a couple of days? All and all, I cannot report to officials the location of someone if it would determine their life.
  • Schindler at his core was a businessman and his interest was only in money, he had no position on the beliefs of Jewish people or the Nazi party. He also was able to profit from his manipulativeness, like becoming close with Nazi military officials or bribing high officials in the Jewish community. Being a people pleaser, he was seen by all Jewish and Nazi people alike, as a very kind and respectful man. As the war progressed and he began to notice the sheer cruelty of the Nazi party. One of the key moments in the film is when he saw the traumatic look on Helen Hirsch's face after she had faced months if not years of torment from Amon Goeth. I do believe that in the end, he was a heroic man as he did save thousands of Jewish people from being executed in gas chambers. Although it can be seen as a double-edged sword because he was using Jews to supply the nazi military. He knew that the torment they would go through in Auschwitz was so much worse than it would be in his factory.
  • I understand that Lebensraum was a Nazi policy used to justify conquering foreign territories for raw materials and space. But I was wondering if this policy was used in the first stages in Germany, to kick Jewish people out of their homes, or was it just a policy used abroad?

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 21

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

This was my first time watching Schindler’s List, and I had not read much about the film going into it, outside of what we had discussed in class. From a film-making standpoint, I really appreciated how much care was clearly put into every shot. The alternation between distant, more aerial shots of the Kraków Ghetto and the Płaszów concentration camp, and the close-up, more intimate shots of the individuals seemed to try to help the audience to gain some understanding of the horrors that were endured on a personal level, and also to comprehend the scale of what happened.

One of the many interesting scenes in the film was the discussion between Schindler and Goeth about what it means to hold power. Prior to this scene in the film, it is evident through Goeth’s actions that he believes power is held and shown through blunt force and fear. Schindler suggests a different perspective, and explains that greater power is shown through the ability to use mercy and compassion. These ideas of power, and the loss of it, played a role in many of the decisions made in the film.

In his final scene, I feel that Schindler’s breakdown over not having done enough explains much of his development from the beginning to the end of the movie. In that monologue, he expresses his wish that he had used his money to help more of the Jewish people of Krakow. While at the beginning of his work with the factory he still seemed primarily focused on his personal profit, after he witnessed the liquidization of the Ghetto he became more proactive. If this moment of realization had come earlier, perhaps he very well could have saved more people. Despite this, I think Oskar Schindler does deserve to be treated as a hero, as he was able to change and become an “upstander” at a time and place where making that decision would have been more difficult than ever.

My question: Was there really one specific event or time that seemed to cause Schindler’s change in perspective and break from the ideals of the Nazi party, or was it more gradual?

Posts: 18

Thoughts on the Actions of Oskar Schindler

Amon Goeth takes the phrase "It is better to be feared than to be loved," to a whole other level. His views on power and the ways he exercised his power were disgusting. He was irresponsible with it. To him, people's lives were his to play with and to take in the blink of an eye if he felt like it. "Whenever he felt like it," was usually when something didn't go his way, or just because he wanted to remind people that he found them to be inferior to him. It showcased his immaturity and carelessness, and in the hands of somebody like that, power is never a good thing. Schindler, on the other hand, always valued respect over fear. Even before he started protecting the Jews, he was always adamant that he be viewed as a respected individual. When he said that the greatest power is to be able to see wrong and still do right, I think he meant that when one is at such a place where they can see wrong, pardon it, and learn and grow from it, then they are truly a leader. Ones who rule with fear are followed because their followers won’t know what else to do. If one is seen as a true leader however, their followers will usually fall in line willingly and stick by them. In this way, the leader has more power and control.

I would like to say that the line has been crossed when you bring harm to others, and when the consequences of your actions unto other people are irreversible. However, I think that if you’re in a situation where you need to make a decision that might save your life, you’re not thinking about the fact that it could hurt someone else until you’re doing whatever you decided to do. You could have less than a second to make the decision, and have your thoughts be filled with nothing but panic and fear. I think that the line of what would be “unforgivable” or “unacceptable,” in a situation like the Holocaust would be very, very hard to cross. There’s so much moral grey area. If you gave someone away to protect yourself, as the Nazis asked the little boy to do, then you just killed someone’s mother or son. However, if you were someone’s mother or son, and let yourself get killed, the consequences are the same. Lives would be taken either way, and the Nazis would still absolutely devastate your population. Ideally, people would all stick together, but in that situation, that was nearly impossible at times.

At the beginning, Schindler took the actions he did in order to make a profit off of the Jews’ labor. He did it because he valued money over everything else, and, having been inspired by his father, wanted to create an even larger empire than him. At a certain point though, I think he found pity for the Jews, which then turned into genuine disgust with what the Nazi Party was doing. There was a visible shift in his mentality when he was with the woman on horseback, watching the carnage of the liquidation of the town. I think that while some might say that he wasn't a hero because he didn't start out as one, I think the fact that he did become one speaks volumes. The fact that he learned to think outside of the party's doctrines and see the world from a different perspective, and then the fact that he actually did something about it makes him heroic. His shift from being a bystander to an upstander, when he started actively hiring Jews to save them, and protected them from other party members, showed how different he was from them. He got odd looks from them, and remarks on what he was doing and still continued to do it. His desperation towards the end to save as many as possible, always wanting to add more and more, really shows his change of heart. What really stuck out to me was the fact that at the end, he let the rabbi preach and the Jews hold their customs. I think that he was a hero to them.

Did you keep in contact with any of your fellow survivors after everything was over? Was it hard to leave anyone you had grown close to when you went your separate ways?

Posts: 8

Dehumanization & Humanity

Schindler’s List is, in my opinion, at its core a commentary on humanity, and everything which that implies. This is most obviously demonstrated through Amon Goeth telling Helen Hirsch that she is not a person in the ‘strictest sense,’ implying that Jews are somehow not as human as he. Jews are obviously humans; genetically it has been proven all humans are essentially the same with little to no difference between people of perceived races or ethnicities. However, the majority of the Nazi party members- and non-Jewish Poles- believe otherwise, and only because of the doctrine of men we barely see in the film at all. How is that human behavior? Is it not human to empathize, or at least sympathize? Well, the answer to both those questions is yes, but there is another factor.

One of the most human tendencies is dehumanization.

I'd like to turn to addressing the question of whether or not Oskar Schindler was heroic, because I believe it is perhaps the most important aspect of this issue as presented in List. Oskar Schindler did indeed save over a thousand lives through his money, connections, and relentless determination- that much is clear. Yet he is also prone to succumbing to vices, and he stands by in some scenarios where, as he realizes in his breakdown at the end, he could have saved more lives. That is the key point on why he is so human. At first Jews could be objects, slaves, a less expensive form of labor, but as he realized their humanity, which for him initially had been in question, his perception changed. I do not believe Schindler was heroic fully as a person- he did much wrong as well as a world of good. However, he did do an incredibly heroic deed.

In connection: plenty of people are morally ambiguous, just like Schindler, throughout the film. As Schindler himself comments, the war brings out the worst in people. Yet again- they are just as human. Different factors in one's life will always lead to different behaviors and degrees of caring for others. In such a time, how can you blame someone for trying to save themselves or their closest family, and refusing any others? It simply makes it all the more incredible that there were those who instead tried to save others first. I have lived, in comparison to those in the film, an incredibly sheltered and comfortable life, and that's putting it very mildly. I'd like to think I'd save another's life before mine- take a bullet for someone else or put my own safety at risk to get someone out of harm’s way- but honestly, I cannot truly know what moral and/or ethical lines I might cross. To save myself from the horrors of what the Nazis did, I might do anything, and I cannot know if I would. If I were to draw a line, though, I think it would be between family and close friends, and strangers. One of these most incredible things about Schindler’s actions is that he could not possibly view everyone he saved as a close friend. Yet he saved them regardless. I don’t think I could have done that- my family and friends would need to be very, very safe before I could think about saving anyone else, and even then, I’m not sure I would. When it comes to saving family, however, I think I really would do anything.

I’d like to come back to dehumanization for a moment, with regards to Amon Geoth. He clearly had no regard for the lives of Jewish people as lives, and perhaps arguably he regarded no one as having a life he could care for. Goeth views power as the ability to do what he pleases with everyone and anything. This dehumanizes everyone, because if they can die as soon as he wants them to, then are they any different than domestic animals? Goeth is put into contrast with Schindler’s postulation that power is basically the opposite- being able to do whatever you choose, and not. He does not embody that himself for the entirety of the film, yet once he realizes the humanity of those his party is persecuting, he changes his tune, and tries to convince Goeth, conversationally, to do the same. This fails, of course.

That is what I think is so stark about Schindler’s List. In a world where dehumanization is made to be the default state for anyone the Nazi party does not dictate to hate, Schindler realizes the humanity of those he is meant to view as sub-human, and proceeds under a very selfless mindset: their lives are a thousand times- literally- my own, and thus they must be saved. This sets him apart. There are any number of reasons why he might behave like this- everyone in the film is human- but he does save lives. That is enough to deserve praise, even as a complex figure.

Finally, my question for Rena Finder: do you think dehumanization is truly inherent to human behavior, and, do you think something like the Holocaust might then ever happen again?

I’d also like to thank Ms. Finder for taking our questions and thinking about what must be unimaginably painful to remember.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Thoughts on the actions of Oskar Schindler

I was very impacted by the film, more than I thought I'd be to be fully honest. I think that was because every scene felt so raw, it felt like 1930s Germany was actually playing out for the first time in front of my eyes. I can't remember a specific moment that stuck out to me, I feel like it was more of a building situation, every scene left me a little more taken-a-back than the last. In regard to Schindler's morals, in comparison to the Nazi general's the movie followed (I'm blanking on his name, Goer? something like that.) When Schindler made that comment about "pardoning" people to the general, I was conflicted about whether or not he truly believed that power is in pardoning or if he was simply saying that for manipulation purposes, understanding the general's motives for his actions and trying to limit future deaths from sheer carelessness. Because of his nazi status (at the very least with his pin), I didn't find it hard to believe that he thought power was in pardoning. Like the general and many men, in general, they can be power-obsessed. Striving for a sense of superiority anywhere they can find it. Therefore I wouldn't put it past Schindler to be the same, not acting based on sheer ethics but on his own motives/beliefs about power and his consumption of it. But I never really came to any conclusions. Instead I just found it interesting. Is there really power in pardoning? I guess he could mean that killing is easy, quick, but pardoning is more mentally straining, it requires you to actually think logically about if this person deserves to keep their life, at least for the time being. Of course for any normal person this isn't much of a question, everyone deserves their life (to some extent), but thinking in the shoes of these two men the movie followed, I mean. Pardoning someone leaves room for them to mess up again, maybe worse, or perhaps do something against you instead. I don't know if I believe there's power in pardoning, but that "to pardon someone" you are not only naturally thinking ethically but you are showing them that you do. That you have any grasp on morality, at all. The power in that is vulnerability. Showing emotional "weakness", empathy. Something that could be exploited. You are choosing to put your own life at risk for the keeping of another's. If that makes any sense. Schindler's list gave me a new perspective on the Holocaust, and left me more informed, I think. I'm really glad we were able to see it.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Schindler's List Reflection

I wasn’t expecting to be so affected by this film, but it was truly the most captivating and heartbreaking movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve been thinking about the question Ms. Freeman asked after the movie about what we picture when we think about the movie/ one image from the movie that affected us most. It’s hard to say considering how many horrible and influential things were in the film, but I’ve decided the ending scene affected me the most. As I watched the film at first, I wasn’t sure if Schindler was a hero. He seemed very privileged and ignorant and like an average guy to me. At first, he helped certain random people because he felt bad, but throughout the entire movie he grew so much. He was the only person who saw the truth and couldn’t ignore it. So many people knew that there were horrible things happening to jews during the holocaust but it was so much easier for them to continue their life and not let it affect them, so they did just that. The end scene when he broke down crying and then when it showed Schindler’s jews in modern day walking across the field was absolutely gut wrenching, and that is what I’m thinking about most after the film. Schindler saved so, so many lives but no matter how many he will live with nothing but guilt for the rest of his life because he could’ve saved more. Even one more person. Just the fact that he couldn’t spare one more person killed him. I was crying so hard at the end of the movie. I think Schindler took the actions he did because with each person he saved in the beginning, he saw the way it affected them. He saw the reaction he was getting and slowly he was becoming less ignorant and getting his eyes opened to reality. He was very capable of saving these people, so why wouldn’t he? He knew what he could do to help, so he did it. Schindler is absolutely a hero. Everything about what he did was heroic and he was pretty much the only person brave enough to be an upstander instead of a bystander.

The scene with the little girl in the red coat was also very, very influential. Immediately while watching it I knew how much of an important metaphor that was, and that was an important turning point in the movie. Mr. and Mrs. Schindler were on their horses watching what was being done to the jews and Mrs. Schindler was crying and begging to leave because she didn’t want to watch it anymore. Schindler stayed and watched the girl, who symbolized the casual and normalized violence that jews lived with and how innocent people were brutally murdered and slaughtered, and simply couldn’t live with knowing what happens to them when he could help them.

In terms of what I would do, there’s literally no way I would ever know for sure because I will never ever know the extent of what it’s like to live as a jew in the holocaust and have to make horrible decisions in the snap of a finger. I think I would cross any moral or ethnic line, as long as it doesn’t hurt another person’s life. But even that I can’t say for sure. For example, if there’s a mother who is trying to save her child but another person is trying to come with her but if that person comes with her they will most likely get caught, naturally the mother would tell the person they can’t come. Saving 2 lives is better than losing 3. But it’s still a human life. What is anyone supposed to do? It’s impossible and this alone shows just the smallest fraction of the horror jews in the holocaust had to go through and the horrible decisions they had to make. This question is not answerable from someone who didn’t and will never experience something like When you are a victim like those in the holocaust, there is not even a line to cross. I think it’s safe to say whatever moral and ethnic lines any of the jewish people in the concentration camps took to save their life as long as whatever they’re doing to save their life doesn’t cause other people to get killed.

Learning about the influence Schindler had will stick with me for a very long time. The biggest takeaway I got from his influence was the fact that when this film came out, there were les than 4,000 jews left in Poland, but over 6,000 descendants of the jews he saved. That’s how much he did for the eternal history of jews on this planet. He was always guilty he couldn’t save just one more person. That he lost so much money that he could’ve used to save more people, but he eternally saved so many generations of jews and that is absolutely outstanding.

My question for Rena is:

Did you feel guilty being in Schindler’s factory when you knew what was happening at camps? What was the relief you felt when you ended up in Schindler’s factory? and what was the scariest moment you had when being in Schindler’s factory when you thought everything might’ve been ruined?

Posts: 17

It was really well written and directed I found it interesting how Schindler was the main character but the “side” characters didn’t just appear once. We kept checking on each group throughout to story, which was good but it was challenging for me to develop a connection with them. Whereas Schindler who we see the falls and glory of leads to me being more able to feel for him. The Movie changed what I thought of the Holocaust from something that we read in history books to something that had names, faces, and families lost in it.

When Schindler talks to Amon Goeth about pardoning people he is referring to letting them go and not punishing them. Schindler phrases it in a way to Goeth that gives him the idea that he is demonstrating his power by allowing them to go free similarly to how a god would to a mortal. Goeth gets an ego boost from this for a short time before returning to his old killing ways. In my eyes, Schindler views power in a political/diplomatic sense because that is how he gets things done. Schindler is constantly bribing certain people and talking to certain people in hopes that he can get what he wants. Whereas Goeth sees power as being able to have people who fear you so much they will listen to your every command and be able to do whatever you want. We see this when he snipes random people in the camp for the simple reason he can.

I would hope to be saintly and caring but I think the war would most likely destroy that hope at some point. But sitting here in my room the realistic line I would draw is to not sacrifice others to save myself and to never help the nazis no matter how much they torture me. The movie scene that made me grimace the most was when the Nazis were clearing out the ghetto and the mother and the daughter did have a hiding spot. So they kept trying to find one and when they did there was space enough for both of them but the person inside only took the kid leaving the mother out to die. Along with that the Jews that joined the force for preferential treatment and picking who would live and die also made me grimace. These are actions that I wouldn’t take to save my life unless I was using the opportunity to get information.

I think Schindler deep down was a good person but that personality was shaded out by the short-term excitement of his wealthy life that he had been living. We see multiple times such as when the lady comes to his factory asking for him to bring his parents there he says he can’t cause this is a factor for workers, not just anyone. Schindler does end up eventually bring them there demonstrating that deep down he really does care about the people much more than money. I think the big changing point is when he is on his horse looking down at the ghetto being raided and he sees the little girl and then later when at the burning place he sees her dead in the wheel baron. This really invocated an even deeper feeling that he needs to help. He shifted from a bystander to an upstander and was heroic because on multiple occasions risked his life to help people.

How does this still impact your life 80 years later? How?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Thoughts on Oskar Scindler

I have seen this movie many times, and every single time it is as harrowing and raw as the last time I saw it. The viewing in the theater definitely amplified this a thousandfold. I could hear my peers weeping all around me, and my gut felt like it was twisting half the movie just from how disturbed I was. My brows were so furrowed throughout the film that I had a cranium-splitting headache afterwards. We talked afterwards about scenes we thought powerful or moving, and personally that was just about every scene for me. The shots of the gravestones used as pavement, like not even death could save these people, the scene of the children being driven off, the next generations slaughtered, the engineer whose advice they followed directly after her murder, all made me feel nauseous. By the time you leave and you have to discuss with your peers, you feel speechless. What words can you possibly say? What questions can you possibly have? For a while, we all just blankly stared at each other afterwards.

I personally thought Schindler’s monologue about power was just him appealing to Goeth’s obsession with feeling power over others, attempting to manipulate him into being more “lenient”. However, if this is to be understood as a Freudian slip that reveals how Schindler himself views power, I think that Goeth and Schindler view it similarly. They both see power as authority over other people, mainly the Jewish people. In some way, they both see themselves as superior to the Jewish people, bordering on God complexes. Schindler describes the Jewish workers as “my Jews” and “my property”, and Goeth barters literal material goods for them like they’re objects that can be traded. The overlap in how they perceive the Jewish people parallels their perspectives on power, marked with the quality of indifference. Schindler posits that power is indifference because it is the ability to live without caring about consequence. He doesn’t care about consequences, so he can pardon people whenever he wants and he can do whatever he wants. Goeth doesn’t care about consequences, so he can murder people whenever he wants and he can do whatever he wants. The key difference between them is that Schindler isn’t actively motivated by hatred or sadism. In fact, he only begins to gain genuine goodwill and respect for the Jewish people towards the end of the film. Before that he views them as objects, a mindless workforce. I think that is a very important part of his development as well. He goes from seeing Jewish people as objects to seeing them as people, and through this development is taught a vital lesson: that power was never ever about lording over people like the pardoning emperor he talks about, but being compassionate enough to save the life of another person. “He who saves one life saves the world entire”, as they say in the movie.

Regarding the question of “where would you draw the line”, I can only answer with my personal boundaries and where I personally would draw the line, and even that is purely hypothetical. I would like to say that the only sacrifices I would make in that situation would be personal; I want to believe that I would only ever put my dignity or my health on the line, rather than put other people at risk. However, I don’t realistically believe that. I doubt that many of the people who worked as Judenrat ever expected to be in that position. I think it’s worth noting that people change when they are forced into dire circumstances. We all like to think that we would be the hero, that there are some lines in the sand that none of us would cross to save our lives, but we can’t know for sure until it happens. “We all believe we’d run into the burning building, but until we feel that heat, we can never know.” I have seen many people think lowly of the Judenrat, and to an extent that is entirely justified because of how they assisted the Nazis in the Holocaust. Can we really consider the Judenrat or the Sonderkommando or any of the Jewish people exploited by the Nazis traitors to their people or accomplices to their oppressors and murderers when the reality is that many people, if terrified enough, will do just about anything to live? I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been through what they did, and therefore anyone who hasn’t the comprehension of that pain, is really justified in casting judgment. Most people are afraid of death, and will do just about anything to be spared the agony of it, and the Nazis took advantage of that fear. I don’t know what lines I wouldn’t cross to save my life because I have never had to witness murder and torture like the Nazis committed, and I don’t believe it’s really my place to speculate that I would be any better than those who put others’ lives on the line to try saving themselves.

What made Schindler take the actions he took? Why did he seem to “change”? Was he heroic? In other words, how and why did he shift from being a “bystander” to an “upstander”?

Schindler was motivated by money at first. He cares only about production. However, it is in the best interest of an employer (or rather an enslaver in his case) to ensure that their laborers are a reliable workforce. How can someone be a reliable workforce if they are abused left and right, or killed at random? At some point, Schindler realizes that the Nazis killing and torturing the Jewish people isn’t “good for business”, and this is what initially prompts him to care. When the elderly man is killed for only having one arm, he expects to be compensated for the loss of a worker. He doesn’t think, at first, about how the old man was a human being who looked up to him and admired his character for offering him a job in such desperate circumstances. The desire to care about the wellbeing of his workers came as a necessity, because the amount of money he made off their backs depended on it, and that was where he started to change. He goes from screaming at a girl that he isn’t an “Ark” for Jewish people to saving her parents. He realizes that standing by, knowing they will be killed, is uncomfortable. His compassion is irritating to him. The knowledge that he has done nothing to be the better person itches at him inside after he starts to care about his workers. He shifts from a bystander to an upstander because being able to care about his workers’ wellbeing creates an extent of empathy and compassion within him, and that develops into something greater and heroic.

Was this movie true to life or dramatized/censored in any way for the audience? Is the depiction of who these people were an accurate portrayal of their character?

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