Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List has had a profound effect in my understanding of an important historical event. It also illustrated for me the triumph of the human spirit in one of the darkest moments of the human journey. In his portraits of both the powerful and the powerless and is his transcendent final scene, Spielberg defines for us a very personal vision of the Holocaust.
Oscar Schindler appears for the first time in the film as an opportunistic entrepreneur mingling with the Nazi elite in an attempt to procure an inexpensive labor supply for his factories. Schindler uses money and compromising photographs to convince those in power to agree to meet his quotas. One’s first impression of Schindler is that he is a war profiteer; despite what happens later, Schindler did not begin his association with the Jews for altrustic purposes.
Then Schindler begins to employ the Jews in his factories and slowly begins to understand the Nazi movement towards the Final Solution. The human being emerges from Schindler’s materialistic shell as he recognizes the individual humanity of his employees. When he discovers that “imperfect” workers are being exterminated, he makes a list of essential workers which includes many of the handicapped in a desperate attempt to rescue them from death. Spielberg emphasizes the ruthless nature of the Nazi agenda in the scene where a crippled man who works for Schindler is murdered by Nazi soldiers while on a work detail. The blood of the victim splatters the snow as the indifferent soldiers move on.
The mad concentration camp commandant provides an excellent foil to Schindler in the film. Just as Schindler discovers and develops his own decency in an atmosphere of grotesque indecency, the commandant discovers the euphoria which stems from absolute power. The commandant’s favorite game is sitting on his porch and shooting Jewish prisoners at random. In the spiritually dead world of the camps, those in power suffer no...
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