Fourteen years previously, a well-regarded Australian writer strolled into a luggage shop to escape the LA heat. Thomas Keneally immediately struck up conversation with the shop owner, one Leopald Page, formerly Poldek Pfefferberg, a Schindlerjuden. There Page told him the story of Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who had saved him and 1200 others from certain death in occupied Poland. Here was a Nazi who had not stood back. Keneally was so inspired he turned it into the Booker Prize winning novel Schindler's Ark. Spielberg, in turn, was transfixed by the story which awakened feelings of his own Jewish heritage and picked up the movie rights in 1982. Then he dallied, he wasn't ready, he hadn't matured enough. It took him ten years, as he put it, "to develop his own consciousness about the Holocaust."
It takes a good director to deliver a history lesson. It takes a great one to beautifully and truthfully portray a truly horrendous series of events. In Schindler's List, we see a legendary director at the top of his form: compelling, hypnotic, even entertaining at times… all for the sake of educating and enlightening people about what just might be the worst atrocity ever committed in human history. Spielberg knew that Holocaust survivors were aging and dying. He needed to tell their story before no one could.
Director Steven Spielberg was persuaded to make a cinematic testament to the Holocaust after he was approached by Poldek Pfefferberg, one of Schindler's Jews, about adapting Thomas Keneally's book Schindler's Ark. He put it off for ten years, fearing he wasn't up to the challenge. Finally, worried that Pfefferberg would die while he was obsessing about it, he got with the program. He hoped that the film would convey the extent of the Nazi atrocities in a way that was honest, challenging, and engrossing.
Great reasons, all of 'em. But over and above all of that, Schindler's List needs to be studied as a testament. And that reason trumps all of them: Because the things we see in this movie—and by extension the Holocaust itself—really happened.
History has been massaged. Aspects were contracted for more direct storytelling (it actually took Schindler three weeks to retrieve his female Jewish workers from Auschwitz) but impressively Neeson's philandering entrepreneur is presented with an ambiguous lustre. He was a womanising profiteer, whose actions constantly contradict his instincts, not a cleancut hero. War transforms men, it made Schindler far more than he appeared. It did the same for the director.
The real Helen recalled that she was mystified by Schindler. She saw him carousing with Goeth and the SS on a regular basis. But one day, he took her to the window looking down on the prisoners toiling in the Plaszow labor camp. He told her to remember the Israelites in Egypt; they were slaves, but they were freed; and someday these slaves would be free, too. ()
Schindler's List is an antidote to this kind of thinking, which is often driven by the same kind of anti-Semitism that led to the genocide in the first place. Spielberg knew this was a story that had to be told because the number of survivors and witnesses to the genocide were dwindling fast.
It is hard to explain the first reaction to watching Schindler's List, it is one of emotional exhaustion, of elation at artistic triumph, of eyes stung by tears of outrage and a strange sense of loss. The director you once knew like a favourite uncle had become something else. He had become important. And he was asking us to grow up with him.
Svitavy, Czechoslovakia Schindler's Factory Schindler developed skills that led him to becoming a successful businessman, such as being well-liked and persuasive.
After the German occupation in Poland began, Schindler obtained an enamelware factory.
Schindlerjuden Schindlerjuden, or Schindler's Jews, were given many privileges by Schindler that the Nazis had taken away from most Jews.
Jews under Schindler were able to converse about the Torah, sing religious songs, study the Torah at night, and even pray their daily prayers.
Helen receives a simple, touching gesture of comfort from Schindler: a kiss, delivered not with lust but with compassion. A moment of kindness in the middle of her awful life that shows us fundamentally how Oskar Schindler is different from Amon Goeth. He understands her suffering and he affirms her humanity. Like the rest of Schindler's Jews, Helen ultimately defies her captor by outliving him.
Most of Schindler's Jews lived in the Plaszow labor camp, but Schindler had a separate boarding place for them so the Nazis would know which ones not to harm.
The fact remains that regardless of what Spielberg was personally hoping to achieve, Schindler's List brought the history of the Holocaust back to public consciousness like nothing else (it is enormously telling that it was a smash hit in Germany). It was (and remains) irreducibly his masterpiece. The apprenticeship was over. The dreamer was born-again as a supreme artist.
Schindler and the Black Market Schindler was a wealthy man before the war started, but during the war, he spent almost all of his money on the black market, buying supplies for his Jews.
Schindler got arrested by the Nazis three times for embezzlement, but was never in jail because he would bribe his way out of trouble.