Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Holocaust was a horrible mass scale event that was held in plain sight yet not seen by the world until too late. I think it is important to remember what happened, out of respect for the victims, survivors & their families…and to learn so these events arent repeated again. There is no shortage of movies and books available on the subject. I implore everyone to read, watch, ponder. The Holocaust may be an event of the past but it is one we can use to make our present and future better. I have read many books on the subject as well as studied a lot on the history, including a class titled the “Sociology of Genocide” at my alma mater Sonoma State University.For Holocaust Remembrance Day, although I’m a few days late, I thought I’d share one of my academic papers from a few years ago. Its a analysis of the movie “Schindler’s List.”  (I was looking for a paper did on the topic of female bullying ion which I used a lot of examples from the movie “Mean Girls” in honor of the movie’s 10th Anniversary, but as it happens, I got sidetracked)

“Someday this is all going to end you know.” These were the words spoken from Oskar Schindler to his accountant Itzhak Stern in what little reassurance he could in the midst of the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg did an excellent job of bringing to life historical events in a way that showed the human experiences of the Jews. He used a variety of effects to create a realistic and dramatic portrayal of this time. For instance although the film was shot in black and white, there are moments of color to highlight certain things. In one scene, Jews are being forced out of the Krakow ghetto. Oskar Schindler stands atop a balcony watching as chaos and gunfire erupt everywhere. A girl wearing a visibly red jacket is seen walking unnoticed (except of course by Schindler) through the ghetto. This is an ironic scene because Jews were monitored so heavily during this time. It seems strange and miraculous  that a little girl could wander alone through the ghetto and hide under bed unnoticed. This was one of only three times in the film where color was used.

The second scene in which the viewer sees color is in stark contrast to the first. In this scene, a policy had just been ordered for all bodies to be exhumed and incinerated. Jews were seen being shot in cold blood. The blood on the bodies were seen visibly red. This scene was set to dramatic choir music. This scene preceded Schindler compiling his infamous list with Stern.

In other scenes, music was used for dramatic effect. In one scene where people were being lead to the showers music starts out quiet and somber. As the people get closer to the shower the music reaches a more frenetic pace reminiscent of old melodramas. The music was set to evoke the emotions of the people in the scene. In a happier scene, lighthearted marching music is played as the credits roll and the Schindler Jews are seen walking away from their liberated camp. The music becomes louder and more triumphant as Spielberg changes the scene from black and white to color to mark this happy ending.

Oskar Schindler was not only a humanitarian but a shrewd businessman. It was both these

things that ultimately made his actions successful in saving so many Jews during the Holocaust. The film did not give any background as to Schindler. I found myself wondering what moved him to do what he did. I found myself amazed that a man who’d failed at many businesses and marriages according to the film epilogue managed to find success when it counted the most. The film opens with Schindler attending a party and chatting up military officials. His success supports the old adage “it’s not what you know, its who you know.” Miraculously, the war ended as Schindler is told he is broke by his accountant (Itzhak Stern).

At times it was laughable at how much Schindler got away with. When asked how it came to be that he’d hired a metal worker with one arm Schindler simply explained “he was a metal worker. Quite skilled.” In the scene where Schindler requested a hose to water down a train full of Jews, it seemed certain he would be questioned, yet because of his power and influence Goeth and his men said nothing.

Additionally this film was educational for many reasons. The obvious reason being that it is about the Holocaust and everyone should be educated about this monumental event. More to the point, this story showcases what one person can do in the face of adversity. Schindler started out with nothing but confidence and good business skills when he chose to help the Jews. The movie not only documented what he did for the Jews but how he did it. He made contacts, acquired investors for his factory, chose product that people could be convinced they needed and was able to win favor with officials who might otherwise have questioned him. I was incredibly amazed at Oscar Schindler’s talent at using legitimate channels to subvert the Nazi system. For example he explained his reason for hiring only Jews to work in his factory because they were cheap labor as the government imposed a smaller minimum wage on them than the Pols or Germans.

Many things we’ve read about throughout this course were brought out of the texts and into life via this film. For instance, one scene shows how new arrivals had to run naked in front of the guards. The Judenrat was seen being unhelpful and having to deal with peers that viewed them as traitors. Several important dates in Holocaust history were brought to life via this film as well. The dates were clearly noted in these scenes along with a short explanation as to its importance so the viewer would know its significance (Ie the date Jews were given orders to move to the ghetto,). Another example of this can be found early on when Jews were forced from their homes to the ghetto. Wealthy families with beautiful homes and possessions are seen packing up as much as they can and leaving….to tiny, crowded and rundown apartment buildings. Spielberg did an excellent job of contrasting scenes such as this. In this instance, the family is seen visibly shocked at their surroundings. In the next, Schindler is surveying their home and deciding whether or not to move in. These bits of irony are purposefully placed. Scenes such as this show the varied experiences people had of events during this time. Towards the end, Schindler used possessions to bribe officials.He is seen giving his watch to Stern in order to free a woman’s parents. The next scene unfolds showing an official wearing the watch at a party. Viewing real people experience these events brings history to life in ways a text cannot.

In reviewing the film, I found it to be an excellent piece that showed many sides of the Holocaust while focusing on the actions of one man. There was very little I disliked about the film. Blood and bodies in general are things I avoid looking at but for this film it was necessary. I would like to have seen more background on Schindler (what was his position among the Nazi party, how well known & influential was he prior to this event, what made him do what he did). Barring those things, the film was excellent. The ending was a terrific “real life” epilogue. The ending credits brought the film full circle as each actor and the real life person they portrayed stepped forward to place a rock on Schindlers grave.This movie was like all Holocaust films is limited in how much it can explain about such a monumental events in history. This is no fault of Spielberg’s however .Although this was my third time viewing this movie, I felt I got a lot more out of it watching it while simultaneously taking this course. For this reason I would definitely recommend it as required viewing as a Holocaust Lecture Series assignment for future classes. In closing I am again reminded of the slight reassurance Schindler could give to Stern as he was held prisoner in a concentration camp:”someday this is all going to end you know.”

 

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