Schindler's List
Prompts Lively Responses

By Dan Davis and Jason Marsh
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

[ Student Art: Hand Trapped in Barbed Wire ]It all began when author Thomas Keneally entered a small luggage shop. The shop's owner was Leopold Page, born Leopold Pfeffergerg, who told everyone who came into his shop, the extraordinary story of benevolence and survival, hoping he would someday find a writer to print his story. Then, Page met Keneally. The author was fascinated by the story and wrote about it in his best-selling book, Schindler's List.

Schindler's List tells of Czechoslovakian businessman, and Nazi party member, Oskar Schindler, a man who, during the Holocaust, could not stand to see so many Jews killed by Germans, and who felt he had to act. From the Nazis, Schindler "purchased" the lives of 1100 Jews -- Jews who, otherwise, probably would have been killed in concentration camps. Schindler told the Nazis he was paying for his Schindlerjuden, or Schindler Jews, because they were cheap labor and he needed them in his factory; however, Schindler was really acting out of kindness, not out of greed.

This remarkable tale did not end on the bookshelves. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg purchased the movie rights to Schindler's List in the early 1980's and finally made it into a motion picture once he felt he'd matured enough to take on the project in 1993. Spielberg's product was a film which won seven academy awards plus the praise of critics and the viewing audience.

Everyone who has seen the movie has looked into himself as a result, for Schindler's List has a moral message. As part of the I*EARN Holocaust Genocide Project, on Topic 54 of the <iearn.hgp> teleconference, several students and teachers have discussed, with each other, how the movie affected them. Here is what some participants had to say:

"Walking out of the theater in which I had seen Schindler's List was quite a painful experience for me. As the closing credits began to roll, I slowly stood up out of my chair, which was about the fifth one in from the side. As I looked around the theater to see how long the line was before the door, there was no one else standing. I was the only one in the theater who had left his seat. In a slightly husky voice I choked "c'mon" to the members of my family in front of me, and we all left our row to walk to the theater doors, shuffling our feet as we went.

I remember the people I saw in the audience, faces young and old, all with red, glistening eyes affixed to the movie screen. All those people feeling the pain, the same pain that I knew we were all experiencing, that we all shared. We were all together at that moment, bonded in remembrance and sorrow, and it is a feeling that can bring tears to my eyes even now as I write this. The shared pain of the Holocaust was so enormous, so tragic...."

Dan Davis; Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"A challenge: go to this movie and do not turn away at any scenes. Do not look away during the pistol-whipping, or step out for popcorn as ash begins to fall like snow from the burning piles of Jewish corpses, or close your eyes as the children are carted off to some unknown fate in front of their parents' eyes, or focus elsewhere when a single bullet through the head causes a kneeling body to bounce off the floor and twitch before it ceases to move.... When Oskar (Schindler) is asking (Yitzhak) Stern what he thinks he's doing trying to rescue all these Jews, he is not actually arguing with Stern. Rather, he is arguing with himself and playing the devil's advocate, letting Stern play out what he [Oskar] really feels. Schindler isn't upset for Stern's employing the Jews; he is merely trying to justify in his mind what he knows in his heart."

Sean Weitner; Hudson High School, Wisconsin

"The little girl in red the red coat footage gives a feeling of hope. You think that she may be able to get away, that she has a chance. But then you see her later, and she is dead. She has already been killed, and you feel the despair and a lot of anger towards these people [the Nazis]. Then you have to look at the reality of the whole thing. It makes you wonder, how could they kill something so innocent?"

Tamera Herndon; Spokane Valley High School, Washington

"Schindler's List... was probably one of the finest movies that I have ever seen in my life.... I feel that it is every Jewish and non-Jewish person's duty to see this movie. This is probably the closest way possible to get a real insight of what was done to 6 million Jews in the concentration camps."

Sam Klein; Heschel Day School, California

"The three hours and five minutes would drag by for a lesser film, since no film should need that amount of time to get its point across. This case was different. The use of black and white, instead of color, only got the point across even more effectively. When one thinks back to that era, the 1940's, one usually associates it with black and white. Also, the use of these colors truly captured the events in a document-like form, instead of just another movie plot. The shadow casting on the faces of the German soldiers gave a mysterious and faceless appearance to the Nazis."

Gabrielle Ruda; Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"I had read and heard quite a bit about this movie, but I wasn't prepared for how quickly it started off with the ugliness of the Holocaust. My stomach hurt -- I thought I might throw up during the first half. It was so graphic and intense!.... Seeing the suitcases being labeled bought to mind the suitcases I saw in Poland. Same with seeing the women's hair being cut off, the train pulling into Auschwitz, the cattle cars, the piles of shoes, the guard shacks, the barbed wire fences: all these stirred up the memories of [my] trip to Poland as if it were yesterday. It was emotionally draining."

Julie Rosenoff, Teacher; Spokane Valley High School, Washington

"This movie is very important to the Jewish people and to humanity. I saw the movie yesterday in my class. It was the second time I had seen it, but it was still difficult. I broke down when the survivors appeared on the screen as they are today, and at some points I very much wanted the movie to be over because I felt like I was inside it, inside the camps."

Miri B.; ORT Motzkin High School, Israel

"I watched Schindler's List with horror. It made all of the books that I've ever read about the Holocaust come to life. On paper, you can pretend to yourself that it wasn't as bad as it sounded, but before you, in such stark black and white, the truth hits you hard."

Celeste Perri; Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"For about four days after I saw this movie, I had a very difficult time sleeping. I think it is because the movie is so intense and so deep that I couldn't deal with it subconsciously. It was a difficult movie to watch, but at the same time gave me a feeling that one person CAN make a difference... I don't think it is a movie that you can say that you "enjoyed," but I thought it was very well done. An event like the Holocaust is something that Hollywood will never be able to recreate. The death and destruction of it all is just too great."

Lara McKenzie-Hoffman; Sammamish High School, Washington

"Schindler rescued people for greater reasons than making money. He rescued them because he cared about what was happening to them."

Jessica Wilson; Albuquerque High School,New Mexico

"Going into the theater I felt I'd seen all that there was to know about the Holocaust... (but) by the time the credits rolled, and I filed out of the audience, I felt such a mixture of emotions. Of course I was saddened and deeply moved by the film, but I also felt slightly triumphant. I had this feeling of victory because I knew that Spielberg had succeeded with this incredible film, and the story of the Holocaust would reach people it may have otherwise never reached. "

Jason Marsh; Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"I recently had a chance to see Schindler's List and was very moved by the experience. I did not want the movie to end because I never wanted to forget the horrors of the Holocaust..."

Susan Apologia; Walkabout School, New York

"It certainly is a great movie, but it also has its weak points as far as I am concerned.... it is too sweet, and not realistic enough -- despite the excellent technique and artistic approach. The actors are too beautiful, especially the young Jewish girls.... Why is Schindler made into a God? My dearest friend (a Pole of Jewish origin) who went to see this film with me cried bitterly watching it and said that she felt like [she was] attending a funeral of her family members and relatives."

Elzbieta Kawecka, Teacher; Poland

"... this movie showed me a lot of things that I would not have known if I had not seen it at all. I really didn't know much about the Holocaust before this movie. I think that [Schindler's List] gives people a chance to learn about this subject more than I would have learned on my own. This was an excellent movie and evoked a lot of feelings that I would never have known were there before the movie."

Elise Gaetz; Hudson High School, Wisconsin

"As with all films about such disturbing topics as the Holocaust, it is not appropriate to judge them for their entertainment or enjoyment value. This type of film can only be assessed on how well the story was told, how it held our attention, and whether it affected us. Considering these criteria, Schindler's List is an outstanding motion picture. Even with a somewhat melodramatic final scene, it is still an extremely powerful and emotionally wrenching film.... If Spielberg didn't make this film, it probably would not have been made. He had the finances, the clout, and the personal commitment to make this movie happen."

Thomas Hall, Principal;
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"At first I didn't want to see the movie. I don't like to question my faith. All of these Holocaust things; they always undercut my faith in God. I've been to Yeshiva, and I've studied the Torah, so I'm a man who believes that God was always there to save the Jews. He makes miracles; He parts the Red Sea, so on and so forth. But where was God during the Holocaust? Why did we all have to die? My interpretation of the Talmud is that God is forgiving, and that he loves all his creatures. So then why did it happen? What went wrong? It is the one exception in all of what I believe. It's hard to face sometimes."

Howard Diamond Teacher; North Shore Synagogue, New York

It is true that the movie is also hard to face. The whole topic is hard to face; however, Steven Spielberg dealt with the topic, and as I'm sure everyone who has written in will attest to, he dealt with it quite brilliantly. Steven Spielberg has crafted a milestone testament to the Holocaust, and it will serve as a beacon for all who look back. The credo of most Holocaust remembrance people is "remember." Spielberg has made it easier for the world to do just that. Remember...

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