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Schindler's List

Student activities

Task no. 1

Schindler's List

  1. Oskar Schindler and his wife Emilie Schindler were named 'Righteous among the Nations' by the Yad Vashem (the Holocaust commemoration, education and research centre in Israel)
    1. What is the meaning of 'Righteous among the Nations'?
    2. Why  was Emilie Schindler also given this honour?
    3. Use books and the Internet to find one other person who has been named 'Righteous among the Nations'. Record their name and what they did to achieve this honour.
       
  2. Go to source 1 and find the name of the 173rd person on Schindler's list. What role did he play in the story of the Schindler Jews?
     
  3. Read Schindler's actual speech to his workers at Brunnlitz at the end of the war at The Righteous Among the Nations website

    Compare this with the same moment in the script of the movie Schindler's List by Steven Zaillian.

    ​[All twelve hundred workers and all the guards are gathered for the first time on the factory floor. Tension and uncertainty surround them. It's ominously quiet. Then -]

    SCHINDLER: The unconditional surrender of Germany has just been announced. At midnight tonight the war is over.

    [It is not his intention to elicit celebration. Indeed, his words echoing and fading in the factory, echo the doubts they all feel.]

    SCHINDLER: Tomorrow, you'll begin the process of looking for survivors of your families. In many cases you won't find them. After six long years of murder, victims are being mourned throughout the world.

    Not by Untersturmfuhrer (an SS officer rank) Liepold. He stands with his men, dying to lift his rifle and fire.

    SCHINDLER: We've survived. Some of you have come up to me and thanked me. Thank yourselves. Thank your fearless Stern, and others among you, who, worrying about you, have faced death every moment (glancing away). Thank you.

    [He's looking at the guards, thanking them, which thoroughly confuses the workers. Just when they thought they knew where his sentiments lay, he's thanking the guards.]

    SCHINDLER: You've shown extraordinary discipline. You've behaved humanely here. You should be proud.

    [Or is he attempting to adjust reality, to destroy the SS as combatants, to alter the self-image of both the guards and the prisoners? Moving across the SS men's faces, they remain inscrutable. Schindler turns his attention back to the workers, and, not at all like a confession, but rather like simple statements of fact:]

    SCHINDLER: I'm a member of the Nazi party. I'm a munitions manufacturer. I'm a profiteer of slave labor, I'm a criminal. At midnight, you will be free and I will be hunted. [Pause]

    I'll remain with you until five minutes after midnight. After which time and I hope you'll forgive  me, I have to flee.

    [That worries the workers. Whenever he leaves, something terrible always seems to happen.]

    SCHINDLER: In memory of the countless victims among your people, I ask us to observe three minutes of silence.


     
    1. What are the similarities and differences in the way the same speech has been recorded?
    2. Which version gives you the best insight into Schindler's motives for his actions? Why?
    3. Discuss the different possibilities for Schindler's motives.
       
  4. Oskar Schindler has been called a flawed individual. He was an alcoholic, corrupt, unfaithful womaniser with ambiguous motives for his actions. If such a person can apparently show moral courage in such difficult and dangerous circumstances give three reasons why ordinary Germans participated in the Holocaust.
     
  5. What is the significance of Schindler's actions?