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The film, Schindler’s List, is a very valuable source in understanding the Holocaust. It played a pivotal role in educating audiences about the Holocaust because of its high emotional value, full coverage of the Holocaust chronologically, and its accurate depiction of the Nazi ideology through Jewish and Nazi perspectives. Nonetheless, the over-focus on negative stereotypical Germans and the lower-scaled violence due to the media’s generalized audiences decreased its historical importance.
Schindler’s List is a secondary source based on the novel by Thomas Keneally about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved 1100 Jews by letting them work in his factory. This film was released on the 10th of February, 1994 in Australia – produced by Steven Spielberg, Gerald R Molen, and Branko Lustig. It was filmed in many authentic locations in Poland, including Schindler’s factory on 4 Lipowa Street and Schindler’s own apartment on 7 Straszeskiego Street. Spielberg’s Jewish heritage influenced his objective of creating a film to educate young audiences about the Holocaust, and Lustig’s experience in the concentration camps, combined with Thomas Keneally’s novel based on the true story of Schindlerjuden Poldek Pfefferberg created an extremely valuable source in understanding Holocaust from beginning to end.
During the film, all Germans were portrayed as vile people, except for Schindler who was portrayed as a hero. This was demonstrated throughout the film, such as when the German girl was yelling “Goodbye Jews! Goodbye Jews!” when Jews were being herded from their houses, and the gleeful behavior of Nazi soldiers whilst abusing Jews. Schindler, on the other hand, was portrayed as the ‘heroin’ in such scenes where he sprayed water into a carriage full of Jews. As Spielberg intended to portray Schindler as the hero of the film, he disregarded the fact that other Germans also performed similar acts to Schindler’s. One such person was Karl Plagge, a German engineer who also brought Jewish workers into his factory, warned his Jews in the HKP 562 (Lithuanian Camp) of the upcoming liquidation of the camp, helping 150-200 Jews escape. Both Schindler and Plagge are part of over 3000 Germans who helped Jews escape or hide during the war. Thus, it is evident that Spielberg over-dramatized the negative stereotype of Germans during the war, possibly due to his Jewish heritage and objective to educate audiences about the Holocaust, therefore decreasing its value.
As Schindler’s List is a film, the depictions of violence are not as strong or brutal as in real life – as a film needs to be generalized to some extent so a larger array of viewers can watch. This is demonstrated in scenes such as the Jewish factory worker who was hit with a gun, and the grabbing of collars of Jews on the streets. In reality, Jews were not only handled violently but were verbally and emotionally abused, as depicted in Source A. Alongside this, Jews were also slaughtered in mass shootings, beaten or tortured to death, or gassed by Zyklon B pellets, developed in September 1941. As a result, the type of media this source is also limited to its value as it restricts the full-scale violence audiences would need to see in order to completely experience the Holocaust.
In this film, Spielberg also managed to provide deep insights into the emotions and reactions of Jews and Germans to the chaos surrounding them. This is clearly portrayed through the representation of Commandant Amon Goeth and his enjoyment in irrationally shooting unsuspecting Jews, such as the architect, compared to the scenes where Jews were discriminated against, humiliated, and slaughtered in mass shootings. All Jews endured such treatment during the Holocaust, as stated by Jewish human rights activist, Jacob Birnbaum: “They found twenty Jews, among them Rabbi Yechiel Meir Fromnitsky, and shot them in cold blood…Jews were forced, for instance, to do ‘gymnastics’ while being beaten and subjected to various other forms of humiliation”. During the film, Schindler and his wife’s reaction to the young girl in the red coat cluelessly wandering around with the other Jews, were both of immense concern, as she represented the purity and innocence of people that were being massacred. During the Holocaust, approximately one million out of the six million Jews killed were children. Thus, Schindler’s List successfully enrooted a deeply emotional experience through emotional symbolism, therefore adding value to the source.
In Schindler’s List, the clear variance between the Jewish and Nazi perspectives helps to establish basic connotations about the Nazi ideology. This is shown throughout the entire film where the humiliation or fear Jews endured was very clearly demonstrated whenever Jews interacted with the Nazis, – such as the scene where Jewish women were lined up and all had their heads down, and thin clothes in the winter – and the Nazi perspective was demonstrated through the perspective of Schindler – where he first began to use Jews in his factory as they were cheap labor and easier to work with – as well as the army commanders – Commandant Amon Goeth, whilst he was humiliating terrified Jews. In this case, the basic fact that the Nazi ideology is the idea that Jews were an inhuman and inferior race to them. This representation of both perspectives is completely accurate as seen in Source B, where the joyous expressions on the Nazi soldiers’ faces clearly portrayed their mirth in demeaning the Jew amongst them, whilst the Jew’s embarrassed and downcast expression shows the humiliation and horror he is feeling at the destruction of his religious assets. During the film, Commandant Amon Goeth’s vulgar treatment of the Jewish maid Helen Hirsch also demonstrated the Nazi ideology – that Jews were to be used and thrown away, disregarded in society. During the Holocaust, women were treated differently from men – they performed more humiliating tasks, such as cleaning roads in their undergarments, or being compelled to perform sexually-oriented tasks non-consensually, instead of enduring the violence and brutality men endured. As a result, Spielberg communicated the Nazi ideology from a Jewish perspective, giving audiences knowledge of the basic connotations which lead to the Holocaust, therefore adding value to the source.
Spielberg addressed every chronological stage of the Holocaust throughout the film, adding immense value to the source. This is portrayed throughout the film by the detailed insight into the Holocaust through the accurate depictions of Jewish treatment from the ghettos where Jews were herded through the streets, to the death camps and gas chambers. After the mass shootings and gas vans, the next stage of the Holocaust was the ghettos. During this stage, Adolf Eichmann was put in charge of ‘Jewish Resettlement’ where they relocated Jews into ghettos. These ghettos had deliberately harsh conditions, where residents were given 300 calories of food a day, and the small spaces were incredibly overcrowded, resulting in quick-spreading disease – this resulted in over half a million Jews dying. The film then moved to the next stage – the death camps – where the women were forced to strip naked in front of German soldiers before entering the gas chamber. It was protocol to have to ‘shower’ before being gassed, as Auschwitz survivor Edith Fox said, “I saw people coming into Auschwitz from different places who were sent to take a shower and were killed”. These graphic depictions of the journey Jews experienced from the beginning to the end of the Holocaust “makes us feel as if we’re living right inside the 20th Century’s darkest and most defining episode”, as Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly stated, therefore proving that this source is very valuable in understanding the Holocaust.
In conclusion, Schindler’s List is a very valuable source for understanding the Holocaust. Apart from the slightly inaccurate portrayal of Germans and gentler depictions of violence for the generalization of the audience, Schindler’s List contains a great value which must be recognized because it contains deep insights into emotions experienced by Jew and Germans during the Holocaust, gives a visual representation of the Nazi ideology which is easily understandable by general audiences, and depicts the Holocaust chronologically.
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