Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes
Release Date: Dec. 15, 1993
Running Time: 195 min
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, War
Commentary Schindler's List is a horrifying film about the Holocaust and the heroic efforts of one German businessman, who ended up saving the lives of some 1100 Jews from the concentration camps. The cinematography is eerily realistic and the acting is quite good, especially Liam Neesan's role as Oskar Schindler.
Introduction: The film begins at the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, right after Nazi Germany invades Poland. Oskar Schindler is an unsuccessful businessman from Czechloslovakia who has come to Poland to try to get rich from the new slave labor force of Jews and Poles. He quickly becomes successful and gains favor from other Nazis and SS officials.
Schindler's Deal with Itzhak Stern: Schindler then tries to acquire a factory to make enamelware for the war effort. Having no money to buy the factory, he makes a deal with Itzhak Stern (Kingsley), a Jewish businessman who has contracts with the now underground Jewish business community. Schindler is now able to raise his money for the factory as a loan from the businessmen in exchange for the pots and pans produced, to be traded on the black market.
Schindler Acquires the Factory: Schindler soon gets the money he needs to open his factory. The Nazis are pleased with him because of the factory's productivity. Schindler is able to keep the Jews working at his factory from being rounded up by the Gestapo by having them deemed as essential workers. Stern uses his skills to make sure as many Jews are deemed "essential" as possible, including young children, the elderly, and the infirmed.
Armond Goth: Shortly thereafter, an SS officer named Armond Goth (Fiennes) arrives to begin construction of a concentration camp, Plaszow, and to take control of the ghetto. Goth then makes everyone go to the camp, killing anyone who refuses to leave the ghetto. Schindler watches this and is horrified. Schindler ends up offering bribes to keep his workers. Schindler's heart softens and he changes his motives from profit to saving the lives of his workers.
Schindler's List: Goth receives orders to destroy Plaszow and move the Jews from there to Auschwitz. Schindler nevertheless convinces Goth once again to keep his workers. Schindler and Stern prepare a list (Schindler's List) of their "skilled" workers. Being on the list means the difference between life and death. Everyone on the list is saved except for temporarily a group of women who are accidentally put on the train for Auschwitz. Schindler goes there and bribes the camp commander with diamonds to let them go, which the commander does reluctantly. Once the Jews are safely at Schindler's factory, he allows them to observe the Sabbath and continues bribing Nazi officials, running out of money just at the end of the war.
Conclusion: As a German and a Nazi, Schindler must flee the oncoming Soviet Red Army. He packs his car and bids farewell to his workers, who are eternally grateful to him. Nevertheless, he feels horribly guilty that he could've saved ten more Jews by bribing the Nazis with his car and another two with his Nazi pin.
Social Relevance Schindler's List is the first feature-length film I've seen about the Holocaust. Being Jewish, I'd learned a lot about it growing up, but I was nevertheless very moved by this film. I think this is a very educational film for many people who have had little or no exposure to this horror, which cost the lives of 6 million Jews as well as millions of others. We all need to be aware of our potential for this type of brutality and do everything to make sure it is never repeated. We should also be inspired by Oskar Schindler and his heroism and realize that we all have this capacity to make a difference.