“We didn’t want to spoil the childhood of our own children and for many years we were sad. But when we became old we didn’t want to take our story to our graves, we wanted to tell our stories. The film gave us a chance to speak about what had happened to us.”
Bronislawa Karakulska, one of the Schindlerjuden, speaks to British newspaper The Daily Mirror about her experiences and how Schindler’s List helped her inform her children about them.
“John Harrison lost his brother to the war. The Sullivan family lost all five brothers. The Borgstroms lost four. The Slighs, three. The Hobacks, their only two sons. The Niland family also lost two sons. If these men hadn’t defied death to ensure our freedom, then this day would never have come. It is to honor these men and their buddies-the men who put an end to the Holocaust and saved Western civilization-that I made Saving Private Ryan. My hope in making Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan is that eyes have been opened. My hope is that lives have been changed.”
Spielberg in his essay for the Architects of Peace Project, entitled ‘Steven Spielberg Reflects on Working Toward Peace’.
The following has been submitted by reader CJ. It’s a really wonderful piece that touches on everything that’s great about Schindler’s List.
Thanks for this CJ - and great top 10 films choices. Great to see The Right Stuff included - I love that film.
By the way, if anyone wants to submit any reviews to the blog, please do. I’m always keen to archive the thoughts of non film critics (mostly because they are so often much more interesting than the thoughts of actual critics!)
For whatever reason recently I compiled my “Top 10” of all-time list and for the last 2 weeks was having a countdown on my facebook account with short essays for their inclusion. I concluded it last night with Schindler’s List - and thought you might be curious in reading it, so I’m submitting the last entry to you
(I actually think my best piece of writing was my argument for It’s a Wonderful Life.- but I tried to do List justice. I wish I were a better wordsmith sometimes)
Oskar Schindler makes for a fascinating protagonist. When Schindler’s List opens he’s a bit of a huckster, never having been successful in business, but sees an opportunity to finally make his fortune. He’s great at wining and dining. He has a love for the high life and all that entails (good food, lady companionship, gambling, etc.). His membership in the Nazi Party seems more for convenience than any sort of ideology. He knows being in the party might get him the life he’s always yearned for.
Oskar moves to Poland, scrounges up money from Jewish investors (that he sweet talks into basically giving him all their cash for pots and pans), sets up shop, and watches his bank account grow. He’s a shady man no doubt, he has a keen eye for seeing weaknesses, and the different ways he can buy off German Officers into giving him exactly what he wants. He plays that game quite well.
His Jewish workers are cheaper than Poles, making his profits grow even more than they otherwise would (and being a war supplier, he’d be making cash hand over fist regardless). Since he isn’t gifted at business, he hires one of the Jewish bankers in the internment camp to run his company. Itzhak Stern becomes the good angel on his shoulder, trying to work his way into Schindler’s conscious. A new commander, Amon Goethe, arrives and orders the deaths of half of the Jewish ghetto. Those that are left alive become target practice for him in the mornings. More Jews try to get into Schindler’s factory where (despite Goethe occasionally wandering into Schindler’s shop to execute workers with little reason) they are safer.
Somewhere along the way Schindler, who initially seemed to care little for the plight of the Jews, becomes their savior. It’s a slow process, allowing people who probably aren’t “qualified” to run his machines onto his payroll, then subtly appealing to Goethe’s vanity, and finally straight up bribing German High Command. He manages to whisk away “his Jews” when the camp is being closed down and those left are sent to camps for extermination. He spends all of his money and risks his life to do all of this for the 1100 workers he has come to love.
Spielberg gives us so many memorable sequences in the film, it’d be impossible to list them all. The liquidation of the ghetto is basically the most horrifying twenty minutes I’ve ever seen on film, and it’s obviously the most famous sequence. However there are many other fantastic scenes. Hell, basically any of those where Schindler is trying to massage Goethe into getting him to do what he wants, is spellbinding. Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, and Ben Kinglsey all bring their ‘A’ game and then some. Not sure any of them have ever been better actually.
This is a film that has really grown with me over time. Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed with it when I saw it in March of 1994, but I feel it has only gotten better in the years since. It also came at a time when my interest in film was really burgeoning out and I was starting to think maybe working in the film industry might be something I wanted to pursue. So viewing the film was kind of a pivotal moment in my formative years.
“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”
That quote is near the end of Spielberg’s masterpiece. It’s a beautiful sentiment for a wonderful film and a perfect way to end my own list.
1. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
3. Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)
4. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
5. The Right Stuff (Phillip Kaufman, 1983)
6. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
7. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
8. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
9. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
10. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
“On the surface, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 double-header of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List have nothing obvious in common. How could anyone make connections between a thrill-a-minute popcorn blockbuster about rampaging dinosaurs and a deeply personal historical tome about the horrors of the Holocaust?
“But in watching Spielberg’s films back to back for the purpose of this assignment, I was surprised to see evident similarities between Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond and Liam Neeson’s Oskar Schindler – egotistical men of wealth and power who peddle their influence for a perceived greater good, even as it costs them virtually everything they’ve ever worked for.”
Sean O’Connell discusses the similarities between Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in this great Cinemablend article.