“Schindler’s List” is about a man caught up in Nazi Germany who defies regulation by saving as many Jews as possible. Schindler’s power and prestige during the Third Reich allow him an advantage over most and he uses this power in order to buy Jews to work in his “factory”. The factory is a ruse Schindler uses; it’s a front to persuade Nazi’s to believe he’s using Jews to make war weapons when in fact he’s doing nothing of the sort. This act, along with the many other acts Schindler comments, is not only humane but heroic.
Schindler reveals to the audience a level of humanity that was not often showcased during this time period. Normally there’s a great black and white approach to Germans during this time period. Many people thought that the Germans knew what was happening in their country but did nothing. Thus, their loss of humanity was relevant. This is what is meant by black and white; in most of the world’s eyes, Germany was the evil empire and all of those who were German, were a part of that empire. Schindler contradicts such an assumption.
Schindler connotes a feeling of reprieve from the inhumanity and indeed apathy of the Third Reich. His use of power and money in order to thwart the Third Reich’s effort to commit genocide on Jews is nothing short of sainthood. Compounding the fact that Schindler was German and he saved Jews makes people who believed that all Germans were evil brings even more humanity to the viewer. Schindler’s negation of this thought (Germans being evil) makes the audience feel as if other German’s during this time tried to do as Schindler did, but not to such a grand scale because of lack of Schindler’s means by which to do it.
Schindler creates an idea of humanity in the film. His actions foretell of hope. His regret in the film of not being able to use his cufflinks in order to save more lives is telling of the man’s nature. His, efforts coupled with his regret that he did not do enough, is what drives the point home about humanity. In order to more fully appreciate Schindler’s efforts an examination of humanity and what it means to be humane must be examined.
Humanity and being human are two very different things. Humanity is the population of the world and being human falls into being defined as good, bad or otherwise. Many people put this in a color range by saying a person is white, black or gray. This means that a person, a human can have traits of evil in them but be generally a good person. Schindler’s defies this definition, as he’s defined and presented in the film, because his actions make him out to be a completely good person. The question the film makes me ask myself is whether or not I’m being as good a person as I can be. When a human compares themselves to another person it’s difficult not to judge, or range their level of humanity or goodness. The film questions what humanity is, what being human is, because the Nazis were so obviously bad because they wanted to kill all of the Jewish race. Schindler on the other hand wanted to save them. Thus, we are presented two polemical elements in two things that are defined as human.
These questions are very present in the film. The course of humanity in being able to torture and extinguish an entire race so arbitrary reasons at best, pitted against the empathetic soul of Schindler make the audience (at least me) think about how both of these, contradictions in nature, can exist in the scope of being human. Perhaps being human is about that gray area more than it’s about being a saint. Regardless of the answer, it’s clear that Schindler represents the best of humanity while Nazis, Nazism, and the Third Reich represent what’s the worst in humanity.
Ultimately the comment the film makes about what it’s like to human is this: it is the range of the scope of human emotions, obligation, duty, empathy, evil, pessimism, love and hate. All of these things represent humanity. In the film, the audience is given a look at the two extremes of being human in order to show, and make a point, about the intricate nature of our humanness. Beyond this division between good and bad, black and white, however, is this idea in the film that to be human means to own an empathy so great that one should never give in to the proclivities of evilness. This means that to be human means to help each other, as Schindler did. In the face of great defeat from love and empathy, it only means that a person ought to dig down deep inside themselves and find a place of strength in order to defy something that they know is fundamentally wrong, and fundamentally against what it means to be human. As humanity is based on the biological concept to create progeny and to ensure the duration of our race, instead of the duration of one race and the extinction of another; biologically speaking we should be protecting each other, hence the fundamental need for empathy as part of our makeup as humans. Schindler had this but the Third Reich did not. Thus, Schindler was the best of our humanity, a human that is the exemplar of our necessary traits to function as humans.
- Spielberg, Steven, Steven Zaillian, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, and Thomas Keneally. Schindler’s List. Universal City, Calif: MCA Universal Home