81 Days With Oscar And Me

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Schindler’s List

October 24th, 2009 · No Comments · 1993, Adaptation, Black and White, Drama, F-Word, Nationalization, Nazi Socialist Germany, Oskar Schindler, Schindler's List, Seinfeld, Sex, Smoking, Steven Spielberg, Universal Pictures

Schindler's List In my mind, Schindler’s List will forever be associated with the two-part episode of Seinfeld (Season 5, episodes 18 and 19: “The Raincoats 1 and 2”) that aired in 1994.

Jerry’s parents are staying with him while they’re visiting from Florida. Consequently, he hasn’t any privacy. And he wants time alone with his girlfriend, Rachel. So Jerry and Rachel go to the theater to see Schindler’s List, the movie Jerry’s parents strongly urged him to see. But instead of watching the movie, they make out during the movie. Seated a few rows behind them is Newman, Jerry’s arch-enemy, who can’t wait to tell Jerry’s parents what he saw them doing.

After the movie, Jerry enters his apartment. His parents, Morty and Helen, are sitting at a table with a map out.

JERRY: Hey.
MORTY: Hey, Jerry.
HELEN: So how was the movie?
JERRY: Oh, really good, really good.
HELEN: And didn’t the three hours go by just like that (snaps her fingers)
JERRY: Like that (snaps his fingers).
MORTY: What about the end, with the list?
JERRY: Yeah, that was some list.
HELEN: What did you think about the black and white?
JERRY: (confused) The black and white.
MORTY: The whole movie was in black and white.
JERRY: Oh yeah, I didn’t even realize.
MORTY: You don’t even think about it, there’s so much going on.
JERRY: Yeah, yeah. I tell ya I could see it again.

All comedy aside, I know Schindler’s List is going to turn very sad and very intense, very soon. How can it not? It’s about a man who saved Jews from extermination during the Holocaust – humanity’s darkest hour – in Nazi Germany.

Who was Oskar Schindler? And what was his “list”?

The movie, despite its 3.5-hour length, only scratches the surface. It starts in 1939 just as the Germans started rounding up Jews, putting them in the ghetto, categorizing them as “essential” or “non-essential” to the government’s work programs, and then shipping them out on trains. Oskar Schindler is an opportunistic industrialist – and a member of the Nazi party – who opens factories and employs Jews, often stretching the definition of the word “essential” to employ even those who are clearly unable to do the work.

Tragically, the Germans quickly escalate to mass killings and the “Liquidation of the Ghetto, March 13, 1941,” a scene as terrifying as any ever filmed. As gruesome as Hannibal Lecter is in The Silence Of the Lambs, he’s a Boy Scout compared to the Nazis of nationalized Germany.

In the movie, Oskar Schindler witnesses the massacre in the ghetto and it appalls him. This may be the moment when he truly realizes the workers he employs are human beings. This is probably the start of his “list.”

I started writing this blog the minute the movie started. I didn’t finish until a minute or two before it ended. I wrote, non-stop, for three and a half hours. Here are my thoughts;

1. WTF??!?! How could anyone go along with this, least of all Germans? I can see how the Jews could have been (at least initially) duped into believing things would be okay. Jewish people tended to be somewhat easy-going and peaceful. And trusting. How could they – or anyone – have imagined in their worst nightmares that their government would exterminate them? So the Jews I can understand. But the Germans? How did they lose their minds? What was it that turned them into animals? Why would any human being in the 20th century participate in this lunacy?

2. The movie is, indeed, filmed in black and white (except for one dramatic image of a little girl wearing a red dress). In addition, it employs the use of a hand-held camera much of the time. This gives the movie the look and feel of a documentary, affording credence to the often gruesome images on the screen – many of which are nearly unbearable to watch. Or even contemplate.

3. According to the Wiki entry about Seinfeld episodes 18 and 19 of Season 5 (“The Raincoats”), “Jerry Seinfeld commented that the references to Schindler’s List were included after learning that Steven Spielberg got so depressed while filming the movie that he would watch tapes of Seinfeld episodes to cheer himself up.” I can believe that. Schindler’s List depressed the hell out of me and I’m not Jewish, nor did I spend months and months of my life recreating the lowest point in human civilization on a movie screen. So I can’t even imagine what Mr. Spielberg had to endure to make this film.

4. I wonder what Jews who were still alive in concentration camps throughout Europe at the end of World War II would have done if clowns like Oliver Stone and the other anti-war nutbags had their way. War is hell. Yes, indeed, it is. But sometimes it is necessary. This movie clearly demonstrates that. Without the American military – and the genius of General Patton – the entire world would now be speaking German. And there wouldn’t be a Jew left on the planet. I always keep that in mind whenever I see movies such as Platoon, Deer Hunter, or All Quiet On the Western Front.

5. War is hell. Yes, indeed, it is. But there is something worse – a government that turns on its people, demonizing those it deems unworthy, seeking total control of every aspect of their lives. My research indicates the government of Nazi Socialist Germany nationalized everything: industries, businesses, banks, schools, doctors, clergy, the media – you name it. That’s what Fascism is. According to Wiki, “The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) ruled Germany from 1933 until 1945. After Benito Mussolini’s successful March on Rome in 1922, German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler grew to admire him, and soon the Nazis presented themselves as a German version of Italian Fascism.”

Therefore, to understand Schindler’s List requires one to understand the politics behind the atrocities. And the politics is Nazi Socialism/Fascism. From the entry about Fascism on Wiki:

Fascism, comprises a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology and a corporatist economic ideology developed in Italy. Fascists believe that nations and/or races are in perpetual conflict whereby only the strong can survive by being healthy, vital, and by asserting themselves in conflict against the weak.

Fascists advocate the creation of a single-party state. Fascist governments forbid and suppress openness and opposition to the government and the fascist movement. Fascism opposes class conflict, blames capitalist liberal democracies for its creation and communists for exploiting the concept.

In the economic sphere, many fascist leaders have claimed to support a “Third Way” in economic policy, which they believed superior to both the rampant individualism of unrestrained capitalism and the severe control of state communism. This was to be achieved by establishing significant government control over business and labour (Mussolini called his nation’s system “the corporate state”). No common and concise definition exists for fascism and historians and political scientists disagree on what should be in any concise definition.

6. Really? Well, I have a concise definition: It is the “perfect storm” of a single political ideology that controls the media, the courts, and all branches of government, and seeks as its highest goal to propagate – and eliminate all opposition to – itself.

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Tea Party protesters, conservatives, constitutionalists, capitalists, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Christians, and anyone on the “religious right” spring to mind. Such people and ideologies seem to be in the cross hairs these days.

Consider a question for a moment. Regardless of your political affiliation, what kind of a person, let alone a U.S. President, would go out of his way to single out and attack the one news organization – out of all of them! – that doesn’t routinely report favorably about him?

Ponder that for a while.

7. Could what happened in Nazi Germany ever happen again? Probably not. And not with the same people group. But read the definition of Fascism I printed above and compare it to the actions of our current (2009) administration since it took office. You do the math.

So, who was Oskar Schindler? And what was his list?

According to his entry on Wikipedia, Oskar Schindler (1908 – 1974) “was a Sudeten German industrialist credited with saving almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively.” He was a capitalist, a man whose goal was to make money. Lots and lots of money. And it’s a good thing he did, too, because he used all of it to save the lives of 1,200 human beings.

As to why Oskar Schindler did what he did…

No one knows what Schindler’s motives were. However, he was quoted as saying “I knew the people who worked for me… When you know people, you have to behave toward them like human beings.”

The writer Herbert Steinhouse, who interviewed Schindler in 1948 at the behest of some of the surviving Schindlerjuden (Schindler’s Jews), wrote:

Oskar Schindler’s exceptional deeds stemmed from just that elementary sense of decency and humanity that our sophisticated age seldom sincerely believes in. A repentant opportunist saw the light and rebelled against the sadism and vile criminality all around him. The inference may be disappointingly simple, especially for all amateur psychoanalysts who would prefer the deeper and more mysterious motive that may, it is true, still lie unprobed and unappreciated. But an hour with Oskar Schindler encourages belief in the simple answer.

Oskar Schindler was a real person. He spent millions of his own money and risked his life to save people others in his government considered less than human. According to reports, he died virtually penniless many years after the war. “After a Requiem Mass, Schindler was buried at the Catholic Franciscans’ cemetery at Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way,” according to his bio on Wiki.

For more about Oskar Schindler, visit this web site. The site includes the letter the “Schindler Jews” wrote to him.

The Cast
Liam Neeson (1952- )………………Oskar Schindler
Ben Kingsley (1943- )……………….Itzhak Stern
Ralph Fiennes (1962- )……………..Amon Goeth
Caroline Goodall (1959- )………….Emilie Schindler
Jonathan Sagall (1962- )……………Poldek Pfefferberg
Embeth Davidtz (1965- )……………Helen Hirsch
Malgoscha Gebel (1955- )………….Wiktoria Klonowska

Directed By:
Steven Spielberg (1946- )

Written By:
Thomas Keneally, 1935- (book)
Steven Zaillian, 1953- (screenplay)

Schindler’s List was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Score (John Williams), Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Steven Zaillian)

This movie is monumental, easily the most important Hollywood movie ever made. It goes way beyond sheer entertainment and offers a window into an era of human history many would like to forget, and some even choose to deny ever happened. It is a gut-wrenching, nearly-too-terrible-to-watch movie that causes the mind to reel. And the stomach to churn. But it should be required viewing in every home.

Will there ever be a need for another Oskar Schindler?

God willing, no.

But should the need arise, who will it be?

You?

Me?

All it requires is a mind free to think independently, the courage to do what’s right, and a determination to withstand the inevitable opposition against you, regardless of its source – be that peers, society, or the government itself. Oskar Schindler risked all.

Will you be willing to do the same, should the need ever arise?

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