Summary and Analysis of Scenes
Scenes 1 to 10: Schindler and the Establishment of His Factory pp2-5
Scenes 11 to 14: Liquidation of the Ghetto pp5-9
Scenes 15 to 18: Plaszow pp9-12
Scenes 19 to 23: Schindler's Activism Begins pp12-15
Scenes 24 to 28: Plaszow Gets Worse pp15-18
Scenes 29 to 35: The List/Zwittau-Brinnlitz pp18-21
Scenes 36 to 39: End of the War/Schindler's Grave pp22-24
Scenes 1 to 10: Schindler and the Establishment of His Factory
The film opens with a close-up shot of a pair of hands lighting a candle for the Sabbath. The sound of a Hebrew prayer can be heard in the background. The scene is in colour, but it is short, and fades out with the smoke from the candles. The candle smoke becomes steam from a steam engine, and the film is now black and white. A single Jewish family registers at a folding table. As the scene continues, it shows the vast number of Jews arriving in Krakow, Poland to register.
We cut to a shot of Oskar Schindler pouring himself a drink and deciding upon a suit jacket and cufflinks. He attaches a Nazi Party pin to his lapel and grabs several large wads of bills. We do not see his face. The camera focuses on the back of his head as he enters a nightclub, and a handheld camera follows him as he approaches a server, bribes him, and is seated at a good table. We finally see the face of Oskar Schindler after he is seated. He appraises the scene and notices several Nazi officials. Schindler buys the men drinks in an attempt to ingratiate himself with them. By the end of the evening, Schindler is seated with an entire table of officials and dancers. He buys them food and drinks and takes photographs with every man of note seated at the table.
The scene then cuts to daytime. Schindler is approaching the Judenrat, the Jewish Council that carries out Nazi orders. He pushes through the lines to the top floor where he asks for Itzhak Stern, an accountant. He explains to Stern that he needs Jews to invest in his new enamelware factory. Because Jews by law cannot own a business, Schindler explains that he will pay them in product instead of money. He also asks Stern to run the business. The men sit in silence for several moments and the shot/counter shot technique is used to emphasize the tense quiet between the two men. Stern refuses the offer, explaining that Jewish businessmen will not want to invest. Schindler, however, refuses to give up. He enters a church where Jewish smugglers conduct business and meets Poldek Pfefferberg, whom he convinces to provide luxury items for the upcoming months.
The scene then cuts to a shot of a bridge packed with Jews carrying their items to the ghetto, where they will now be forced to live. It is March 20, 1941, the last day for Jews to enter the ghetto. A little girl stands on the side of the street yelling "Goodbye Jews!" The scene cuts to Schindler settling into his new luxurious apartment, one just evacuated by the wealthy Nussbaum family. Pfefferberg enters the ghetto and is greeted by his friend Marcel Goldberg, who is working as a Jewish policeman in the ghetto. After the Jews have been given their housing assignments, Stern brings several businessmen to Schindler's car. Schindler is able to convince them to invest and the factory opens.
The camera cuts to a shot of Stern standing in the center of a circle. He explains to the Jews encircling him that employment at Schindler's factory would mean a way of getting out of the ghetto to procure necessary items. Pfefferberg explains that one must be deemed an essential worker before he or she is allowed employment at the factory. Stern tells a woman that her card is no good, and that he will get her one that will allow her to work under Schindler. The camera pans the long lines. Stern realises he can use Schindler's factory to help some of the people he knows. He begins forging documents to allow more Jews to qualify as essential workers. Stern then accompanies the people for whom he has forged documents to the registration desk and explains that they are skilled metalworkers.
Meanwhile, Schindler's wife, Emilie Schindler, arrives in Krakow while Schindler is with his mistress. She does not say anything, however. The scene cuts to the couple leaving Schindler's apartment. Mrs. Schindler is taken aback when the doorman seems unaware of her existence. She accompanies Schindler to a nightclub and he explains the incredible number of workers he has on his staff. The couple dances, but Schindler eyes another woman. The next morning, the couple is in bed together and Mrs. Schindler asks Schindler if he would like her to stay. When he does not respond, she leaves.
Back in Schindler's office, Stern brings a Jewish worker to him who has been begging to speak with Schindler. The man is old and has only one arm. He thanks Schindler repeatedly for saving him and making him an essential worker. Afterward, as Stern escorts Schindler to his car, Schindler angrily asks Stern what the man's use is.
The scene cuts to lines of Jews exiting Schindler's factory. The camera focuses on the one-armed man who is singing gaily with a young girl. As the group trudges through high snow banks, the officers decide to make them stop and shovel snow. The camera cuts to the man with one arm struggling to shovel. The SS pull him aside, despite his protests at being a worker for Oskar Schindler. Chaja Dresner tells her daughter Danka to look at the snow as the SS carry the man to the side and shoot him in the head. The camera cuts to Schindler in an office, fuming about losing a day of work and losing a worker.
The first part of the film aims to establish Schindler as a greedy, self-centered character who is out of touch and unaware of the true horror of the Jews' position. It uses the movement to the ghetto and the murder of the one-armed man as a contrast to Schindler's luxurious lifestyle.
The opening scene of the film is one of the few instances of color in Schindler's List. The color in this scene draws a stark contrast with the cold black and white of the following one. The prayer and candlelight are ominous, setting a dark tone from the outset of the film. The black and white of the following scene is used to increase the documentary feel of the film. It separates the film from the color scene at the opening and pushes it back in time.
The smoke from the candles fades to steam from a train, directly linking Jewish tradition to train travel. This is significant because, throughout World War II, the Nazi's primary mode for transporting Jews to concentration camps was via train. By the numbers of Jews arriving in Krakow to register, Spielberg indicates the vastness of the Holocaust. This vastness is not explored throughout the rest of the film. Instead, by showing it at the opening, Spielberg tells his viewers that the story they are about to view is only one small part of something much larger.
As Schindler dresses himself before the nightclub to the tune of popular music, the camera's intent focus on the act of dressing indicates the vanity of the character to whom the clothes belong. When Schindler arrives in the nightclub, a handheld camera follows him to his table. In 1993, a scene like this one would have normally required the use of a steadicam. However, Spielberg wished to create an intimate, realistic feel and thus eschewed a steadicam in favour of handheld cameras.
Schindler's actions in the nightclub indicate his desire to network with powerful Nazi officials as well as his charm and charisma. He immediately comes across as a man who gets what he wants. His interactions with the dancers belie his womanising tendencies. He appears as a fun but morally unsound character.
Stern's dislike for Schindler is clear in their conversation. He appears unhappy to be pulled away from his work and sceptical of Schindler's proposition. Stern is intellectual and composed; he refuses to take a drink from Schindler (a routine that will continue throughout the entirety of the film). Schindler comes across as tacky and out of touch. His leather jacket squeaks. He assigns only the job of providing "panache" to himself, and fails to understand what other problems Jews may be concerned with at the present moment. Schindler's interaction with Pfefferberg in the church follows suit. Instead of explaining to Pferfferberg the benefits of working for him, he smiles charmingly and asks to purchase nice shirts. To Schindler, it is still about the panache and the product.
Schindler's happy settlement into the apartment out of which the Nussbaums have been evicted again indicates his greed and self-centred nature. While the Nussbaums move into a small room with another family, Schindler sprawls across their bed. The shouts of "Goodbye Jews!" ring through Schindler's office, but he deliberately ignores them and goes on with his work. The cut to Marcel Goldberg as a Jewish policeman serves to compare him to Schindler. Like Schindler, he is greedy and self-centred. Unlike Schindler, he is Jewish and thus cannot patrol a factory or office, but instead must remain in the ghetto.
Schindler's evening with his wife serves to further highlight his moral depravities. His wife arrives while a mistress is with him; he eyes another woman while dancing with his wife. Ultimately, his wife leaves Poland because he is too self-centred to act as a good husband to her.
Meanwhile, the story of the one-armed man serves to elucidate Schindler's initial lack of awareness of Stern's actions. Schindler is shocked and angered after the man comes to thank him for saving his life. He yells at Stern, questioning the man's use. He begins to realise the manner in which Stern is taking advantage of his position. The viewer first sees the moral side of Schindler's personality after the man is shot. Despite his initial anger with Stern for employing a one-armed man, he feels bad that the man is shot. He yells at the commander for killing one of his essential employees, not because he knew the man to actually do good work, but because he met him personally.
Scenes 11 to 14: Liquidation of the Ghetto
Scene 11 opens in a dark room. Schindler is in bed with his mistress. In a heated moment, Pfefferberg shows up and knocks on Schindler's glass door, attempting to avert his gaze. He tells Schindler that it's about Stern. The scene cuts to Schindler walking purposefully toward the train headed to Auschwitz at the station. Nazi officials yell at Jews to leave their baggage on the platform before boarding the train. Schindler approaches a young man with the list of Jews on the train, and the man tells him that Itzhak Stern is, in fact, on the list.
Schindler removes a pad from his pocket and begins to take down the man's name when a young officer approaches. He tells Schindler that the list is always correct, and Stern must not be an essential worker. Schindler also takes down the officer's name before telling the two men that he can guarantee that they will both be in southern Russia by the end of the month. The camera follows Schindler as he scours the train for Stern. The two young men enter the shot behind him and also begin calling for Stern. Schindler finally finds him on a car as the train is pulling out. The young man with the list makes the conductor stop the train, and Stern is removed safely. He walks with Schindler and apologises for forgetting his work card at home.
The camera cuts to two officials at the station wheeling away a cart of the Jews’ luggage. They bring it into a storeroom with piles of boots, glasses, photographs, and suitcases. Men are removing items from the suitcases and sorting them into piles. One man takes candlesticks and menorahs to a shelf. Several other men are tasked with examining valuables. The camera lingers on one worker's aghast face after a pile of gold-capped teeth are presented to him.
The camera cuts to a scene inside the ghetto. A group of Jews stand around discussing how the ghetto is actually liberating because no one comes after them behind the walls. They say that this is the absolute bottom, that there is no lower than their current position. The scene changes and now the camera is in the backseat of a car with two German officials. One looks back at the camera and describes the different ghettos as the car passes them. The shot suddenly cuts to Amon Goeth, who is sitting in the backseat of the car blowing his nose. Out of the car, the men show Goeth his villa and he is disappointed at its size. The men stop walking as a group of girls lines up in front of them. Goeth selects the prettiest one, Helen Hirsch, to be his maid.
There is then a close up of Goeth's profile as he gazes onto a building project where a young woman is yelling orders at workers. She runs up to Goeth and the other officers and explains what needs to be done to the building so that it will not collapse. Goeth orders the officer to shoot her, despite protests of her necessity. After she is dead, Goeth orders the men to do what she instructed.
The scene cuts to Schindler shaving his face. It then cuts to a parallel shot of Goeth shaving. The shot continues to go back and forth between the two men as a voice-over by Goeth is heard. He speaks of the historical importance of his and his soldiers' actions. The camera shows Goeth standing in the centre of a square of soldiers. He speaks of how the Jews, from this moment on, will be erased from history. Soldiers and attack dogs storm out of trucks and line up. As Goeth talks strategy with several other officers, the camera cuts to Schindler and his mistress riding horses through a wooded field. They pull up to a ledge that overlooks the ghetto. The camera provides a close up of his mistress’s oblivious look before panning to an expression of horror on Schindler's face.
The scene cuts to the Dresner family eating dinner. When they hear noises, Chaja and Danka Dresner stand up to grab valuables. A hoard of soldiers runs into the ghetto and storms the apartments, throwing personal items from the balconies. Pfefferberg tells his girlfriend Mila that they must escape through the sewers, and that he will go make sure that they are clear. The scene cuts to a pharmacist putting together vials of poison. He brings it to the hospital, and the nurses feed each of the invalids a vial. When the soldiers arrive, the patients are already dead. The soldiers separate the Jews into men and women, splitting up screaming families and children. Anyone who does not co-operate is shot. The camera cuts to Stern, standing alone among the crowd, staring in horror at the activities around him. Pfefferberg's attempt to escape through the sewers is unsuccessful and he only escapes the soldiers narrowly. He goes to his apartment to find Mila missing. On the street, he hears Goeth and the officials approaching and pretends to have been assigned to clean up the streets. They believe him and leave him alone.
Meanwhile, Chaja and Danka Dresner run into a room and open a hiding space under the floor. There is only room for one, so Chaja leaves Danka there. While she is attempting to escape, she runs into a young boy who is working as a Jewish policeman. A friend of her child's, the boy agrees to hide her while the officers pass by. Danka suddenly runs out to find her mother. The boy tells them he will bring them to the good line. Music from a children's choir plays as the camera gives an aerial shot of the action. Schindler continues to look on, horrified, as his mistress tears up and asks him if they can leave. Men are lined up and shot.
A little girl in a red coat is noticeable because her coat is the only colour in the shot. She escapes the line and goes upstairs to hide under a bed. That night, the soldiers gather and listen in all the buildings for heartbeats of people hiding. They begin shooting rapidly into all the buildings, while one man sits and plays the piano.
Schindler's ability to remove Stern from the train to Auschwitz is representative of his growing power. His factory is doing well and he has successfully integrated himself into the ranks of the Nazi party. His reaction to Stern's apology, however, indicates that Schindler has not yet taken into consideration the lives of the Jews over his own wealth. When Schindler says, "What if I had gotten here five minutes later?", he follows it with "Where would I be?" instead of saying "Where would you be?" It is a matter of his own business success, not of Stern's wellbeing. Furthermore, the two young men behind Schindler and Stern apologise, explaining that one Jew over another does not matter to them. It is only a matter of paperwork. This statement not only dehumanises the Jewish people, but also is the first in a series of statements in the film about paperwork. One of the ways in which the film works to show Nazi dehumanisation of Jews is through their complaints about the annoying paperwork required to move them and deal with them.
The scene with the piles of Jewish belongings in a German warehouse serves to once again show the vast extent of the Holocaust. It also hints at mass extermination, without actually showing the violence. Even though the Jews are told that their baggage will follow them to Auschwitz, the Nazis know that most of them will not survive and that their baggage will be unnecessary. The pile of photographs serves to emphasise the Jews' humanity and to remind the viewer that they are not just leaving behind possessions, but memories and family.
The Jews' discussion of the ghetto is ironic foreshadowing of the liquidation of the ghetto. One woman says that it cannot get worse than it already is. However, in the next scene of the movie, it gets much worse. Goeth's arrival and his immediate order for the murder of the head of construction indicates that the worst is yet to come. The rules as they have been no longer apply. His disgust with the weather and with his villa are indicative both of his greed and self-centred personality and of his disgust with the Jews. When Spielberg cuts back and forth between Goeth and Schindler shaving, he highlights the similarity between the two men: greed. However, the following scene is the first instance in which an essential personality difference arises between the two men. While Goeth gives orders for attack as if it just a normal matter of business, Schindler looks onto the ghetto from his horse in total disbelief and horror.
Goeth's monologue to his soldiers is the one instance in the movie in which the Nazi motive for the Holocaust is spelled out. Goeth recites the frustration and resentment the Nazi party has for the Jews who came to Poland with nothing and excelled. The monologue also creates an ominous and foreboding mood before the destruction and slaughter that occurs during the liquidation of the ghetto.
During the liquidation of the ghetto, there are many Jews who attempt to escape, whether through the sewers like Pfefferberg or by hiding like the little girl in the red coat or the Dresners. All attempts are unsuccessful. Those who hid are found at night and shot. Pfefferberg is nearly shot while in the sewers and ends up in a line headed to Plaszow work camp. These unsuccessful attempts at escape highlight the helplessness of the Jewish position. They either had to obey or be killed. Additionally, the escape attempts often play on the theme of loyalty. Chaja and Danka Dresner prove their loyalty to each other by risking their lives to help the other. Pfefferberg scopes out the sewers for Mila, risking his own life in the hope that he could save both of them. These bonds of family loyalty make the separation into lines especially heart wrenching.
Finally, the little girl in the red coat is one of the most notable symbols from Schindler's List. Schindler notices her as she dodges through the crowd. He seems especially struck by her; to him, she represents the innocence of the people being killed. The colour of her jacket symbolises vitality and ambition. Even though she is young, she strives to get away and hide. Additionally, the red of her jacket symbolises the red flag that the Jews waved at the Allied powers for assistance.
Scenes 15 to 18: Plaszow
The scene opens with Amon Goeth stepping outside onto his balcony shirtless and overlooking Plaszow work camp. The camera moves down to the ground where the Jewish policemen are calling roll. Just as one woman tells another that the worst is over, Goeth grabs his rifle on his balcony. He scans the ground for someone to kill, pauses on a girl tying her shoe, and shoots her in the head. The camera cuts to a woman sleeping topless in his bed. She looks exasperated and covers her face with a pillow. Goeth grabs his gun to shoot again and this time finds a woman sitting on a staircase. Jews shriek and run in terror as they do their work; Goeth places the gun behind his neck and stretches.
The camera cuts to Oskar Schindler in his car, driving to Plaszow and passing a group of Jews erecting a large tombstone. He enters Goeth's villa and proceeds to the dining room where a group of Nazi officials are seated for lunch. He greets everyone as a close friend and introduces himself to Goeth, who states that they started without him. A voice over of Schindler's conversation with Goeth begins before we actually see the two men seated together after lunch. Schindler complains about losing workers, and Goeth grants him a sub-camp. The camera cuts to a shot of workers filing into Schindler's new sub-camp. Itzhak Stern is required to remain at Plaszow as an accountant for Goeth. He gives him a room with a desk and drawers and reminds him to not forget for whom he is working.
The camera cuts to a close up shot of Goeth surrounded by and kissing various women. It is a party at Goeth's villa and there is dancing, music, and heavy drinking. Outside the party, Schindler leans against his car in a tuxedo. Stern is brought to him. Stern starts giving him a list of things he must do, but speaks quickly and nervously. Schindler tells him to forget it and pauses for a moment. He tells him that he tried, but could not get Stern out of Plaszow. Schindler says that he will be at Plaszow every Wednesday and will look in on him, before giving him food to sneak into his pockets. Stern asks Schindler to not let things fall apart, for he has worked too hard.
The scene cuts to the inside of the metalworking factory at Plaszow. The workers are instructed to cease production as Goeth enters the room. As he patrols the factory floor, the workers are instructed to continue. Goeth approaches an older man, Rabbi Menasha Lewartow, who makes hinges, and tells him that he has new workers arriving from Yugoslavia tomorrow for whom he must make room. He instructs the Rabbi to make him a hinge while he times it. The Rabbi is able to do so quickly, and Goeth proceeds to question why there aren't more hinges in his box for the day. He takes the Rabbi outside to shoot him, despite the man's protests that the machines were being recalibrated in the morning. However, Goeth is unable to make either of his guns fire, so the Rabbi is left unharmed.
The scene cuts to Schindler removing a horse's saddle from his trunk. Stern runs toward the gate calling "Herr Direktor." He tells Schindler that the Rabbi can turn out hinges in less than a minute and asks Schindler to employ him. Schindler does not respond, but gives Stern his lighter. Stern uses the lighter to bribe Marcel Goldberg to send the Rabbi to Schindler's factory.
Back at Plaszow, Goeth angrily asks a line of men who is responsible for stealing a chicken. When no one steps up, Goeth randomly shoots a man from the line. A young boy then steps forward crying and says that the man who was shot is the one who had stolen the chicken. Stern gets this boy transferred to Schindler's factory as well.
Goeth's random killing from his balcony serves to further establish the kind of work camp director he will be. From day one, the Jews understand that they should be terrified of him. He seems to enjoy killing for the sake of killing. Additionally, because he is doing it from a long range and for no particular reason, it resembles hunting. This dehumanises the Jews by likening them to animals that are hunted. The aerial shots of the ghetto add to this analogy by presenting the workers as small targets in a field.
The image of Jews erecting the tombstone draws a stark contrast with the luncheon in Goeth's villa. The tombstone is representative of the horror and death occurring outside the villa. Furthermore, Schindler's friendly entrance into the dining room conveys his knowledge that he must continue to charm in order to get what he wants, especially now that the circumstances have changed. He betrays little evidence of the feeling of horror that came over him when he saw the liquidation of the ghetto, except when Goeth asks him about his suit. His comment that whoever brought him his suit is probably dead is an early hint of Schindler's disapproval of Nazi policy.
During Schindler's conversation with Goeth, the similarities between the two men become evident. Both are self-centered. Goeth tells Schindler he understands his need to have power and remain in his current position. Both are greedy. When Goeth mentions gratitude, he expresses that he is willing to be bribed.
Schindler's interactions with Stern belie a stronger emotional tie than simple necessity. In their first meeting (outside the party by Schindler's car), Schindler apologises to Stern for not being able to move him to a more secure location. In saying this, he indicates both acknowledgment of Goeth's reign of terror and his will to protect Stern. In this portion of the film, Schindler also begins to give Stern items for his own personal use and for use as bribes. He thus non-verbally agrees to help Stern in his mission to save certain Jews. This image of Schindler works against the image of Goeth as a man of no mercy. His interactions with the Rabbi and with the line of men accused of stealing the chicken show that he has little concern for the truth or for justice. Thus Spielberg, almost immediately after drawing comparisons between the two men in their post-lunch conversation, works to explore their differing outlooks on life.
Finally, Stern, like Schindler, begins to use bribery techniques to achieve his goals. He takes lighters and cigarettes from Schindler to bribe Marcel Goldberg to transfer certain Jewish workers to Schindler's factory. This new Schindler-like aspect to Stern foreshadows the increasingly close relationship between the two men.
Scenes 19 to 23: Schindler's Activism Begins
Scene 19 opens with a camera shot looking up toward Regina Perlman, who is pacing back and forth outside Schindler's factory. It cuts to her inside the factory, asking the doorman to speak with Oskar Schindler. Schindler appears at the top of the stairs, sees her, and refuses to come down. Perlman returns a different day wearing make-up and a sexier dress. Schindler then agrees to speak with her. She begs him to employ her parents, who are currently at Plaszow. Schindler yells at her for assuming he would do favours like that, and kicks her out.
The scene then cuts to Schindler storming into Stern's office and yelling, asking what he's supposed to do about Goeth killing everybody. He doesn't want his factory to be known as a haven instead of a valuable enterprise. Stern asks him if he is losing money; he says that he isn't, but that the danger of these actions concerns him. He tries to defend Goeth's actions to Stern, explaining that he is under pressure. Nevertheless, he gives Stern his watch to bribe Goldberg to transfer Perlman's parents. Perlman sees them enter Schindler's factory and is heartened.
The scene changes to a party at Goeth's villa and then to Helen Hirsch in the cellar. Schindler walks in and she nervously reports to him, before he quietly tells her that this is unnecessary. He gives her a chocolate bar and encourages her to talk to him. She tells Schindler of the horrible beatings that she receives from Goeth and admits that she is scared for her life. Schindler tells her that she need not worry because Goeth values her and likes her too much to kill her. The camera moves to a close up on the pair as Schindler gives Helen a comforting kiss on the forehead.
The camera cuts to Schindler and Goeth standing out on Goeth's balcony. Goeth is incredibly drunk and cannot stand straight. He notes that Schindler is never drunk and the two men approach the subject of power. Goeth tells Schindler that his power comes from the fear the Jews have of him. They know that he can kill at any point. Schindler disagrees. He says that this is not power; true power lies in awe and respect that comes from having the ability to kill, but the will not to.
The following day, Goeth takes Schindler's advice to heart. He first comes across a young boy who has put a nice horse's saddle on the ground. Instead of shooting him, he grimaces, pats his shoulder and tells him to go on. The scene cuts to Goeth entering his bathroom where a boy has been unable to remove the stains from his tub. Goeth asks him why he used soap instead of lye, but tells the boy that he is pardoned. He stands for a moment and catches his own reflection in the mirror. While the boy is running back to his quarters, Goeth steps onto his balcony and shoots him.
The camera cuts to a close up of Goeth's hand. Helen is buffing his fingernails. It pans upward to Goeth's face and he is admiring Helen as she works. He leans forward, moving his face closer to hers, before breathing in and leaning back.
Back in the camp, the Jews have gathered for a wedding. The camera gives an overhead shot of a woman performing the ceremony. It cuts to Goeth standing alone and drinking on his balcony. The scene changes to a female performer singing in front of Schindler and two Nazi officers. The voice over of her singing continues to play as Goeth walks down the stairs to Helen's basement room. She is bathing. He tells her that she is a wonderful housekeeper and that he would be happy to give her a reference after the war. He asks her if she is lonely, but she continues to stand silently. She begins to tremble as he moves closer to her. He tells her that they are both lonely. Goeth struggles with himself, moving closer to her and then away again. He asks what it would be like if he were to touch her in her loneliness. He wonders aloud what would be wrong with that. He continues, explaining that he understands that she is not a person in the strictest sense of the word, but her eyes are not those of a vermin. His thoughts make a sudden switch, however, and he yells at her for tricking him into being attracted to her. He proceeds to beat her. Shots from the wedding are inter-cut with shots of him beating her.
The film then cuts to Schindler's birthday party where he is kissing every woman present. Two Jewish workers appear and give him a cake. He kisses them both, and lingers on the older one for too long. The scene cuts to a group of Jewish women talking before bed. One of them tells a story she heard about gas chambers. The other women dismiss it as an impossibility, but look uneasy as they attempt to sleep.
This portion of the film works to emphasise the gradual changes that are occurring in Schindler, leading to his creation of the list. Schindler's interaction with Regina Perlman is representative of his outlook at this point in the film. He initially yells at her for assuming that he is running a haven for Jews instead of a business. However, he does transfer her parents. This indicates that Schindler feels he must maintain his image, but with the transfer of her parents, he begins to actively protect the Jews when he can. This small action spurs a series of others that ultimately result in the creation of the list. Furthermore, this action indicates to Stern that Schindler is at least somewhat ready to admit to what he is doing. Stern now feels more freedom to transfer people and more assurance that Schindler will not punish him nor them.
Schindler's increased empathy for the Jews plays out even further in his interaction with Helen in Goeth's cellar. He assumes his identity of compassionate director when he tells her she need not to worry for he is Oskar Schindler. By listening to her story, he exhibits a real desire to understand her plight, relate to her, and comfort her. The camerawork during this scene helps to convey a sense of intimacy between Schindler and Helen by providing frequent close ups of their faces. This scene helps to mark the change that has occurred in Schindler. The Schindler who listens to Helen's problems and comforts her is a far cry from the Schindler who yelled at Stern for almost getting sent to Auschwitz and jeopardising his business.
The conversation between Goeth and Schindler about power is also a telling one. A clear difference is identified between the men: their ideas of power. Up until this point, it has been clear that Schindler is more compassionate and less cruel and violent than Goeth. However, both men have still appeared to have questionable morals. This conversation elucidates a giant moral difference: Schindler views respect as the ultimate power and goal. Goeth, on the other hand, views fear in that way. This difference is irreconcilable, and the viewer now understands that Schindler has moved morally beyond Goeth. Additionally, this conversation is another aspect of Schindler's activism, for he is attempting to convince Goeth to be less violent. This does, in fact, save the life of a Jewish boy the next day.
Goeth's conversation with Helen in the cellar contrasts with Schindler's. Unlike with Schindler, Helen trembles nervously and does not speak. She does not get comfortable and open up to Goeth like she did with Schindler. This indicates that Helen views the two men in entirely different lights, despite their mutual affiliation with the Nazi party. This again highlights a difference between the two men, painting Schindler as the more morally righteous. Goeth's monologue also touches on the theme of dehumanisation, for he calls her sub-human and vermin. He struggles internally because he has convinced himself that Jews are of a difference species, yet he cannot help but to be attracted to Helen.
The inter-cutting of the scenes of Goeth beating Helen and the Jewish wedding serves to compare the triumph of human spirit and the breaking of it. Instead of simply showing the wedding straight through, Spielberg inserts clips of Helen's beating to remind the viewers how remarkable a wedding is at a time that is so horrible.
The theme of denial is also present during this portion of the film. First, Schindler attempts to explain away Goeth's behaviour to Stern. He wants to deny the absolute horror of the party he belongs to and the people he associates with. He wants to continue running his business as usual without taking into account moral concerns. However, his denial sounds hollow even to him, and he thus asks for the transfer of the Perlmans. The Jewish women at the end of this selection also display denial. They do not want to admit the worst of their situation and refuse to believe that mass extermination is possible, despite their fear that it might be.
Scenes 24 to 28: Plaszow Gets Worse
Scene 24 opens with the arrival of the list makers and doctors at Plaszow. The Jews are ushered out of the beds and stripped of their clothing. The camera provides a close up of someone placing a record on a machine and setting a speaker next to it. Popular, upbeat music blasts from the speaker system as the Jews are told to run in circles in front of the officials. Those who are deemed unhealthy and not fit to work are pulled aside to be sent to Auschwitz.
The camera returns to the record player and a hand changes the record. The tune plays as a large group of children are led through the camp, holding hands and singing along. Officials herd the children into trucks and most board obligingly. Some, however, try to run away. Many of the runaways are caught and carried back by officers, but some do reaching hiding spots. One young boy tries several hiding spots but is turned away by children who are already hiding. He eventually ends up in a pit of human waste.
As the trucks drive past the adults, the children wave. The adults, who are feeling relieved and putting on clothes after being told they can return to the barracks, see the trucks passing by. After a moment, they realise the significance of the trucks driving away with the children. They run after them, screaming, while soldiers hold them back and push them into the ground. Chaja Dresner and her friend notice that their own children are not on the trucks and assume that they have hidden.
The scene cuts to Oskar Schindler approaching Amon Goeth and other officers as they sit outside of a train headed to Auschwitz. It is a hot day, and Schindler settles down for a drink. He notices that the people stuffed into the train cars are suffering from heat and dehydration. He asks if the officers might hose down the cars, pretending that his intent is a cruel one. For a while, Goeth and the other officers find the spraying of the cars humorous, but as it continues for a long period of time, the humour fades. The camera provides a close up of Goeth's sceptical facial expression.
The scene cuts to the Gestapo arriving at Schindler's factory. They ask him to come quietly and throw him in a jail cell. His cellmate is an officer who asks what he has been arrested for. Schindler explains that he has violated the Race and Resettlement Act by kissing a Jewish girl. The scene cuts to a close up of Goeth's face, as he explains that Schindler likes good-looking women. He is eventually able to use a bribe to secure Schindler's freedom. The scene then cuts to Schindler sitting with Goeth and another officer. The men lecture him about the importance of staying away from this sort of behaviour. The Jews have no future, one tells him. It's policy.
Scene 28 opens with Schindler in the street examining ashes that are falling from the sky. He looks at his car and scrapes a pile of ashes off the side. A title across the screen explains that Department D has ordered that all the dead be exhumed and burned. The Jews are tasked with digging up the bodies and carrying them to a moving ramp that dumps them in with the pile of burning corpses. Nazis and Jews alike wear cloths over their faces to protect them from the awful smell. In the soundtrack, a choir sings an ominous song. An officer looks at the pile of dead, burning bodies and screams. He fires several shots at the pile while other officers laugh. Schindler arrives at Plaszow to examine what is happening. Goeth approaches him and tells him that they are closing down Plaszow. All the Jews will be moved to Auschwitz. Schindler watches the action in horror. As he stands there, a tray of corpses passes by him. One of the dead bodies is that of the little girl in the red coat.
The scene cuts to Schindler and Stern in Stern's office. Schindler tells Stern that he has made sure that Stern will receive preferential treatment at Auschwitz. When Stern asks him what he plans to do, he says that he will return home with his money. The camera lingers on his face as he looks deeply unsatisfied with this decision. He tells Stern that someday this will all end, and that he must have a drink with him when it does. Stern, beginning to cry, says that he better do it now. The two men share their first drink together.
The forced naked running of the Jews is perhaps the most degrading and humiliating moment that the Jews experience in the film. The mass deportation of the children works to the same effect as the naked running. It highlights the horrors yet to come and reminds both the Jews and the viewers to not become too comfortable in their idea of normality. Additionally, the parents running after the trucks represent family loyalty. Despite the fact that they might be shot for running after their children, many of the adults race toward the trucks screaming. The music is ironic. Its upbeat tone contrasts with the terrible reality of what is occurring at Plaszow. It dehumanises the Jews by making it seem more like a game than a selection of who is worthy of living and who is not.
Schindler's spraying water at the train station further emphasises his change in character and draws a distinction between him and Goeth. Goeth believes that he is spraying the train cars in order to be cruel. He cannot comprehend a nice action toward a Jew, and thus rewrites it in his mind as a form of torture. Schindler plays into this belief of Goeth's in order to provide water to the dehydrated Jews stuffed into the train cars. Because the two men interpret the same action in such vastly different ways, it becomes even more evident that they are no longer operating under the same morals.
The sub-plot about Schindler being jailed for kissing a Jewish girl simply represents Schindler's growing attachment to the Jewish people. It also symbolises a more public recognition of this attachment of Schindler's. It is no accident that it appears after the water-spraying scene. Both illustrate Schindler's increasingly forthright positive and helpful behaviour toward Jews. After he is released, Goeth and another Nazi officer lecture him on his behaviour. The officer's warnings about becoming too fond of Jewish girls has broader meaning: he is reminding Schindler that it is policy for the Jews to have no future, thus warning him of the consequences of helping them now.
The burning pile of dead bodies is the ultimate horror witnessed in the film. Plaszow has reached the lowest it will go. The reappearance of the little girl in the red coat serves to make the viewer feel a sense of personal loss at seeing the dead body of someone who had represented youthful vibrancy. It also continues the metaphor of the little girl in the red coat as the Jewish red flag to the Allied powers. Her death represents the Allies' abandonment of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis.
The final scene in this portion of the film represents total helplessness. After all the horror, and after the Auschwitz death sentence, neither Schindler nor Stern seems to have an answer to the problem at hand. Schindler looks disturbed at the idea that he must simply return home and let fate take its course. The usually stolid Stern cries when he hears Schindler state this decision; he, too, is out of ideas. When he learns of Schindler's plan to leave, he feels more helpless than he has at any point thus far. He agrees to take a drink with Schindler out of gratitude for all Schindler has done up until this point. The drink brings the two men together as friends and equals - two people in enormously different situations but who both feel equally helpless.
Scenes 29 to 35: The List/Zwittau-Brinnlitz
The scene opens with a shot of a naked woman in bed before panning upward to show a contemplative Oskar Schindler standing in the corner. He stares out the window, pondering his situation and the situation of the Jews. Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" plays in the background. He moves to the living room where he begins to count his trunks full of money.
The shot cuts to him standing with Goeth on Goeth's balcony. He is pacing back and forth, smoking. Goeth does not understand why Schindler wants the Jews he has been working with. He asks where the money is in this venture, where the scam is. Schindler refuses to answer but asks him how much a Jew is worth to him; he plans to bribe Goeth. Goeth returns the question, before the camera cuts to a close up of a typewriter spelling out names. Schindler and Itzhak Stern are working on creating a list of Jews that will travel with Schindler to a new factory in Moravia instead of to Auschwitz. Stern types frantically while Schindler paces, listing off names of people who should appear on the list. He continues to ask how many are on the list. When he hears the number, he says that he wants more.
The sound of the typewriter continues as Schindler arrives at Goeth's villa with a suitcase of money. The scene cuts to Schindler trying to convince a fellow Nazi who has been sympathetic to the Jews to join him in his venture, but the man adamantly refuses. When the scene returns to Schindler and Stern's list making, Stern asks Schindler how he is doing this. When Stern discovers that Schindler is buying each and every Jew on the list, he is impressed and shocked. When the list is finally completed, Stern tells Schindler that the list is an absolute good.
Schindler then approaches Goeth and asks to put Helen Hirsch on the list. Schindler lays a deck of cards in front of Goeth and asks to play a game of 21. He offers Goeth 14,800 Reichsmarks if Goeth wins and asks for Helen if he wins. Goeth initially refuses, saying that he wants to take her back to Vienna with him. Eventually, Goeth agrees to the card game and Schindler wins. The scene cuts to the faces of the Jews on the list as they say their names to the list checkers before boarding a train to Schindler's new factory in Moravia. The film first follows the journey of the men. It is cold and crowded on the train, but they rip off icicles from the side of the car for water. They arrive safely in Moravia, and Schindler welcomes them to Zwittau-Brinnlitz. He tells them that the women are on their way and that there is hot soup and bread waiting for them inside the factory.
The camera then moves to the women's train. The train is equally as cramped, and the women entertain themselves with stories of food. They look out the window and something seems not quite right. A boy outside looks at them and cuts his finger across his throat, symbolising death. Night approaches and the train pulls into a cold station filled with officers. A title appears on the screen, informing the viewer that the women have arrived at Auschwitz. The women are pulled from the train and lined up. Protests that they have been delivered to the wrong location are ignored. They are all brought into a room where their hair is chopped off and their shoes are taken from them. They are then ushered into an enclosed room. The women, having heard stories of the gas chambers, panic as soon as the door is shut. They scream in terror until the spouts overhead begin to gush water. Laughing, they realise that they are not in a gas chamber, but in a shower.
The scene cuts to Rudolph Hoss and Schindler, who are sitting at a desk together. Schindler has presented to Hoss the list of the Jews who are meant to be at his factory instead of at Auschwitz. Hoss tells him that he is not the only industrialist who needs labour. Hoss wonders why Schindler believes that he can help him. Schindler pours out diamonds on the desk. Hoss offers him 300 Hungarian Jews who are soon to be shipped into Auschwitz. Schindler refuses, insisting that he be given those from his list. His wish is granted.
The scene cuts to the women being ushered back onto a train leaving Auschwitz. Officers begin to grab children and pull them to the side, while mothers scream and try to hold onto their daughters. As soon as he notices, Schindler angrily runs after the officers and stops their behaviour. He explains that the young girls are essential for polishing the inside of shell casings. The girls are allowed on the train. The film cuts to a shot of Schindler walking among the women as guards open the gates to Zwittau-Brinnlitz. Soon after, he explains to all his soldiers that they are not permitted to kill workers without just cause and that guards will not be allowed on the factory floor without Schindler's authorisation.
The next scene opens in a church. Emilie Schindler kneels at a pew, singing along with a hymn. Schindler approaches and takes a seat in the pew behind her. He taps her shoulder and surprises her, letting her know that he is ready to be a faithful husband. The camera cuts to Schindler walking his wife through the factory. He introduces her to Stern before Stern pulls him away to let him know that the officials are unhappy with the quality of his shells. Schindler tells Stern to buy shells from elsewhere, so that fewer shells are being produced. Regardless of the monetary cost, Schindler says he will be very unhappy if his factory ever produces shells that can be fired.
Schindler then approaches Rabbi Menasha Lewartow and informs him that he should be preparing for the Sabbath. He tells him to accompany him to his office where he has some bottles of wine. The Rabbi recites prayers in honour of the Sabbath with candles and wine later that evening. Nazi soldiers listen in, perplexed.
The opening of Scene 29 presents Schindler as having realised that he might be able to provide a solution after all. The Billie Holiday song playing in the background, whose lyrics are about the hollow worth of wealth, serves to convey his thoughts to the viewer. Schindler knows Goeth is open to bribes, and as he examines his wealth, Schindler realises he may be able to buy Jews from Goeth.
Stern's pronouncement of the list as an absolute good is significant, for it exhibits the total switch in morals and the procurement of virtue for Schindler. Stern has been acting as his conscience throughout the film, and for him to tell Schindler that one of his actions is an absolute good means that Schindler no longer needs Stern as his conscience. He now has his own. This plays out several scenes later when Schindler approaches his wife in the church. By committing himself to monogamy and marriage, Schindler shows his virtue and conscience in another way.
Schindler's conversation with Goeth about Helen shows Goeth's continued attachment to his maid. Despite how unfeasible the act would be, Goeth fantasises about bringing her to Vienna with him and growing old at her side. It is a very personal struggle, and he only speaks of it to Schindler because he knows that Schindler already knows about it and will not judge him harshly. Goeth realises that to protect this woman to whom he has grown very attached, he must send her with Schindler. This denotes that Goeth does, in fact, understand Schindler's motive in buying the Jews, but does not and will not say anything to stop him.
The rest of this portion of the film serves to illustrate the type of haven Zwittau-Brinnlitz is. The women's accidental stint in Auschwitz provides a stark contrast to Zwittau-Brinnlitz. The floating ashes, harsh guards, required short haircuts, and threat of mass extermination put Schindler's bright factory with inactive guards into perspective. The Auschwitz accident also further exemplifies the extents to which that Schindler is willing to go to in order to protect the Jews on his list. He shows a fierce loyalty to them, bribing a commander to reclaim them and personally assuring that they all make it safely on the train to Moravia.
Multiple techniques are used to show the viewer that Schindler's factory is a haven. Schindler instructs his guards to not shoot and to not enter the factory floor. He provides hot soup and bread for his workers. He allows the Rabbi to host a Sabbath. Perhaps most notably, he is willing to go completely broke in order to ensure that fewer artillery shells are produced for the Nazis.
Scenes 36 to 39: End of the War/Schindler's Grave
Itzhak Stern questions Schindler, asking if he has any money hidden away somewhere. Schindler says no, and asks if he is broke. Stern hesitates and sits down. The camera cuts to a large group of Jewish workers in a room together. The camera pans and shows them to all be staring at a radio, from which a voice is announcing Germany's surrender. The Nazi officers are sitting with them. Schindler invites the guards into the factory for the first time.
As everyone gathers on the factory floor, Schindler stands before them to speak. He announces Germany's surrender. He tells everyone that, starting tomorrow, they will begin to look for surviving friends and family. In many cases, he warns them, they will not find them. He tells the Jews to thank themselves and to thank Stern, not him. He informs them that, as a member of the Nazi party and a profiteer of slave labour, he will be hunted as a criminal. He will remain with them until five minutes after midnight and after that time, he must flee.
Schindler then turns to the German soldiers and tells them that he knows they have received orders to dispose of the population of the camp. He tells them that this is their opportunity. However, he then proceeds to provide them with a more pleasant alternative: leave now and return home as men, not murderers. One boy turns and leaves, and the rest of the soldiers follow suit. After the soldiers exit, Schindler calls for three minutes of silence in honour of those who have been lost.
The scene cuts to a group of men thanking a man and removing his tooth. The tooth has a gold crown, which the workers melt and mould into a ring. The workers follow Schindler as he leaves the factory later that evening. Schindler provides to Stern a list of things that he has left for the workers. Outside the factory, all the workers have gathered to bid farewell to Schindler. They remove their hats out of respect. Rabbi Menasha Lewartow steps up to present Schindler with a letter that the workers have written and signed, which explains Schindler's innocence should he be captured as a war criminal.
Stern then steps forward to present the gold ring to Schindler. On the ring is inscribed a Talmud expression: "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." Schindler, hands trembling, drops the ring but retrieves it and slides it on his finger. He grabs Stern's hands and whispers to him that he could have got more Jews out of Plaszow. Stern shakes his head and tells him that there are 1,100 people alive because of him. Schindler gets upset, realising that if he had just sold his pin or his car, that he could have saved more lives. His Jewish workers comfort him by surrounding him and embracing him. The workers watch as Schindler's car exits through the factory gates.
The scene changes to the next morning. A Soviet soldier finds the Jews sleeping outside the factory on the train tracks. The soldier tells them that they have been liberated. They ask him where to go and the soldier provides no real answer, simply informing them that they are not liked on either side of Europe but that there is a town nearby. The camera cuts to a massive line of Jews walking across a field toward a town while a popular Hebrew song plays.
The scene changes to a clip of Amon Goeth's hanging. He was charged with crimes against humanity and executed. The scene changes to the outside of Schindler's original factory, and a title informs the viewer that Schindler failed at his marriage and several businesses after the war. Another title tells the viewer that Schindler was declared a righteous person by the council of Yad Vashem in Israel in 1958. A tree was planted in his honour that grows there still.
The scene changes back to the line of walking Jews, and the shot fades into colour. A subtitle tells the viewer that the people now walking toward the camera are the actual Schindler Jewish survivors in the present day. The survivors, accompanied by the actors who played them in the film, walk by Schindler's grave and place stones on it. At the end of the procession, the camera shows the stone-covered grave of Schindler. An unidentified hand, which we understand to be the hand of Liam Neeson (the actor who played Schindler). places two roses in the centre of the grave. The camera cuts to a shot of Neeson in the distance looking down at the grave before fading to black.
Schindler's acceptance of his impoverished state illustrates the total change that overcame him throughout the war. He calmly accepts the information that he no longer has any money, understanding that he lost his funds to save the lives of others. His bankruptcy also comes at a convenient time: in conjunction with the end of the war, when the factory is going to be shut down anyway.
Schindler's speech on the factory floor is one of the most moving moments of the film. He extends his deepest thanks and condolences to the Jews, humbling himself to a level not yet seen in the film. His motion to the Nazi soldiers is a risky one, but one that represents his faith in humanity, despite the atrocities of the Holocaust, and disgust with his own party. Having the German soldiers leave in such a manner is also a reminder that not all men enlisted in the German army wanted to kill. Their exit sends an uplifting message. Schindler's moment of silence for the Jews shows his respect for their people and the acknowledgement of their humanity, an action that works directly against the frequent dehumanisation seen throughout the rest of the film. Furthermore, Schindler's sign of the cross followed by the Rabbi's prayers sends a message of the possibility of religious co-habitation.
The ring presented to Schindler contains the message of the entire film. Its presentation to Schindler in conjunction with the letter illustrates the immense respect and gratitude Schindler's workers had for him. To have this scene not long before the execution of Goeth conveys the triumph of power by respect over power by fear. Schindler's emotional breakdown only adds to his workers' respect for him, since it shows he also has the power of strong emotion, something not seen in Schindler until this point.
It is significant that the workers awaken on top of railway tracks. Trains are used throughout the film as a symbol of passing on. At every point until the end of the film, they bring Jews to Auschwitz and consequently, to probable death. By sleeping on top of the train tracks after being liberated, the Jews are conquering this symbol of death. They have survived the Holocaust and have not been put on the deathly passage. They can stand by the tracks without being hurt now.
Spielberg fades the actors into the real-world survivors at the end in order to promote cinematic realism and adhere to the genre of docu-drama. In doing this, he directly connects the actors to their real-world counterparts and instills a sense of truth in the viewer. The transition to colour also brings the viewer into the present time and highlights the historical, documentary-like quality of the black and white film that the viewer has just watched. The partnerships of the actual survivors and the actors acts to similarly add to the truthfulness of the tale. The epilogue titles serve to remind the viewers that the film that they just watched was based on a true story, a real man, and real workers. It's therefore not just a film, but a story with real-world consequences and results.