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Heroism in Schindler's list

Oskar Schindler was born in 1908 in what is now Svitavy in the Czech Republic. At the time, nearly 9 out of 10 people who lived there were full blooded Germans, including Schindler. In 1939 he joined the Nazi party and during the German’s invasion of Poland, he found himself in Krakow. During this time he took over the responsibility for two Jewish formerly owned kitchenware and enamel factories.

Eventually, he also established his own manufacturing of enamel works outside Krakow in Zablocie. Through this cheap labor from his operating factories as well as dealing on the black market, Schindler lived in the high style of that time period and had a fortune to his name.

Later sympathizing with the atrocities the Jews had to survive, Schindler used his influence and position in the German government to hide the Jewish employees under his command and keep them safe until well after the war was over. He saved some 1,200 Jews and is regarded as a hero worldwide. Near the end of the film, there’s an all color scene in which Schindler’s Jews come to place rocks on his grave in Israel. The final part of the movie concludes with the actor who played Schindler dropping two roses onto the pile of rocks.

In this movie, heroism in Schindler’s list is portrayed with an interesting mix of black and white and color footage. The use of black and white film in the past scenes of the film (present scenes are color) allow the audience to more fully immerse themselves in the notion of the WWII setting. As well, the director has used techniques such as the film noir style, which is known in detective movies out of the 1940s, further anchoring the context of the movie into the time period when it really happened.

A few other things that stand out in how this film was made:

  • Because of the black and white nature of most of the film, certain parts can be highlighted with color to emphasize and draw attention;
  • Highlights the violence in the film and heightens the difference between evil and good; when a man is shot and there’s “black” blood spreading across the white snow, the brutality of it seems more heinous, the narrow split that occurs between death and life;
  • In some more scary scenes, the dark lighting emphasizes panic and confusion;

As the film progresses, the shadows that usually cover half of Schindler’s face, showing his darker, selfish side, recede, and towards the end he is shown in full light as his perspective on life has changed.

The heroism in Schindler’s list was first recorded in a book called Schindler’s Ark, published in 1982 by author Thomas Keneally. This book was the foundation and inspiration for the movie Schindler’s List, later released in 1993. A surprising discovery was made after Schindler’s death; a suitcase that had belonged to him was discovered in an attic in Hildesheim by some friends of his. It contained over 7000 photographs and documents about his workers and factory during the war.