Vol. 11 No. 9 September 2009
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List dramatizes arguably the greatest tragedy in human history and the greatest act of humanity at the same time. The Holocaust, a term used to describe the extermination of approximately 6 million Jews during World War Two, is taken from two Greek words that mean “whole” and “burnt,” and that is exactly what Adolf Hitler, the Nazi German Chancellor, tried to do for six years—eliminate every Jew from German occupied lands. Prior to the war, 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland, the first country Germany invaded in 1939. Today, there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Jews living in that country.
One member of the Nazi party gradually saw that this “final solution,” as it was called, was not just a tragedy of war—it was murder, genocide. Oscar Schindler was a war profiteer. His factory made weapon supplies for the German army. However, as the war unfolded and the torture and murder of innocent Jews continued, Schindler realized that he had the power and means to intervene. He began bribing German SS officers so he could move Jews from the despicable death camps to his factory, where the Jews were protected by Schindler and treated humanely. He made a list of the Jews he wanted, and he got them all. Schindler’s noble endeavor left him penniless by the war’s end. Yet, his generosity paid off. He was able to save 1,200 Jews from certain death. There are more than 7,000 descendents of Schindler Jews alive today.
At the end of the movie, which should only be seen by adults due to its graphic—although accurate—images, the war ends, the Jews are freed, and Schindler becomes a fugitive due to his Nazi affiliations. Before Schindler escapes from his factory, the remaining Jews present him with a ring and a letter that was signed by all of them, stating that Schindler saved Jews instead of killing them. Schindler is overwhelmed by these gifts, but instead of feeling proud of his accomplishments, he begins weeping. He is distraught because he feels like he could have done even more. He could have sold his car—those funds could have saved 10 more Jews. Selling his watch could have saved a few more. The Jews around him swarm to his side to comfort him in his distress.
No matter how much good we do, there is always room for more. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10). We should not do good pridefully or expect earthly recognition. We should simply be neighbors—“the one(s) who showed mercy” (Luke 10:37).