Schindler's List is a film released in 1993 and since it’s release, it has been widely acclaimed film winning seven Oscars. I selected this film because I am interested in Judaism and the history of the Jewish people after being introduced to the subject from a world religions course. The class has covered how the Jewish people have had a long history of conflict, oppression, and mistreatment. I wanted to learn more about the injustices done to Jews during World War II and I felt that this was a great opportunity to do so.
Schindler's List takes place in Krakow Poland, just shortly after the invasion by Nazi Germany. Oskar Schindler, the protagonist of the film, is a businessman who sees an opportunity to take advantage of the current circumstances in Krakow. Schindler uses his charismatic personality to gain respect amongst the Nazi party and in return, he is allowed to start an enamelware factory. He enlists a large group of Jews to work for him and because of their involvement, they become immune from concentration camps.
The success of the enamelware factory begins to decline as the antagonist Lieutenant Goth arrives in Krakow with the orders to construct a new concentration camp. Schindler is exposed to the horrific crimes done by Goth as he violently mistreats and kills the workers of the camp with no remorse. This changes the perspective of Schindler and his motives for capital gain shift to the focus of protecting his workers.
Soon the Germans become worrisome that defeat is starting to look imminent. Nazi officials order all remaining Jews in Krakow, including Schindler's workers, to be shipped to Auschwitz death camp. Schindler is forced to exhaust his remaining savings to offer a bribe for Goth in hopes of protecting his workers. Regardless of the bribe, Schindler’s Jews are mistakenly routed to Auschwitz and Schindler is forced to offer an additional bribe that would allow him to create an ammunition plant for his workers.
At the end of the war, Nazi soldiers are ordered to kill all remaining Jews in Schindler's factory. He makes a desperate attempt to persuade the soldiers to leave with dignity and is successful in liberating his workers. The Schindler Jews provide Oskar with a document attesting to his acts of protection as it allows him to avoid future arrest. The Krakow Jews show their gratitude to Schindler but he is conflicted with internal sorrow as he realizes his greedy endeavors could have been channeled to save more lives. The film ends with a scene of Schindler Jews paying their respect at the grave of Oskar Schindler in the 1990s.
Schindler’s List can be related to many ideas and theories taught in peace studies. The film depicts the homes of Krakow Jews being raided by Nazi soldiers as they force Jews out of their homes, jobs, and social life. Then were involuntarily required to work at the labor camp that was led by Lt. Goth. Scenes show the Jews forced to wear prisoner outfits, follow strict guidelines, and abandon cultural practices and self-autonomy. Violence and murder was a consistent component of the film as one horrid scene displays Schindler feeling appalled as he watches hundreds of Jews being thrown around and shot during the liquidation of Krakow.
These moments in the film represent the five forms of oppression which are: marginalization, exploitation, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Iris Young believed that oppression took form in different circumstances and therefore established these five as the different faces of oppression. These acts of violence are what Johan Galtung would have argued to be from underlying invisible forms of violence. Galtung's pyramid of violence represents the claim that invisible violence, like cultural and structural violence, is the root cause of visible direct violence. The structural development of the Nazi party in Germany helped propagate the cultural acceptance of mistreating Jews, is what Galtung would have believed to influence the injustices done to Jews.
An analysis of the actions and behavior of antagonist Lt. Goth, may allude to some of the ideas addressed by Betty Reardon. In her piece Sexism And The War System, Reardon makes the argument that the more militarist a society tends to be the more sexist are its institutions and values. Lt. Goth is portrayed with negative masculine values that are manifested by the militarist views of the Nazi party. Scenes show Goth as strong, brave, and loyal as he takes pride in the liquidation of Krakow Jews.
He possesses a ruthless demeanor as he reluctantly sits on his balcony sniping innocent working Jews without any emotion. Goth is a perfect representation of the patriarchy and its connection to militarist values that Reardon discusses. Goth is shown multiple times physically assaulting, verbally abusing and objectifying Helen in a dehumanizing fashion. These scenes present Reardon’s argument of his militarist values and how they coincide with his sexist and patriarchal behavior.
Philip Hallie believes that cruelty goes beyond the realm of violence and actually manifests as the maiming a person's dignity and identity. Once this form of cruelty becomes persistent, it often becomes institutionalized and the harm becomes obscure for the victim and victimizer. Hallie believes cruelty is fueled by a distinct power disparity that is often formed through verbal, physical, societal pressure and violence on one group. Schindler List portrays the institutionalized cruelty throughout the film as the Jews of Krakow quickly internalize their newly labeled inferiority.
This is clearly shown when a worker in Schindler’s factory begs Oskar to maintain his job even though he is not suited for the position. Oskar becomes distraught because he realizes as a member of the Nazi party, his workers initial perception of him is perceived as someone who is control of their lives. This is a pivotal scene as Oskar realizes the power relationship and his capability to save or ultimately contribute to the horrific mistreatment.
Schindler's List is an excellent film, but the plot may not occur to be a clear vehicle for informing the viewer on peace study ideas without some previous knowledge within peace studies. Individuals who have no understanding in peace studies would easily be able to learn and recognize some smaller themes and concepts like the injustices, issues of war, violence, and oppression. Although, it would be difficult to analyze the more substantial ideas in peace studies and how they connect to the underlying themes in the film.
Viewers would more than likely not be able to connect Galtung’s pyramid of violence to the direct violence in Krakow, and probably wouldn’t recognize the character of Lieutenant Goth as a clear representation of the war systems hierarchical power structure within the military that induces patriarchal values of male dominance. Past knowledge of these theories and ideas allow for individuals to analyze past the surface themes and provides an easier vehicle of understanding. Schindler's List may not be the most informative film on the nature of peace studies, but is an accomplished masterpiece that provides viewers with an authentic understanding of violence, injustice, and oppression.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below