Segment I: Schindler's List
View the final 10-minute segment of Schindler's List. MCA Universal Home Video.
Teachers should set the context for students by giving the following background:
Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German businessman living in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust. At the beginning of the war, Schindler's objective was simply to make money. He opened an enamelworks factory in Kraków, Poland, using Jews of the ghetto as slave labor. Jews were used because they were the cheapest labor and, therefore, profits would be higher.
The ticket for survival in the ghetto, however, was being employed in a necessary war industry. Jews employed in Schindler's factory were saved from being deported to the camps because they were performing vital work for the war effort. As Schindler became more involved with the Jews who were employed in his factory, he became more sensitive to their plight. He ultimately went to enormous lengths and used his own personal finances to save Jewish lives. After the war Yad Vashem recognized his efforts and identified him as a member of the "Righteous Among Nations."
For each segment the interactive discussion questions are designed to be open-ended and do not have right or wrong answers. The goal is to get students to think about moral responsibility.
- What is the importance of the survivors' paying tribute to Schindler?
Schindler's Jews, or Schindler Juden, were very aware of the risks Schindler took in order to save their lives. He is a shining example of the "Righteous Gentile." The Jews are very aware that they are alive because of Schindler.
- Why do you think Schindler, an ethnic German and a Christian, was buried in Jerusalem?
Schindler made many visits to Jerusalem and visited with the people he had saved. He asked in his will that he be buried in Jerusalem because he felt a strong sense of connection there.
- Why do you think Steven Spielberg, the director of Schindler’s List, decided to include this final scene in the movie. Why is it in color when the rest of the movie is in black and white?
The survivors are a reminder of life after the Holocaust. These survivors have created a new life despite their horrific experiences.
Spielberg used color film in this segment as a symbol. As the colors are vibrant and alive, so is the Jewish community. It is also more than symbolic that this takes place in Israel, a country created as a Jewish homeland after the war. It is a living testament that Hitler did not succeed in making the world free of Jews, Judenrein.
- Why is it significant that there are more than six thousand descendants of the Schindler Jews?
These descendants represent the continuity of Jewish life in spite of the so-called "Final Solution." If their parents had not survived (and they are in the minority), these descendants would not be here. Their contributions to society would also not be there. As doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers, and members of a variety of other professions as well as nonprofessionals, they may have made significant contributions to society. Their lives and contributions should lead us to consider the kinds of contributions that were missed with the killing of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. Students should remember that it is not just the victims who were killed, but the potential succeeding generations as well.
Segment II: Elie Wiesel’s Remarks at the Opening of the Holocaust Museum
View the five-minute segment of "A Week of Remembrance: The Dedication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum," The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (5 minutes).
Discussion Questions (10 minutes):
- Why do you think Mr. Wiesel left his prepared speech to ask President Clinton to do something about Bosnia?
Mr. Wiesel has acted as the spokesperson for the Holocaust survivors and the voice of a moral conscience. After visiting the former Yugoslavia, he was most disturbed by the atrocities and conditions he witnessed. Wiesel felt compelled to ask Mr. Clinton to address this problem. One of the many lessons of the Holocaust is that the world remained silent during the 1930s and 1940s. By bringing the critical problem to worldwide attention, Wiesel washoping that some action would be taken to help the plight of the people of the former Yugoslavia.
- Do you think that Wiesel was correct in using this forum for addressing this problem?
Yes: The primary purpose of the Museum is education. Therefore, it was fitting and proper that Wiesel use this opportunity to address the critical conditions in Bosnia. The lessons of the Holocaust will remain lost if action is not taken when genocide and atrocities are taking place. The world cannot stand idly by.
No: Wiesel overstepped his bounds by putting the President on the spot. It was inappropriate and disrespectful. There are more suitable forums for addressing these issues.
- Why was Wiesel able to do this?
Wiesel also has a unique status. As a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he has earned tremendous worldwide admiration and therefore is a voice and presence that commands respect. Very few individuals could have carried off the message to Clinton as Wiesel did.
Furthermore, his ability to speak directly to the president can be viewed as a positive comment on the democratic process in this country. Where else could a private citizen address the president of the United States in such a public forum to demand action? It is a reflection of our American brand of democracy that our leaders are responsible to their citizens and that private citizens have the right to ask their leaders for “redress of grievances.” In this case it was to ask that the United States take some action to relieve the suffering in Bosnia.
- Did Wiesel’s remarks make a difference?
This is an appropriate place to read the accompanying remarks made at the Oval Office on December 13, 1995.
These remarks are evidence that the President took Wiesel’s words to heart and looked for a way to help. Wiesel voiced his approval, recognizing what a difficult task it was to find an appropriate way to help Bosnia. Wiesel acknowledges the importance of the United States’ exhibiting moral leadership by working to send troops to keep the peace.
Segment III: Leon Bass's “Remarks”
Read remarks from Leon Bass The Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps 1945: Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberators (Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1987). (5 minutes).
Leon Bass was a soldier in the United States Army during World War II and a liberator of Buchenwald. As an African-American educator, he lectures as an eyewitness to the liberation.
Read this speech aloud to the class. Teachers may want to make copies for each student. Leon Bass's speech calls on all of us to take a stand in whatever way possible to speak out against bigotry and prejudice. He uses everyday examples to demonstrate how individual actions can make a difference and are essential if we are going to prevent a Holocaust from happening again.
Discussion Questions (10 minutes):
- What does Leon Bass say is the way to avoid another genocide?
We each have a personal responsibility to respond and react to incidents of violence and bigotry.
- How can we as individuals make a difference?
When we hear name-calling, or people using derogatory language about another ethnic group, we must each ask the person using it to stop.
- Ask students if there have been times that they have stood by when incidents like the one Bass describes have occurred.
Almost everyone has been involved in hearing or seeing seemingly small acts of bigotry.
- Ask students how they could respond to these incidents differently next time they are faced with them.
Student responses will vary, but one hopes they will recognize that there are ways of speaking out without being confrontational. For example: "It offends me or hurts me when I hear you talk about someone or a particular group like that. I know that you did not mean it so please don't talk like that!" Students must recognize that by letting their friends and acquaintances speak in a derogatory or disrespectful way, they are actually saying that it is okay.