Spielberg’s butter up high places contacts in the

Spielberg’s
second film from 1993, Schindler’s List, tells
the true story of a group of Polish Jews who were saved from Nazi extermination
camps with the aid of German industrialist Oskar Schindler during World War II.
The drama features notable performances by Liam
Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph
Fiennes thus quietened many of Spielberg’s critics. It was shot with
unflinching detail in black and white, and  Spielberg won his first Academy Award for best
director for this film. In addition, the film achieved six other Oscars,
including best picture.The novel,
Schindler’s list, an inspiring work by the Australian writer Thomas Kenneally,
had been published in the United States in 1982, and is essentially a true
story, the account of a wealthy member of the Nazi party who systematically
rescued hundreds of Jews from the gas chambers. Kenneally had chosen to put it
in the form of a novel in order to speculate on the ambiguities residing in the
story. He wrote it, however extensively travelling to visit the sites and
interviewing nearly fifty of the survivors who owed their lives to Oskar
Schindler.

The
character of Oskar Schindler seemed to him to be extraordinary, a paradoxical
figure. Superficially an opportunistic businessman he could exercise superhuman
powers of subterfuge, regardless of personal risk. Schindler did not conform to
the heroic stereotype. Schindler was the
eldest  child born to a farm machinery
manufacturer and his wife. though the region of Svitavy passed from the
Austrian Empire to Czechoslovakia in 1918 ;Svitavy, where the family lived, was
located in the Sudetenland,and thus the Schindlers were ethnically German.
Schindler sold farm equipment for his father after leaving school in 1924,
during which time he met his future wife, Emilie, whom he married in 1928.
Schindler  tooka variety of odd jobs,
like running a driving school, before enlisting for a stint in the Czechoslovak
army. Before returning to Czechoslovakia to start a poultry farm, which he soon abandonedSchindler  briefly lived in Berlin.He spent much of his
time drinking and philandering. He was a
hard-living gambler, a boozing womanizer and a ruthless business schooloperator.
He treated his wife appalingly and generally behaved like a blackguard. He had
joined the Nazis mainly in order to make money from them, attending numerous
social functions in order to butter up high places contacts in the hope of
securing profitable deals. The film follows Schindler’s progression from a
money hungry businessman who wishes to use the Jews as cheap labour
in his factory to a compassionate activist who risks his security and spends
all his money to protect his Jewish workers from the horrors of nazi
concentration camps.

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At
the start if the war he went  to Poland
with the intention of using Jewish 
labour at starvation rates to work his factory, and so become a
war-created tycoon. Initially he is indifferent to the pathetic condition of
the Jews and has little concern for the moral issues at
stake.Yet at some point during the
war there was an astounding transformation, a realization of the evil that was
being perpetrated against fellow Europeans and in spite of the profound
difference it made to his entire outlook, he was able to conceal it from his
Nazi paymasters.Schindler’s motives are never directly stated in the film,
and  in real life he never offered an
explanation for his actions. In 1935 Schindler
joined the pro-Nazi Sudeten German Party and the next year began collecting
counterintelligence for the Abwehr, the German military intelligence agency. In
1938 he was arrested by Czechoslovak authorities on charges of espionage and
sentenced to death. After the annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany late
that year as part of the Munich Agreement, Schindler was pardoned by the Reich
and rose through the ranks of the Abwehr. His application for membership in the
Nazi Party—thought to have been submitted out of pragmatism rather than
ideological affinity—was accepted in 1939. That year, on the heels of the
German invasion and occupation of Poland, Schindler journeyed to Krakow, where
he became active in the emerging black market. Thanks to the network of German
contacts he had arranged through liberal bribes, he secured the lease of a
formerly Jewish-owned enamelware factory. He renamed the facility Deutsche
Emaillewaren-Fabrik Oskar Schindler (known as Emalia) and commenced production
with a small staff. Three months later he had several hundred employees, seven
of whom were Jewish. By 1942 nearly half of the workers at the expanded plant
were Jewish. (Ostensibly “cheap labour,” Schindler paid their salaries to the
SS.In the fall of that year the P?aszów work camp opened nearby, and by
February 1943 it was under the command of the notoriously sadistic SS officer Amon Göth, who would be executed after the war.
Capitalizing on the officer’s appetite for drink and other luxury items
available mainly on the black market, Schindler cultivated his friendship by
ensuring a constant stream of them to the villa from which he oversaw the camp.
Schindler thus managed to prevail upon Göth to create a separate camp for his
Jewish workers, where they were free of the abuses suffered at P?aszów. Though
Schindler’s motivations prior to this point are unclear, many scholars
interpret his efforts to extricate his workers from P?aszów as indication that
his concern for them was not purely financial.

When in August 1944 his factory
was decommissioned, Schindler successfully petitioned to have it moved to
Brn?nec in the Sudetenland, close to his hometown. Schindler and his associates
composed a list of Jewish workers that he deemed essential for the new factory
and submitted it for approval to the Jewish labour office. (With several
versions of the list known, it is difficult to determine how many people were
ultimately selected

Though those chosen were diverted
for a time to another concentration camp in Auschwitz.In one act of astounding bravado he even went
after the train in which some of his women workers had been transported to
Auschwitz, and secured an agreement to allow them to be released so that they
could return to their allegedly essential war work, which actually consisted of
making kitchen utensils. Having seen that the camp commandant had been
adequately rewarded, he was able to spirit the wretched people away to
protected safety. They were later joined by 100 more
Jews who had been transported from another concentration camp by the Nazis and
abandoned in train cars in Brn?nec. Those who reached the camp spent the
remaining months of the war manufacturing munitions that were rigged to fail.Schindler practiced a series of audacious
deceptions on the Germans and never raised their suspicions. There are thousands
of Jews alive today who are the descendants of Schindler’s Jews, their
existence owed to one man who achieved more than governments in stemming a
portion of the genocide against their race. .) A final
head count compiled at this time listed 1,098 Jews at the camp.

The
film was to be made entirely on location, and in black and white , much of it
shot with a handheld camera.Janusz Kaminski ,a Pole who had worked in Hollywood
was to be cinematographer. The production designer, Allan Starski, was also
Polish, and the line producer, BrankoLustig, was an actual child survivor of
Aushwitz.In Krakow Spielberg was able to use Schindler’s apartment building and
factory among other sites that had been part of the reality. Unfortunately the
World Jewish Congress, apprehensive of an influx of Hollywood-style extras,
withheld permission for him to film within the walls of Auschwitz, so Spielberg
built a concentration camp set outside the elaborate gate-house through which
the railway tracks passed, and the effect was chillingly real.Starski also had
to build the Plaszow camp near the real location which had changed too much
since 1945.

Spielberg
selected the Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson, having seen him in Broadway in a
revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie, and deciding that his large rugged
physical presence seemed to conceal a deep- seated tender compassion. The next
key character was that of Izhak Stern, Schindler’s Jewish accountant and
business manager who was an amalgam of several employees, an invention of the
screenwriter Steven Zaillian to serve as his conscience. He knows that by
holding on to his job, which means exercising maximum efficiency, he can
survive, but far from toadying to his boss it is almost the other way round,
with Schindler seemingly keen to stay in favour.Stern is the means by which
Schindler can carry out his plan, and it is he who makes the selection of the
people to be saved. They never discuss its outcome; there is simply a tacit
understanding between them on what they are doing. The Anglo-Indian actor Ben
Kingsley, was cast in the role and proved to be an admirable choice in spite of
his not being Jewish.

The
third key role was that of Amon Goeth, the commandant of Plaszow, with whom
Schindler must deal, an individual steeped in demonic malevolence, but far from
the clichéd Nazi types that Hollywood usually places in charge of prison camps.
Another British actor, Ralph Fiennes, fitted the part, Spielberg noting after
his screen test that he could turn on a positively sexual evil at will. There
were moments of kindness that would move across his eyes. Then they’d instantly
turn cold. He was to play a man who would amuse himself in the mornings, while
he was shaving, by picking off inmates from his balcony and shooting them dead.

What
is unfortunately missing, and therefore distorted, are many of the more
fascinating elements in the real-life story that don’t match Spielberg’s pious,
patriarchal scenario—such as the major role that Schindler’s wife, Emille,
played in saving Jewish lives after he resumed living with her while he was
establishing a mock munitions plant in Moravia, or the fact that he continued
to betray her with other women.

Making the
film was a harrowing experience, leaving mental scars on everyone involved. The
extras were recruited locally and carefully chosen, because they had to appear
under-nourished. They were to go appalling ordeal, having, for instance, to be
stripped naked and made to run in front of German doctors as they make the
choice between those who would be spared for labor, and those who would go to
the gas chambers. The film was essentially based on holocaust theme; the word
holocaust refers to the systematic state-sponsored
killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others
by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called
this “the final solution to the Jewish question.” The word Holocaust is
derived from the Greek holokauston, a translation of the Hebrew word ?olah,
meaning a burnt sacrifice offered whole to God. This word was chosen because in
the ultimate manifestation of the Nazi killing program—the extermination camps—the
bodies of the victims were consumed whole in crematoria and open fires.

Some
sequence make for hard viewing. The liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, mostly
shot with handheld cameras, takes up over a quarter of an hour of running time
and maintains its intensity throughout, as troops pour in, invading each
dwelling, shooting those who try to resist, wrenching children from their mothers,
and thrusting those destined for camps into trucks. Some of the victims try to
conceal their valuables; others attempt to squeeze into hiding places, but are
rooted out with chilling efficiency, the searchers using stethoscopes to detect
signs of breathing behind the plaster. A small boy even jumps into a nauseous,
brimming cesspit to avoid discovery.Schindler has gone riding that day with his
mistress, and watches the terrible scenes from an overlooking hill. In one of
the very few camera tricks used in the film catching his eye is a little girl
in a dingy red coat, and she turns up again, the same smudge of colour, much
later in a pile of corpses.The
little girl in the red coat is a symbol of innocence in the movie, who appears
during the liquidation of the ghetto in the movie was based on a real person.
The actual girl in the red coat was named Roma Ligocka; a survivor of the
Krakow ghetto; she was
recognised amongst the Jews living
there by her red winter coat. Ligocka, now a painter who lives in Germany, later wrote a
biography which is about surviving the holocaust called The Girl in the Red
Coat.

It
is not the only time that colour is used in this lengthy black and white film.
At the beginning a family prays for the Sabbath, and lights the candles which
burns down in a series of dissolves. On May 8, 1945,
the war in Europe ended, and the next day Schindler and his wife fled the
country with the help of several of the Schindlerjuden, as the Jews he saved
came to be known. Schindler was wanted for war crimes in Czechoslovakia due to
his earlier espionage activitiesafter
listening to Churchill’s announcement of the German surrender; Schindler
delivers an extraordinary speech of his own in the presence of both Nazi guards
and Jewish workers before fleeing with nothing more than a suitcase. .
In 1949 they settled in Argentina with several of the Jewish families they had
saved. Having spent the bulk of his profiteering fortune on bribes, Schindler
unsuccessfully attempted to farm. He went bankrupt in 1957 and the next year travelled
alone to West Germany, where he made an abortive entry into the cement
business.

Schindler spent
the rest of his life supported by donations from the Schindlerjuden. He was
named a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem in 1962 and was interred in the
Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.The film ends with a present-day epilogue sequence in the Catholic
cemetery on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, in which more than a hundred of Schindler’s
Jews and their kin, and actors in the film, file past his grave, each
depositing a stone on it in accordance with custom. Throughout
the mesmerizing narrative so masterfully orchestrated in Zaillian’s faultlessly
intelligent screenplay, there are many opportunities for heart-tugging, obvious
plays for sympathy and hate, maudlin sentiments and cheap indulgences. On reflection, some of the themes relating to greed,
corruption and inadvertent heroism have been present in his work from early on,
but nothing before has been anywhere near this deep or resonant. The 3 ¼ hour
length film is naturally; full of violence and death, but Spielberg makes this
both memorable and somehow bearable by staging it all with abrupt, shocking
suddenness, which adds to the feeling of arbitrariness.