Study Guide

Schindler's List Fandoms

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The Shoah Foundation

You don't dress up as Amon Goeth at Comic Con (and if you do, you really should seek psychological counseling immediately). Schindler's List is the kind of film that gives us admirers more than fans. Fan fiction and memes would be inappropriate. And by "inappropriate," we mean "horrific and monstrous." So while we'd never imply that the film doesn't have fans, fandom in this case means something a lot more sobering and serious.

Director Steven Spielberg, having already amassed enough money to bankroll a Third World country, decided that this was not the kind of project to pocket the profits from. Instead, he found something much better to do with it. The movie was emotionally shattering for him to make. He said that standing outside the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, he realized that if he had been standing there at a different time, he would probably have been killed. (Source) He was shaken by the fact that Holocaust survivors were dying at such a rapid pace.

His solution was to set up the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. Need a definition of the Hebrew word shoah? We've got it

The goal of the project was to find as many Holocaust survivors as possible and record their testimony for future generations. He signaled his intentions when he accepted his Oscar for Best Picture, and pleaded with the world to listen to what the survivors had to say.

Founded in 1994, within five years the project had recorded testimony from over 52,000 Holocaust survivors: mostly Jewish survivors but also gays, political activists, and various racial minorities. Spielberg claims that they elicited stories from people who had never spoken about what happened to them—not to their kids or spouses, not to anyone. But they opened up for the cameras.

As documentation, it's vital. But more importantly, Spielberg got to work at a pivotal point in time. There were still more than 300,000 Holocaust survivors when he started, 49 years after the Holocaust ended. The more time goes on, the more survivors die off and the fewer first-hand accounts of the Holocaust are available. By starting this project and moving so quickly on it, Spielberg captured a huge number of people's voices in ways that we simply can't anymore.

In an era where people are trying to deny that the Holocaust never happened, the value of so many first-hand accounts is priceless. That's why survivors opened up.

In 2006, the Foundation partnered with the University of Southern California to form the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. It's since expanded its efforts to include other atrocities such as the genocides in Armenia and Rwanda. It's also embarked on a mission of recording the DNA of Holocaust victims in an effort to find the families of those who were lost, and to identify anonymous bodies buried in unmarked graves.

Most of all, the Shoah Foundation is dedicated to a goal that's very near and dear to Shmoop's heart: education. By digitizing those testimonies (which were largely recorded on old-fashioned VHS tapes) and uploading them to the interwebs, the Shoah Foundation has made their work available to everyone in the world. They have their own YouTube channel and a website called IWitness designed to let students access and interact with material from the site. The goal is to keep these testimonies preserved for all time, as well as teaching young people about the Holocaust.

The foundation is going strong and the doors are open for business. You can check it out for yourself. Kind of beats that Kirk/Spock fanfic like a drum, doesn't it?

Bottom line? Never again.

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