Study Guide

Schindler's List Community

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S.S. GUARD: Occupation?

MOSES: I am a writer, I play the flute.

STERN: But Moses is also a skilled metal worker, he can make pots, he can make tanks, he can make whatever Mr. Schindler asks.

Stern is defined almost in all things in his dedication to community and his efforts to save as many of them as possible. In essence, he shows Schindler how to do it.

GUARD: Makes no difference to us, you understand. This one, that one. It's the inconvenience to the list. It's the paperwork.

By treating the Jews like interchangeable machine parts, the SS is doing its best to destroy any sense of community by making people feel less than human.

SCHINDLER: Did you happen to notice that man had one arm?

STERN: Did he?

SCHINDLER: What's his use?

STERN: Very useful.


STERN: Very useful. Success!

Stern's using his position to keep Jews safe by giving them jobs in the factory. He employs a one-armed machinist, who'd otherwise be killed. Schindler's not happy about it, but soon after the man is shot, he begins to question his own allegiances. He starts to feel more on the side of Stern's workers than the Nazis. He sees what Stern's doing to protect the most vulnerable people in the community.

JEWISH GHETTO RESIDENT: Those walls keep them out. That's all I care about.

News flash—those walls were built to keep Jews in, not Germans out. But this resident reframes the situation to emphasize his solidarity with his own community.

SCHINDLER: People die. It's a fact of life. He wants to kill everybody? Great. What am I supposed to do about it? Bring everybody over? Is that what you think? Send them over to Schindler. Send them all! His place is a haven, didn't you know? Not a factory. It's not an enterprise of any kind. It's a haven for Rabbis and orphans and people with no skills whatsoever! You think I don't know what you are doing? You're so quiet all the time. I know, I know!

Stern's actions represent a community which Schindler—by virtue of allowing it—has inadvertently joined. He's not wearing an armband or forced to endure a nightmarish daily life, but his sympathies are with them. The factory itself becomes its own community now. The survivors even labeled themselves Schindlerjuden, Schindler's Jews.

JEWISH GHETTO RESIDENT: The ghetto is liberty.

This could just be a way of putting a positive face on a bad situation, or it could be a more profound statement about what the Jews are going through. The ghetto may be horrible, but it's theirs. Through that collective "ownership," they become stronger. Of course, what this particular resident couldn't have foreseen is that the ghetto was just a way station to the extermination camps once people had been worked to death.

JEWISH GHETTO RESIDENT: Last night I dreamt I was living in a room with ten people I didn't know, and I wake up to find I'm living in a room with ten people I don't know!

JEWISH GHETTO RESIDENT: You laugh at this?


Laughter becomes a weapon to combat the despair of their condition, as well as reminding those who hear the joke that they're all in this together.

STERN: There's a rumor you've been going around miscalibrating the machines. They could shut us down, send us back to Auschwitz.

SCHINDLER: I'll call around, find out where we can buy shells. Pass them off as ours.

That last word is telling. "Ours." It means that Schindler firmly identifies himself with the community of workers now.

RABBI: We have written a letter trying to explain things, in case you were captured. Every worker has signed it.

Schindler now belongs to the community he fought to save. They'll stand with him now that he's in danger, just as he stood with them.

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