Study Guide

Schindler's List Good vs. Evil

Good vs. Evil

SCHINDLER: Just pretend for Christ's sake.

STERN: Is that all?

SCHINDLER: I'm trying to thank you. I'm saying, I couldn't have done this without you. The usual thing would be to acknowledge my gratitude. It would also, by the way, be the courteous thing.

STERN: You're welcome.

SCHINDLER: Get out of here.

Stern doesn't let Schindler get away with thinking he's a great guy. He made money on the backs of Jewish slave labor, and his magnanimous gestures to Stern just aren't going to erase that.

GOETH: For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. By this evening those six centuries will be a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.

Goeth's talking about wiping out an entire community. Not just wiping them out but destroying the memory of them. That's the kind of evil we normally only associate with galactic emperors and Bond villains.

SCHINDLER: What if I got here five minutes later? Then where would I be?

Oskar still has a lot to learn about compassion. Hey, Stern was being carted off to death at Auschwitz. Maybe you aren't the most important person in this scenario, big guy.

GOETH: I can't wager Helen in a card game.

SCHINDLER: Why not?

GOETH: Wouldn't be right.

You have got to be kidding.

SCHINDLER: Nothing bad's going to happen to you there. You'll receive special treatment.

STERN: The directives coming in from Berlin mention "special treatment" more and more often. I'd like to think that's not what you mean.

SCHINDLER: Preferential treatment, alright? Do we have to invent a whole new language?

STERN: I think so.

Stern's still acting as Schindler's moral compass here, quietly pointing out that Schindler is still essentially using Nazi-speak and leaving the other Jews to their fate.

STERN: The list is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.

The list is an absolute good, but it's disturbing to think that it's a small island of good in a giant ocean of evil. Stern's image is a powerful one.

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.

STERN: I don't see the difference. Whether they're made here or somewhere else.

SCHINDLER: You don't see a difference? I see a difference.

STERN: You'll lose a lot of money.

SCHINDLER: Fewer shells will be made. Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I'll be very unhappy.

At this point, Schindler's totally under the influence of the better angels of his nature. He doesn't want to contribute a single shell to the German war effort. Could be he's also seeing that the Germans are losing the war, and wants some evidence of his humanitarian actions to present to the Allies. Regardless, it was a huge risk to him to do this.

SCHINDLER: I know you have received orders from our commandant which he has received from his superiors, to dispose of the population of this camp. Now would be the time to do it. Here they are. They're all here. This is your opportunity. Or you could leave and return to your families as men instead of murderers.

Having found his moral compass some time ago, Schindler now challenges the remaining Nazis in his factory to remember their humanity. Does this mean they weren't really evil guys to begin with, that they were just following orders? That when given the opportunity, they could act like decent human beings? So why didn't they do that sooner? It's complicated.

STERN: There will be generations because of what you did.

Stern describes the result of Schindler's actions in the simplest possible terms. People survived; they'll have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who wouldn't exist otherwise. Life is the ultimate good, according to this film.

SCHINDLER: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin...two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. He would have given me one, one more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. I could have gotten one more person, and I didn't. And I didn't!

Even after all he's done, Schindler grapples with the limits of his morality: the things he didn't do that might have made a difference. The evil of genocide is on such a monstrous scale that it's impossible for anyone to feel that they did all they could. But that doesn't relieve you of the responsibility to do what you can.

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