Study Guide

Schindler's List Hate

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SS OFFICER: That's what they have done since thousands of years. It's what they do, they weather the storm.

SS OFFICER: But this storm is different. This is not the Romans, this storm is the SS.

The SS officers have an awfully high opinion of what they're capable of, but the ominous nature of this statement means that the attack now will be much, much worse from the attacks in the past. Considering the harsh persecutions the Jews experienced in the past, this reflects some serious hatred.

JEWISH WOMAN: They come into our house and tell us we don't live there anymore. It now belongs to a certain SS Officer.

CLERK: Please, I only know what they tell me, and what they tell me changes from day to day.

JEWISH WOMAN: Aren't you supposed to be able to help? I mean, what if I just took this thing off, what are they going to do about it?

CLERK: They will shoot you.

These characters are circling around an important issue: what the Nazis are doing doesn't make any sense. That's how hate works. The Jews are trying to find some logic in it all and there is no logic. They just want the Jews dead.

HORRIBLE LITTLE GIRL: Goodbye Jews! Goodbye Jews! Goodbye Jews!

Rodgers and Hammerstein were right: You've got to be taught to hate and fear. The abject cruelty of this little Polish girl suggests that the problem runs much deeper than evil men in gray uniforms. The Nazis had all kinds of justifications to kill the Jews, but in the end? Too many people just plain hated them. The Nazis had plenty of help from ordinary citizens—"Hitler's Willing Executioners" as one author called them.

GOETH: Today is history. Today will be remembered. Years from now the young will ask with wonder about this day. Today is history and you are part of it. Six hundred years ago, when elsewhere they were footing the blame for the Black Death, Casimir the Great—so called—told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered in business, science, education, the arts. They came with nothing. And they flourished. 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 is not just planning to kill the Jews. He's getting ready to wipe out all memory of them: to destroy Jewish culture and its history. What makes it so terrifying is that the Nazis might actually have done it had they won the war.

SS OFFICER: A big shot from the SS Budget and Construction Office came to lunch and he told us that to believe the Jewish skilled worker had a place in Reich economics was a treasonable idea.

Nazi hatred of Jews is so deep that they can't even view them as a resource to be exploited.

GOETH: Take it down, re-pour it, rebuild it, like she said.

Goeth says this after shooting the woman who gave him this exact advice. Why? Because he can't have Jews arguing with Nazis. Giving a Jew credit for a useful idea would have been against the party line. Jews were considered worthless sub-humans.

HELEN HIRSCH: My first day here, he beat me because I threw out the bones from dinner. He came down to the basement at midnight, and he asked me where they were. For his dogs, you understand. I said to him, I don't know how I say this. I never could say it now. I said to him, "Why are you beating me?" He said, "the reason I beat you now is because you ask why I beat you."

Like a lot of the Jews in this movie, Helen looks desperately for logic to the hate. There's none to be had. You endure the hate, you succumb to it, or you find some way to defy it. You can't ever understand it.

SS OFFICER: God forbid you ever get a real taste for Jewish skirt. There's no future in it. They don't have a future. That's not just good, old-fashioned, Jew-hating talk. It's policy now.

The SS officer's not talking in abstract terms. They really, truly intend to wipe every Jew from the face of the earth. "Policy" just means that everyone is perfectly okay with it. Their unemotional attitude about it makes it totally chilling. You don't even have to personally hate Jews to kill them. It's just what you do.

RUSSIAN OFFICER: Don't go east, that's for sure. They hate you there. I wouldn't go west either, if I were you.

A quiet sign at the end of the movie that the Holocaust may be over, but the prejudice that spawned it hasn't gone anywhere. Many Jews who tried to go back to their homes in Poland were killed by their neighbors.

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