Study Guide

Schindler's List Intelligence

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STERN: Let me understand. They put up all the money, I do all the work. What, if you don't mind my asking, would you do?

SCHINDLER: I'd make sure it's known the company's in business. I'd see that it had a certain...panache. That's what I'm good at. Not the work, not the work...presentation.

This is Schindler's hustle, which we become very familiar with as time goes on. He's able to convince people that what's good for him must be what's good for everyone. Street smarts, you might call it. Stern is onto him, but he doesn't have much choice and Schindler knows it.

SCHINDLER: Not good enough? Look where you're living. Look where you've been put. Not good enough. A couple of months ago you'd be right. Not anymore.

INVESTOR: Money's still money.

SCHINDLER: No it is not. That's why we're here. Trade goods. That's the only currency that'll be worth anything in the ghetto. Things have changed, my friend.

Schindler's playing a rather terrible angle here. He knows the Jews are up against the wall. He wants to strip them of their false presumptions about fairness and justice. That way, he gets his money. He's a shrewd businessman with a huge advantage.

NOWAK: What do you mean "not essential." I teach history and literature. Since when it's not essential?

Jewish culture valued education and literature, but these skills became useless overnight. "Essential" is apparently in the eye of the beholder. Jewish intellectuals and professors were some of the first victims of the Nazis.

SCHINDLER: Gentlemen, thank you very much. I think I can guarantee you you'll both be in Southern Russia before the end of the month. Good day.

There's smart, and then there's scare-the-pants-off-of-you smart. Schindler knows just how to squeeze the two German yo-yos standing in his way. His well-placed jabs get Stern off of the train just in the nick of time.


The boy points to a man Goeth just shot, fingering him as the chicken thief Goeth's looking for. Goeth falls for it and doesn't bother shooting anyone else. It's a great example of how the Jews—despite their subjugation—can still find ways to preserve life and occasionally beat the Nazis at their own game.

SCHINDLER: That's what the emperors had. A man stole something, he's brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy. He knows he's going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.

The hustle is on again, this time by getting Goeth to act merciful by appealing to his need for power. It's how a man like Schindler tries to save lives: with savvy and persuasive argument rather than a gun.

SCHINDLER: You think I don't know what you are doing? You're so quiet all the time. I know, I know!

Stern is using the factory to save people, and actually doing a reasonably good job of it. So good, in fact, that it catches Schindler by surprise sometimes. Hence his little meltdown here. But he respects Stern's ingenuity and is amazed how Stern can get so many questionable workers on his list. Once Stern gets the unenviable job of working for Goeth, he still manages to advise Oskar about who to bribe and who to watch out for.

SS 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's quick thinking in action.

STERN: Herr Direktor, don't let things fall apart, I worked too hard.

Again, we get a glimpse of what Stern has to do to keep the factory open: bribes, bribes and more bribes, all organized and disguised so well that it gives Schindler a headache just thinking about it. This is how a smart man uses his skills to keep his people alive.

SCHINDLER: These are my workers. They should be on my train. They're skilled munitions workers. They're essential. Essential girls! Their fingers polish the inside of shell metal casings. How else am I to polish the inside of a 45 millimeter shell casing? You tell me. You tell me!

This is an epic piece of horse pucky, delivered on the fly and with the lives of several dozen children at stake. It shows us once again not only how smart Schindler is, but how he can deploy that intelligence on the spot to actively save lives.

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