Study Guide

Schindler's List Race and Religion

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Race and Religion

[The film opens with a scene of a Jewish family lighting the Sabbath candles and saying the traditional blessing.]

This scene establishes the film as a story about Jews, and tells us that people were still observing their traditions in the face of war.

GOLDBERG: It's illegal to buy or sell anything on the street. We don't do that. We're here to pray.

The line is actually a bit of a joke, since it's uttered by a Jewish man in a Catholic Church. But it demonstrates how this character is willing to bend the conventions of religion in order to find a way to survive in very brutal circumstances.

JEWISH WOMAN: Do you know the saying, "An hour of life is still life?" You are not a boy anymore. I'm saying a blessing for you.

This is a very spiritual moment, and the fact that it occurs within the midst of a massacre is very telling. Even here, the woman's faith helps her comfort the boy.

REITER: It will take more than that.

The engineer says this right before she gets shot in the head for daring to argue with a Nazi. But her meaning is tinged with religious overtones. It says that she's a part of something greater, and simply shooting her in the head won't destroy that.

GOETH: You want these people?

SCHINDLER: These people. My people. I want my people.

GOETH: Who are you? Moses?

Goeth uses a joke to tar Schindler with the Jewish brush here, but he's actually serving to remind Schindler of why he's doing this. He really is saying, "Let my people go."

SCHINDLER: Sun's going down.

RABBI: Yes, it is.

SCHINDLER: What day is this? Friday? It is Friday, isn't it?

RABBI: Is it?

SCHINDLER: What's the matter with you? You should be preparing for the Sabbath. Shouldn't you? I've got some wine. In my office. Come.

It's been so long since the rabbi observed the Sabbath that he's lost track of the days. But by lighting the candles—in color, just like the candles in the beginning—the rabbi reconnects with his religious observances. Anyone can pray in private, of course, but this overt expression is hugely meaningful to the rabbi and very generous of Schindler.

SCHINDLER: In memory of the countless victims among your people, I ask us to observe three minutes of silence.

This is the first time that anyone has directly acknowledged the scope of the tragedy. It's appropriately accompanied by a silent contemplation of the deaths. A rabbi chants the kaddish—the Jewish prayer for the dead.

STERN: It is Hebrew, from the Talmud. It says "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

The Talmud is a collection of oral law and tradition handed down from the rabbis of the second century. The inscription on the ring is a validation of Schindler's actions from the people he helped save: a blessing from their God for what he did.

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

This is a statement of fact, but it's also a statement of faith. The faith and traditions of the Jewish people will have a future thanks to Schindler. It's the best revenge against the Nazis.

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