Study Guide

Schindler's List Identity

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The Nazis were big on national and racial identity; they loved labels and uniforms and classification. After all, you had to label people—Jew or homosexual or "mental defective"—so you knew how to treat them. They considered Jews a racial group, not a religious one. Anyone with so much as a Jewish grandparent was considered a Jew.

Because the Nazis consider Schindler one of their own, they're blind to what he's doing. Because, of course, no one of their own would lift a finger to save Jews. In Schindler's List, Schindler makes a point of announcing his identity—the Nazi lapel pin, e.g.—and hides behind it.

The Jews, for their part, find ingenious ways to affirm their own identity, as with the marriage in the camps, using a light bulb to substitute for a glass to break. If the Nazis are going to define them as "Other," then they're going to find ways to celebrate what their enemies despise, even in the bleakest and most desperate circumstances.

Questions About Identity

  1. In what ways do the Nazis reinforce Jewish identity? In what ways do they deny it?
  2. How do the Jews reassert their own identity in the ghetto and the camps?
  3. Do you think Schindler actually identifies as a Nazi? How does his identity evolve over the course of the film?

Chew on This

The Nazi identity is a relatively recent one. The Jews have been a people for thousands of years. Does this give them any kind of an edge?

The film demonstrates the dangers of the rise of highly nationalistic identity.

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