Schindler’s List

Here, via The Passive Voice blog, is something touching and remarkable: Mimi Reinhard, the woman who typed up the actual, real list, has passed away.

She was a hundred and seven.

Wow.

She did not have much direct contact with Schindler, but liked him as a boss. He was charming and outgoing, and treated his Jewish workers kindly, not like scum. Perhaps even too kindly, for he was a great womaniser, with several pretty secretaries besides her, and got into trouble once for kissing a Jewish girl on the cheek at his birthday party. Maybe she was there because he liked her cool blonde elegance, rather than her mind. She knew, too, that he was very rich, and struck deals with the Nazi high-ups all the time by bribing them with black-market luxuries to get better conditions and more food for “his” Jews, as he called them. But that sounded patronising as well as protective, as if they were just cogs in his factory, since Jewish slave-labour was cheap. She also could not forget that he was a thoroughgoing Nazi, an SS man, who sometimes spent whole nights carousing with the officers.

In short, her boss was no angel. And there was something chilling about the list, with its constant repetition of number, race, name, skill. Perhaps he did not mean to save “his” Jews after all, but simply move them to another camp, a fatal one. His closeness to Goeth, though it was tactical, was worrying. Some people, she knew, had refused to let their names be put on the list for those reasons. She decided, though, that she would trust him. She added her name partly to be useful to him, by swelling the numbers. Then she added three friends as well.

That was a gamble, and for one terrifying moment she seemed to have bet the wrong way. Three hundred of the women and girls on the list, including her, were transferred by mistake to Auschwitz, where they endured two weeks that reminded her (from her language-and-literature studies) of Dante’s “Inferno”. With even more bribery, and threats too, Schindler got them out. In the end the list and the transfers worked, and everyone was saved.

This was undoubtedly the most powerful and probably objectively best movie I’ve ever seen:

Since we were just discussing genuinely good and evil fictional characters, let me pause a moment and consider Oskar Schindler. For character arc … I don’t know if I can think of any fictional protagonist who equals the real Oskar Schindler. Yet even when he gave ever appearance of being shallow and selfish, he already must have had within himself the seeds of the man he became.

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Oskar Schindler: If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.

Oskar Schindler: I didn’t do enough!

Itzhak Stern: You did so much.

[Schindler looks at his car]

Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.

[removing Nazi pin from lapel]

Oskar Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.

[sobbing]

Oskar Schindler: I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t!

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

2 thoughts on “Schindler’s List”

  1. There was also John Rabe who used his Nazi party membership to help in his fight to save lives in Nanking.

  2. I am fascinated by trying to understand why some people find the courage to act against the many. There’s a book, Beautiful Souls, by Eyal Press, that looks at four people and tries to understand how they found the courage to do what they did. It’s been a while, but I believe the author looks at someone who helped Jewish refugees escape and a whistleblower and I can’t remember the other two.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top