Scrapbookpages Blog

February 6, 2016

Holocaust survivor who was on Schindler’s List

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 7:38 am

I have a section on my website about Schindler’s List, which you can read at

Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler

This morning, I read a news story about Rena Finder, a woman who survived the Holocaust because she was saved by Oskar Schindler; she had the good fortune to have been put on the famous Schindler’s List.

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg Photo credit: Reuters

Rena Finder greets Steven Spielberg [Photo credit: Lucas Jackson – Reuters]

The following quote is from the news story cited above:

Begin quote
[Rena] Finder was among 300 women at Auschwitz in imminent danger of being sent to gas chambers. Schindler received word of them, and he convinced Nazi commanders that he needed workers for his factory in Brünnlitz, in Czechoslovakia. But his usual bribes (mainly alcohol) did not work.

So, Finder said, he sent his secretary, Hilde Albrecht, with everything from food and diamonds to black-market goods to allow Finder and the 299 other women to leave Auschwitz [Birkenau] in 1944.

[You can read about Hilde Albrecht and Oskar Schindler on Wikipedia at ]

Finder said she was there for 3½ weeks, but “3½ weeks in Auschwitz was a very long time.” Her father was killed there, but she and her mother escaped, with Schindler’s help.

Schindler — whom she described as an outgoing, friendly and handsome man with a great smile — a few weeks earlier had help save 700 men from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, where they had spent a week.

“He had papers that these workers were to come to Czechoslovakia,” Finder said of Schindler.

“We left the way we came, on a train. This time they didn’t pack us as much. This time I remember we were able to sit on the floor.”

Movie director Steven Spielberg made Schindler’s compassion known internationally in the 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” based on the 1982 book “Schindler’s Ark” by Thomas Keneally.

“Schinder’s List” received 12 Academy Award nominations and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg.

End quote

I have written several blog posts which are under the tag Schindler’s List:

February 16, 2013

Holocaust survivor was one of the few Jews to leave Auschwitz alive, thanks to Oskar Schindler

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 12:18 pm

Niusia Horowitz was a prisoner at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp when she was a young girl. She was “hand-picked” for the gas chamber twice, but thanks to Oskar Schindler, she was saved because she had small fingers, perfect for polishing the inside of munition shells.  You can read her full story in The Sun online newspaper here.

This quote is from the article in The Sun:

As a 12-year-old, caged in the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp, she was twice hand-picked for the gas chamber.

Incredibly, both times she cheated death at the last minute after guards were bribed to spare her.

And Niusia became one of the few Jews ever to leave Auschwitz alive — thanks to heroic German industrialist Oskar Schindler.

The factory boss — whose selfless mission to save Jews inspired Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List — gave her a job at his fake munitions factory.

He then lied to convince Nazi bosses she was a key worker, despite her age, protecting her until the end of the war. Niusia, now 80, recalls: “An officer questioned whether I was really essential to the war effort. The answer was yes, because my hands were really small and I could polish inside munition shells where adult hands couldn’t reach.”

If you have seen the movie Schindler’s List, you may remember how Oskar Schindler went to Auschwitz and saved two young girls by telling the SS men that he needed someone to work in his factory who had small hands.  Niusia Horowitz was one of those young girls.

This quote is from the news article in The Sun:

Her story is so incredible that Spielberg wrote her character into his film and even let her appear in the final scene as herself.


Niusia’s hellish ordeal deepened in autumn 1944 when Schindler bribed German officials to let him move his operation to safer Brinnlitz, [ Brünnlitz] near Zwittau, his home town.

Each Jew was placed on “Schindler’s List” and transported by train to the town, where he had set up a bogus munitions factory.

All the male workers arrived safely, but a mix-up meant [train] carriages carrying young Niusia and around 300 other female Schindler Jews went to Auschwitz instead.

The movie Schindler’s List is based on a novel, entitled Schindler’s Ark, written by Thomas Keneally and first published in 1982.  The reason that the book is classified as a novel is because the book is LOOSELY BASED ON THE TRUTH; it is not purported  to be the Gospel truth. It is not true that the women on Schindler’s List had been sent to Auschwitz because of a “mix-up.” 

The real-life story is that the men on Schidler’s List were sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp because Schindler’s new factory, a hundred miles from Gross Rosen, was being set up as a sub-camp of Gross Rosen.  On page 276 of Schindler’s Ark, the author wrote that “All Plaszow men would be sent to Gross Rosen.”  The Gross Rosen camp was a men’s camp.  There were no barracks for women at Gross Rosen, so all the Plaszow women had to be sent some place else.

The women on Schindler’s List had to be sent to some other camp until barracks for them could be built at Schindler’s new sub-camp.  The women were NOT sent to Auschwitz because of a mix-up; they were sent to Auschwitz to wait until barracks for them could be built at Schindler’s new sub camp of Gross Rosen.

The Horowitz family is mentioned in the book Schindler’s Ark on page 200 in this quote:

Among prisoners who knew, there was already competition to get into Emalia [Schindler’s factory in Krakow]. Prisoner Dolek Horowitz, a purchasing officer inside the Plaszow camp, [located 10 miles from Krakow] knew that he would not be allowed to go to Schindler’s place himself. But he had a wife and two children. […]

It was not only, and perhaps not mainly, Richard [his son] whom Dolek wanted to get into Schindler’s compound. […] It was his ten-year-old daughter, Niusia, [….]

On page 291 of the book Schindler’s Ark, it is mentioned that the list was being made up by “the personnel clerk, Marcel Goldberg.”

From page 293 of Schindler’s Ark, we learn that Marcel Goldberg was taking bribes from prisoners who wanted on Schindler’s list of prisoners to be taken to his new factory in Brinnlitz  [Brünnlitz], Czechoslovakia.

This quote is from page 293 of Schindler’s Ark:

“For this list,” said Goldberg, a man of prodigious and accidental power, “it takes diamonds.”  […] Dolek Horowitz also, who had earlier got his wife and children out to Emalia, now persuaded Goldberg to include him, his wife, his son, his young daughter [Niusia]. Horowitz had always worked in the central warehouse at Plaszow and had managed to put some small treasure way. Now it was paid to Marcel Goldberg [to get his family on Schindler’s List].

In other words, Dolek Horowitz was stealing diamonds from the warehouse at the Plaszow camp. Amon Goeth, the Commandant of Plaszow had already been arrested for stealing from the Plaszow warehouse.  The arrest of Amon Goeth is not mentioned at all in the movie Schindler’s List.

This quote is from page 284 of Schindler’s Ark:

Amon was on leave in Vienna, staying with his father, the publisher, when the SS arrested him.

Oskar Schindler was also arrested by the German Gestapo, which is mentioned on page 312 of Schindler’s Ark.  Then on page 314 of the book, we find this quote:

The next day he [Schindler] was interrogated by a panel of SS investigators, one a judge of the SS court.

The unnamed judge of the SS court was Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who had already put SS men in the Buchenwald camp on trial; you can read about Dr. Morgen on my website here.

Now for the most important quote, which is from page 318 of Schindler’s Ark:

What is certain is that Oskar now sent a young woman with a suitcase full of liquor, ham, and diamonds to make a deal with these functionaries [Rudolf Höss, Fritz Hartjenstein, and Franz Hössler, the man in charge of the women’s camp].


Others claim that Oskar stayed away from Auschwitz himself as a matter of strategy and went to Oranienburg instead, and to the Armaments Inspectorate in Berlin, to put pressure on Hoess and his associates from that end.

The story as Stern would tell it years later in a public speech in Tel Aviv is as follows. After Oskar’s release from prison, Stern approached Schindler and —“under the pressure of some of my comrades”— begged Oskar to do something decisive about the women ensnared in Auschwitz. […]

According to Stern, the secretary went [to Auschwitz]. When she did not return within two days, Schindler himself —in the company of the obscure Peltze— went to settle the matter.

The book Schindler’s Ark, which is a novel, goes on and on about what girl went to the camp to get the Schindler’s List women out of Auschwitz, and whom she slept with or didn’t sleep with, whether she volunteered to go or not, etc. etc.  Anything but the truth.  The truth is that Oskar Schindler’s secretary went to Auschwitz to make sure that Schindler’s women got on the right train out of the camp.

Regarding the scene where Oskar Schindler tells the SS at Auschwitz that he needs workers with small fingers, this quote begins on page 319:

…. Oskar pursued his usual line. There are irreplaceable skilled munitions workers [among the women on Schinlder’s List]. I have trained them myself over a period of years. They represent skills that I cannot quickly replace.  The names I know, that is, are the names I know.

A moment said his tempter.  […] I see an 11-year-old daughter of Regina Horowitz [listed].  Are you telling me that […] an 11-year-old [is] a skilled munitions worker?  They polish the forty-five millimeter shells said Oskar.  They were selected for their long fingers, which can reach the interior of the shell in a way that is beyond most adults.

Such conversation took place in support of the girl who was a friend of the family took place, conducted by Oskar either in person, or by telephone.

According to the novel Schindler’s Ark, Schindler had previously claimed in 1943 that another girl, Anita Lampel, whose hands he had never seen, was needed in his factory in Krakow because she had long fingers. This quote is from Schindler’s Ark:

Anita Lampel was herself in Auschwitz now, but was grown tall and no longer needed the long-fingered ploy. So it was transferred to the benefit of the daughters of Mrs. Horowitz [Niusia] and Mrs. Rath.  [the daughter of Mrs. Rath was nine years old]

I could not find any mention in the book Schindler’s Ark about Niusia Horowitz being selected twice for the gas chamber at Auschwitz, and being saved twice by Oskar Schindler.

This quote is also from the article in The Sun:

Crucially, the Horowitzes secured Niusia a menial job in Schindler’s enamel factory, where word had spread that he protected Jews.

His wining and dining of Third Reich leaders meant they let him use captive Jews as cheap labour, sparing them from the killings and torture rife in the ghetto.

And Schindler — called Herr Direktor by his grateful Jewish workers — quickly took a shine to his youngest girl worker.

But that affection nearly cost him his life, as powerfully illustrated in Spielberg’s film.

Niusia was nominated by the factory Jews to present him with a birthday cake made by pressing together their bread rations as a token of gratitude.

 She recalls: “I remember him bending down and kissing me on the forehead. I had no idea it would get him into trouble. I was only young and didn’t understand.”

Schindler was arrested for kissing a Jew before being spared because of his high-ranking Nazi contacts. In March 1943, Niusia’s family were forced into the Plaszow concentration camp. Their factory jobs kept them safe — but Niusia witnessed executions that disturb her to this day.

However, the book Schindler’s Ark mentions on page 109 that Schindler “heartily kissed a girl named Kucharska.”  For this, he was arrested for breaking the provisions of the Race and Resettlement Act because Kucharska was Jewish.

There is no mention in the novel Schindler’s Ark that Schindler ever kissed Niusia.

I previously blogged about the movie Schindler’s List here and here.

May 27, 2011

Schindler’s List, the movie, is FICTION, FICTION, FICTION!!! (part 2)

In March 1941, the Jews in the area surrounding the city of Krakow were put into a walled ghetto in Podgorze, a district of Krakow. This ghetto is depicted in the movie, Schindler’s List, but the actual scenes were filmed nearby in the old Jewish ghetto called Kazimierz.

In my blog post about Schindler’s List on May 25th, I neglected to mention one of the most important scenes in Schindler’s List — the “Krakow massacre,” which began on March 13, 1943 and ended the following day.

Jews marching out of the Krakow ghetto

The photo above is an old photo, which is identified on Wikipedia as the the march of the Jews out of the Krakow ghetto when the ghetto was liquidated, an event known as the “Krakow Massacre.”

Prior to this final liquidation in 1943, Jews had been previously sent out of the Podgorze ghetto, beginning in February 1942, as part of Operation Reinhard, the name which the Nazis gave to what they claimed was “the evacuation of the Jews to the East.”  Operation Reinhard was the beginning of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” which was the title of the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942 in which the genocide of the Jews was planned.

In the movie, Schindler’s List, the entire liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, which actually happened over a period of years, is lumped together into one scene which takes place on one day.  Spielberg filmed the liquidation scene in the Kazimierz ghetto, although the actual Krakow ghetto (Podgorze) was in another location in Krakow.

Stairwell where Mrs. Dresner hides in the movie

One of the most memorable passages in the novel Schindler’s Ark is the one in which Mrs. Dresner hides under a stairwell when the Nazis come to round up the Jews in the Podgorze ghetto in June 1942 to take them to the Belzec extermination camp.

Mrs. Dresner hid under the stairwell, pictured above, after a neighbor allowed her daughter, but not her, to hide behind a false wall in an apartment. Mrs. Dresner was the aunt of Genia, the little girl in the red coat, in the movie.  In the movie, this scene is part of the final liquidation of the ghetto in March 1943.

Courtyard that is shown in Schindler’s List

The photo above shows the balconies in the courtyard from where the suitcases were thrown down, in the scene in Spielberg’s movie in which the Podgorze Ghetto is liquidated. This is the courtyard, which links Jozefa street with Meiselsa street, in Kazimierz.

According to Thomas Keneally’s novel, after the first liquidation in 1942, in which many of the Jews escaped, the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB), a group of resistance fighters, bombed the Cyganeria Restaurant and killed 7 German SS soldiers. Next, the SS-only Bagatella Cinema was bombed in Krakow. In the next few months, the ZOB sank German patrol boats on the Vistula, fire-bombed German military garages in Krakow and derailed a German army train, besides forging papers and passports for Jews to pass as Aryans.

In the movie, the date of the scene where Mrs. Dresner hides has been changed to the day of the final liquidation of the ghetto on March 13, 1943.  The movie gives the impression that the Jews were killed for no reason and does not mention what the Jews did in the Resistance.

In the movie, the Nazis go through the Podgorze ghetto, room by room, and tear down walls as they look for Jews who are hiding. While the Nazis are searching for the Jews, a German soldier stops to play the piano. The German people love classical music and this scene is based on the claim that the Nazis literally put down their violins in order to kill the Jews.

The basic theme of the movie Schindler’s List is that the Germans were bad and the Jews were good. Schindler was the one good German who proves the rule.  All the others were evil, especially Amon Goeth, the Commandant of the Plaszow camp, who supervised the final liquidation.

According to the novel, Schindler’s Ark, around 4,000 Jews were found hiding in the Podgorze ghetto during the final liquidation and they were executed on the spot. However, during the postwar trial of Amon Goeth, one of the charges against him was that 2,000 Jews were killed during the liquidation of the Podgorze ghetto.

According to the novel, the Jews, who managed to escape from the ghetto, joined the partisans of the Polish People’s Army, who were hiding in the forests of Niepolomice.

Unlike the novel, the movie Schindler’s List does not mention the Jewish resistance fighters, who fought as partisans throughout the war.  In the movie, the Jews are portrayed as totally harmless, so there was no reason for the Nazis to shoot them as they were trying to escape.

Thomas Keneally, who is a native of Australia, mentioned in his novel that in 1944, an Australian plane was shot down by the Germans over Oskar Schindler’s factory; the plane was dropping supplies to the Jewish and Polish partisans in the forest east of Krakow, according to Keneally.

Jews being forced into the Podgorze ghetto in 1941

Krakow had been populated by Jews for 600 years before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and the Jews had been discriminated against for years, before the Nazis arrived.

In 1494, there was a  fire in Krakow which was blamed on the Jews; this was the start of pogroms against the Jews.  Because of this, the King of Poland ordered the Jews in the city of Krakow to be resettled in the district of Kazimierz. During World War II, the Nazis ordered the Jews to move out of Kazimierz, into a ghetto in the Podgorze district, which was  across the river Vistula.

In the movie Schindler’s List, there is a scene where a new transport of Jews is arriving at the Plaszow camp and Commandant Amon Goeth must do a “selection” in which the sick prisoners and those unable to work will be killed in order to make room for more workers.  In the movie, prisoners in the Plaszow camp are forced to run naked past German doctors who will decide which ones are healthy enough to work.

The children are loaded onto trucks, presumably to be taken away to be killed.  The children frantically try to find hiding places.  Some of them hide in the disgusting liquid in an outhouse.  This scene shows that Spielberg has no experience with outhouses, or he would have known that the mess in a latrine is not liquid and a child would not sink down into it.

Besides that, how did the children know that they were going to be killed?  And who gave Amon Goeth the authority to do a “selection”?

Throughout the movie, the Germans are shown as being stupid and inept, while the Jews are shown as being smarter than the Germans.  There is the famous scene where a German pistol won’t fire.  Then there is the scene where a Jewish woman tells the Germans that they are not building the foundations for the barracks correctly.  Amon Goeth shoots her and then tells the workers to build the barracks the way she said to build them.

In real life, the barracks at Plaszow were pre-fabricated buildings and the women prisoners had to carry large pieces of the buildings from the train up the hill to the camp.   In the movie, not only were the Jews smarter than the Germans, the women were smarter than the men.

Amon Goeth, the villain of the movie Schindler’s List, had joined the Nazi party at the age of 24. In 1940, Goeth had joined the Waffen-SS. In 1942, he had been assigned to the SS headquarters for Operation Reinhard in Lublin. Goeth’s first task was to supervise the liquidation of several of the small ghettos in Lublin.

The Jewish ghettos in Lublin were the first ghettos to be liquidated and some of the Jews from Lublin were among the first to be sent to the Belzec extermination camp during Operation Reinhard.

Goeth accepted bribes from the Lublin Jews during the selection process, and put them on the list to be sent to a labor camp, rather than to the Belzec death camp.

The Nazis claimed that Operation Reinhard was the plan to evacuate the Jews from the ghettos in Poland (including the Podgorze ghetto) to three transit camps: Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, all of which were in eastern Poland. According to Holocaust historians, the three Operation Reinhard camps were actually death camps where the Jews were immediately killed.

In February 1943, Goeth received a promotion and became the third SS officer to hold the job of Commandant of the Plaszow labor camp.

In January 1944, the forced labor camp at Plaszow was converted into a concentration camp under the jurisdiction of WVHA, the SS Office of Economics and Administration in Oranienburg. The two sub-camps at Prokocim and Biezanow were incorporated into the main camp at Plaszow and living conditions were improved.

Polish prisoners and a few German criminals were now in the same camp as the Jews, as was typical in other Nazi concentration camps. There were factories set up at Plaszow for the production of Germany army uniforms, as well as factories for upholstered furniture. There was also a custom tailoring shop, a jewelry shop and a cable factory set up in the camp.

After Plaszow became a concentration camp, Amon Goeth now had to report to the WVHA headquarters office in Oranienburg.

The following quote is from the novel Schindler’s Ark:

“The chiefs in Oranienburg did not permit summary execution. The days when slow potato-peelers could be expunged on the spot were gone. They could now be destroyed only by due process. There had to be a hearing, a record sent in triplicate to Oranienburg. The sentence had to be confirmed not only by General Glueck’s office but also by General Pohl’s Department W (Economic Enterprises).”

This passage in the novel shows that the author had done some research, regarding the fictional scene where Amon Goeth is shooting prisoners from his balcony.  He had to explain why Goeth was not immediately arrested for killing prisoners without permission from WVHA in Oranienburg; it was because Plaszow was a labor camp at the time that Goeth allegedly shot prisoners from his balcony.

According to the Pharmacy Museum guidebook, which I purchased in the former Podgorze ghetto in Krakow, there was a total of 35,000 prisoners in the Plaszow camp during the two and a half years of its operation.

The novel, Schindler’s Ark, mentions that the “Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland” estimated that 150,000 prisoners passed through Plaszow and 80,000 of them died as a result of mass executions or epidemics.

Plaszow also served as a transit camp for prisoners who were being sent to Auschwitz, which would account for 150,000 prisoners passing through the camp.  The mass execution of 80,000 prisoners is pure fiction, but that is O.K. in a novel.

Amon Goeth was eventually arrested by the Nazis for stealing from the Plaszow warehouses and taking bribes from the prisoners.  But this important point is not mentioned in the movie, Schindler’s List.  All of a sudden, Goeth is gone, and there is no reason given for his disappearance.

It would have destroyed the whole theme of the movie if it had been mentioned that Goeth had been arrested by the Nazis themselves.  Goeth was sent to prison, but was released on parole because he was sick.  He was captured by the American army while he was recovering at a hospital.

After World War II ended, the American military turned Amon Goeth over to the Polish government for prosecution as a war criminal. He was brought before the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland in Krakow. His trial took place between August 27, 1946 and September 5, 1946.

At his trial, Goeth was charged with being a member of the Nazi party and a member of the Waffen-SS, Hitler’s elite army, both of which had been designated as criminal organizations by the Allies after the war. His crime was that he had taken part in the activities of these two criminal organizations.

The crime of being a Nazi applied only to Nazi officials, and Goeth had never held a job as a Nazi official. In fact, at the time of Goeth’s conviction by the Polish court, the judgment against the SS and the Nazi party as criminal organizations had not yet been made at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

It was determined by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland, after hearing witness testimony from Plaszow survivors, that about 8,000 people had died in the Plaszow camp, most of whom were executed.

It was the custom for the Nazis to bring condemned prisoners to the closest concentration camp for execution.  Goeth was charged with the crime of being responsible for the 8,000 deaths.  This is an example of the new concept of co-responsibility which the Allies made up after the war, called the common plan or the common design theory of guilt.

Amon Goeth had not personally executed the 8,000 prisoners, nor had he ordered their executions.  Yet, under the common plan ex-post-facto law of the Allies, he was guilty of executing 8,000 prisoners.

At the trial of Amon Goeth, the Nazi party was said to be “an organization which, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, through aggressive wars, violence and other crimes, aimed at world domination and establishment of the National-Socialist regime.”

Amon Goeth was accused of personally issuing orders to deprive people of freedom, to ill-treat and exterminate individuals and whole groups of people. His crimes, including the newly created crime of genocide, came under a new ex-post-facto law of the Allies, called Crimes against Humanity.

By 1944, the whole Plaszow camp had become a hotbed of corruption with black market trading in stolen goods by the inmates and by the Commandant, Amon Goeth. According to Keneally’s novel, the prisoners were selling the bread, provided by the Nazis for the camp, to Polish civilians outside the camp and the price had finally reached diamonds as currency.

Oskar Schindler was granted permission to draw up a list of 1,100 slave workers for his new  factory in Brinnlitz, in what is now the Czech Republic. A  Jewish prisoner named Marcel Goldberg was put in charge of the names, according to the novel. Goldberg asked for bribes from those who wanted on the list and the price was paid in “stolen treasures,” mostly diamonds. There was a jewelry factory at Plaszow where the prisoners had an opportunity to steal diamonds. At the end of the list, Goldberg put his own name.

There were 800 men and 300 women on Schindler’s List; some had also gotten on the list by making threats to Goldberg, according to the novel.

Oskar Schindler didn’t know all the names of his 1200 factory workers, and he had never spoken to most of them, but in the movie, he is shown as he personally selects the prisoners that he is going to save.

The site of the Plaszow camp, as it looks today

German soldiers pick flowers at Plaszow

Shown in the first photo above, on a high plateau, is the back side of the large Plaszow monument, which faces the city of Krakow. It was on this plateau that mass executions took place, according to testimony in the trial of Amon Goeth in a Polish court in 1946.

According to survivors of the Plaszow camp, 8,000 bodies were later dug up and burned on pyres in order to destroy the evidence of mass murder. Amon Goeth, who was charged with responsibility for these deaths, was convicted in a Polish court and hanged.

The former location of the camp is now a nature preserve where wild flowers grow; the photo immediately above shows German soldiers picking flowers near the Plaszow camp.

Mound near the Plaszow camp

Curiously, the author of the novel Schindler’s Ark mentions the mound of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish General who fought in the American Revolution, but doesn’t mention the mound of Prince Krak, which was visible from the Plaszow camp, as shown in the photo above.

Kosciuszko’s mound, which was built in the 19th century, is west of the city center. Another mound was constructed in 1937 to honor Marshall Josef Pilsudski, the most important Polish national leader in the 20th century.

May 25, 2011

Schindler’s List, the movie, is FICTION, FICTION, FICTION!!!

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:09 am

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie Schindler’s List looks like a documentary; it appears to be a true story that includes real Holocaust footage, but it is actually fiction, LOOSELY based on a true story.  The movie is based on a NOVEL entitled Schindler’s Ark, written by Thomas Keneally, an Australian author of several novels, who knew nothing about the Holocaust until he met a Holocaust survivor and began research for this book.

It has been several years since I purchased Keneally’s book in the FICTION section of a Barnes and Noble store, but as I recall, there was an introduction in which Keneally explained that he went to a luggage store in southern California in 1980 where he met the owner, a man named Poldek Pfefferberg, who was one of the Jews saved by Oscar Schindler.

When Pfefferberg found out that Keneally was a novelist, he told him the story of Oskar Schindler.  Then Pfefferberg went with Keneally to Poland where the two of them visited Kraków, where the Jewish Ghetto in the story was located; Pferrerberg showed Keneally some of the places associated with the Schindler story. In gratitude for all his help, Keneally dedicated his NOVEL entitled Schindler’s Ark to Pfefferberg.

In 1982, the book Schindler’s Ark won the Man Booker Prize for FICTION.    Why did Keneally classify his book as a NOVEL if it is a true story?  Because Keneally is a Catholic, who once aspired to be a priest; he learned in Catholic school not to include fictional stories in a book based on the truth and pass the stories off as the Gospel truth.

Keneally’s research for his book included finding old photographs which were used to create scenes in his book; Spielberg also used these old photos for scenes in his movie.

Jews shoveling snow on Holy Cross Street

The photograph above shows Jews being forced to shovel snow on Sw. Krzyza (Holy Cross Street) at the corner of Mikolajska street in the Stare Miasto (Old City) of Kraków. Stephen Spielberg recreated this scene in his movie Schindler’s List when he showed Jews shoveling snow on Poselska street.

The photo below was used for a reconstruction of the gate into the Podgorze Ghetto for a scene in Schindler’s List.

The gate into the Podgorze Ghetto, 1940

Scene from the movie Schindler’s List shows re-created gate

The photo below was used by Keneally to create a FICTIONAL scene in his NOVEL Schindler’s Ark, which was used by Spielberg in the movie.

Amon Goeth standing on a patio outside of his house

Amon Goeth in the movie, shooting prisoners

The photo below was the inspiration for another fictional scene in the movie Schindler’s List.

Goeth on his horse in the Plaszow camp

In the photo above, taken at the Plaszow camp, Commandant Amon Goeth is shown on his white horse. The groom for Goeth’s horse was 14-year-old Irwin Gotfried, who managed to survive the Holocaust. After the war, he emigrated to the San Francisco bay area where he lived in a community that included 2,000 other Holocaust survivors. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 16, 2005, staff writer Charles Burress wrote the following:

“That was me in the movie,” Gotfried said, referring to a scene from “Schindler’s List,” where the young groom is shot and killed by the commander. In real life, Gotfried was not shot and lived to become president of AGI Shower Door and Mirror Co. in Redwood City.

In the movie scene, where Gotfried is shot by Amon Goeth, Spielberg deviated from the real life story in order to make a point that is essential to the theme of the movie: Oskar Schindler was an exception. For the most part, the Nazis were depraved degenerates who were incapable of changing their ways. In a key scene in Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler attempts to teach Goeth that he would have “real power” if he would choose to pardon prisoners for minor infractions instead of summarily executing them. Goeth tries this suggestion, and even practices his pardon demeanor in a mirror, but he cannot overcome his intrinsic evilness. He pardons his 14-year-old groom when his work performance does not meet his standards, but then shoots him in the back with his high-powered rifle.

Today, the movie Schindler’s List is shown to students in American schools.  The parents of the students are required to sign a permission slip because the movie includes some nudity.  The schools should also require a signature, acknowledging that the parents and the students have read and understood an admission from Spielberg that the movie is FICTION.

Continue reading PART TWO