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Betweem Exploitation, Rescue, and Annihilation: Reviewing Schindler's List

  • Robert Gellately (a1)

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1. Geyer, Michael and Jarausch, Konrad H., “The Future of the German Past: Transatlantic Reflections for the 1990s,” Central European History 22 (1989): 249.

2. See the remarks of Israeli Historian Tom Segev cited in “Schindler Shock,” Time (14 March 1994), 66.

3. See Kaes, Anton, “Holocaust and the End of History: Postmodern Historiography in Cinema,” in Friedlander, Saul, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation. Nazism and the Final Solution (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), 206–22.

4. Friedlander, Saul, Reflections of Nazism. An Essay on Kitch and Death (New York, 1984), 25.

5. Sontag, Susan, cited in Friedlander, Reflections on Nazism, 96.

6. See, for example, Angry Harvest or the filmed version of Hochhuth, Rolf, Eine Liebe in Deutschland (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1980).

7. On the rejection of narrativity, see Kaes, “Holocaust and the End of History,” 209–11

8. For an account of these and other films see Welch, David, Propaganda and the German Cinema, 19331945. (Oxford, 1983), 284304.

9. The book has been reissued by Touchstone, 1993. After its 1982 publication it won the Booker Prize and L. A. Times Book Award for fiction.

10. White, Hayden, “The Fictions of Factual Representation,” in his Tropics of Discourse (Baltimore, 1978), 121–34, esp. 126 notes that “every discipline … is … constituted by what it forbids its practitioners to do. Every discipline is made up of a set of restrictions on thought and imagination, and none is more hedged about with taboos than professional historiography.” See also LaCapra, Dominick, “History and the Novel,” in his Histroy and Criticism (Ithaca, 1985), 115–34.

11. See Graf, Malvina, The Kracow Ghetto and Plaszow Camp Remembered (Tallahassee, 1989).

12. Art Spiegelman complains not only about the general absence of Jews in the film, but that those like Stern are presented as “slightly gentrified versions of Julius Streicher's Der Stürmer caricatures”. See his and other critics' at times scathing condemnations of the film in “Schindler's List: Myth, Movie and Memory”, The Village Voice, (29 March 1994), 24–31, here 26.

13. See Burrin, Philippe, Hitler and the Jews. The Genesis of the Holocaust, trans. Southgate, P. (London, 1994), 107–13.

14. For a description of Goeth's dossier as well as Schindler's, see Posner, Gerald, “Letter from Berlin, Secrets of the Files”, The New Yorker (14 03 1994): 3947. Goeth was posted to take part in Aktion Reinhard in August 1942. For documentation on this Aktion see Noakes, J. and Pridham, G., Nazism 1919–1945: A Documentary Reader, 3 vols. (Exeter, 1988), vol. 3, Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination, 1143–90.

15. See Peukert, Detlev J. K., “The Genesis of the ‘Final Solution’ from the Spirit of Science”, in Childers, Thomas and Caplan, Jane, eds., Reevaluating the Third Reich (New York, 1993), 234–52.

16. Browning, Christopher R., The Path to Genocide (Cambridge, 1992), 169; accounts of the murder elsewhere can be found in Browning, Christopher R., Ordinary Men (New York, 1991); apart from the SS killing, see the role of the armed forces in Bartov, Omer, Hitler's Army (New York, 1991).

17. Browning, The Path to Genocide, 169.

18. Vom grossen Morden”, Der Spiegel 8 (21 02 1994), 168–86, here 174. For remarks on problems arising from the concept, the “banality of evil”, see Friedlander, Saul, “The ‘Final Solution’: On the Unease in Historical Interpretation”, in Hayes, Peter, ed., Lessons and Legacies. The Meaning of the Holocaust in a Changing World (Evanston, Ill., 1991), 2335.

19. For an introduction see Gutman, Yisrael and Krakowski, Shmuel, Unequal Victims. Poles and Jews During World War II (New York, 1986).

20. For testimony that people in addition to Schindler's own workers were helped by his efforts see the brief remarks in Ferencz, Benjamin B., Less than Slaves (Cambridge, Mass., 1979), 191 and for help to the Poles Tycner, Janusz, “Bei Schindlers Polen”, Die Zeit (18 03 1994), 24.

21. Kilb, Andreas, “Des Teufels Saboteur”, Die Zeit (11 03 1994), 14.

22. See Tycner, “Bei Schindlers Polen”, 24.

23. See esp. Herbert, Ulrich, “Arbeit und Vernichtung. Ökonomisches Interesse und Primat der ‘Weltanschauung’ im Nationalsozialismus’, in Diner, Dan, ed., Ist der Nationalsozialismus Geschichte? (Frankfurt am Main, 1987), 198236.

24. In February 1945 Schindler rescued about 100 Jews from another camp at Goleshau who were in a freight car on a siding at Zwittau. See Bejski, Moshe, “The ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ and Their Part in the Rescue of Jews”, in Gutman, Yisrael and Rothkirchen, Livia, eds., The Catastrophe of European Jewry (Jerusalem, 1976), 582607, esp. 601–4.

25. She maintained in an interview with the Daily Mail at the end of 1993 that he did not go to Auschwitz, but that the rescue was accomplished by someone else. See Gross, John, “Hollywood and the Holocaust”, The New York Review of Books (3 02 1994), 15. For an alternative account see Gilbert, Martin, The Holocaust (New York, 1985), 755. Neither Schindler himself nor the survivors who were interviewed in 1949 for an article no one would publish at the time made any mention of his going to Auschwitz. The article, unknown to Spielberg and Keneally, which generally supports their account, finally appeared; see Steinhouse, Herbert, “The Real Oskar Schindler”, Saturday Night (04 1994): 4045; 75–77.

26. One critic was upset at “the mindless critical hyperbole which has greeted” the movie and found it “disheartening” that this would be all that millions would see of Jewish culture. See Gourevitch, Philip, cited in “Schindler's List: Myth, Movie and Momory”, The Village Voice, (29 03 1994), 30.

27. For an introduction see Young, James E., Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust (Bloomington, 1988), 180.

28. Cited in “Schindler's Shock”, Time (14 March 1994), 65.

29. The silences in filmed eyewitness testimonies can be gathered from the printed texts of T.V. and movie productions such as in Rosh, Lea and Jäckel, Eberhard, “Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland”. Deportation und Ermordung der Juden, Kollaboration und Verweigerung in Europa (Hamburg, 1990). Claude Lanzmann's review of Schindler's List reached me after my review was written. His main objection to the film is that he “deeply believe[s] that there are some things [like the Holocaust] that cannot and should not be represented.” However, he does not avoid the problems of representation with his alternative: letting survivors or other contemporaries speak on film, or by revisiting the actual sites of the pogroms. He believes his approach is more “real” or “authentic,” but, while there are important considerations in what Lanzmann says, his approach does not avoid the problem of representation, in that it constitutes a “re-presentation” of survivors' recalled experiences of what happened. See Lanzmann, Claude, “Why Spielberg has Distorted the Truth”, Guardian Weekly (9 04 1994): 14, a reprint from Le Monde (3 03 1994).

30. Kaes, “Holocaust and the End of History”, 206–22.

31. Rosentone, Robert A., “History in Images/History in Words: Reflections on the Possibility of Really Putting History onto Film”, American Historical Review 93 (1988): 1173–92, esp. 1180–81.

32. Friedlander, Reflections of Nazism, 120.

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