Spielberg says Schindler’s List even more relevant today
DIRECTOR Steven Spielberg says his Oscar-winning Holocaust drama Schindler’s List holds more relevance on its 25th anniversary than when it first came out in 1993.
“I think there’s even more at stake than there was back then,” he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt in an interview published Wednesday.
The film, which won seven Oscars at the 1994 Academy Awards, including best picture and director, returns to theatres less than two months after Robert Bowers, 46, opened fire in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, killing 11 worshippers and wounding six others.
It wasn’t an isolated incident: the FBI says hate crimes surged 17 per cent in 2017, including a spike in anti-Semitic attacks.
“When collective hate organizes and gets industrialized, then genocide follows,” Spielberg warned. “We have to take it more seriously today than I think we have had to take it in a generation.”
Schindler’s List drew its title name from a list of Jews saved from Nazi death camps by German businessman Oskar Schindler. He shmoozed the local party officials into letting him bring them to his Krakow enamel factory, where they received food and more humane treatment. In 1944, as the Red Army made its way into Poland, Schindler evacuated his workers to a safer facility in what is now the Czech Republic. Ultimately, 1,200 Jews survived the war due to his efforts.
Schindler, who died in 1974, is buried in Israel, where he and wife Emilie hold the honour of Righteous Among the Nations. The state of Israel uses the designation to recognize non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.
During the interview, Spielberg also explained his decision to shoot nearly the entire film in black and white, rather than going along with the studio’s idea to release it that way theatrically but offer a colour version for home video.
“I don’t know the Holocaust in colour. I wasn’t around then,” he told Holt.
“But I’ve seen documentaries on the Holocaust. They’re all shot in black and white. That’s my only reference point. I wanted it to feel real.”
Holt asked him about the symbolism behind the little girl in the red coat, one of the few spots of colour in the film.
“In (Thomas Keneally’s) book, Schindler couldn’t get over the fact that a little girl was walking during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto,” Spielberg recounted. “While everyone was being put on trucks or shot in the street, one little girl in a red, red coat was being ignored by the SS.”
To the director, that scene came to symbolize world leaders turning a blind eye to industrialized murder. “To me, that meant that Roosevelt and Eisenhower — and probably Stalin and Churchill — knew about the Holocaust... and did nothing to stop it. It was almost as though the Holocaust itself was wearing red.”
Spielberg, who would win another best-director Oscar for Saving Private Ryan five years later, says Schindler still tops all his other achievements.
“I don’t think I’ll ever do anything as important,” he said. “So this, for me, is something that I will always be proudest of.”
The movie also inspired him to establish the USC Shoah Foundation at his alma mater, the University of Southern California. The project has collected the testimony of more than 55,000 survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust as well as other atrocities.
“It wouldn’t have happened without Schindler’s List,” he insists.
“The Shoah Foundation wouldn’t exist.”
Director Steven Spielberg (left) and actor Liam Neeson (right) on the set of Schindler’s List.