Schindler’s List is one of the most powerful movies of all time. It tells the compelling story of the German businessman Oskar Schindler who comes to Nazi-occupied Poland looking for economic prosperity and leaves as a saviour of more than 1,100 Jews.
A charming and sly entrepreneur, Schindler bribes and befriends the Nazi authorities to gain control of a factory in Krakow, which he staffs with Jewish slave labourers. Very soon he is making a fortune. Among the Jews who work for him is Itzhak Stern, the plant manager who, in his benevolence, sees to it that Schindler’s workforce includes the most vulnerable and cherished members of Krakow’s Jewish community.
Schindler is just like many men. He has a love for good wine and beautiful women, and pursues happiness through the success of his business. Whilst his empire is being built, however, the film portrays the murderous fate of millions of innocent Jews – a time now labelled as one of the darkest periods of human history.
As Schindler comes to realisation of this fact he begins to change. To the joy of Itzhak Stern and his workforce, the self-centred money-hungry entrepreneur gives up his worldly goals and turns his efforts to save the lives of many Jews.
The story reaches a dramatic crescendo with Schindler preparing to flee. As a Nazi Party member and a self-described ‘profiteer of slave labour’, he must escape the advancing Soviet Army. Although SS guards have been ordered to ‘liquidate’ the Jews in Brinnlitz, Schindler persuades them to return to their families as men, not murderers. In the aftermath, he packs his car in the night, and bids farewell to his workers. They give him a letter signed by every worker in case he is captured explaining that he is not a criminal to them. He is also presented with a ring secretly made from a worker’s gold dental bridge and engraved with the Talmudic quotation, ‘He who saves the life of one man, saves the world entire.’ At this point Schindler breaks down in deep shame and tears.
‘I could have got more . . . I could have got more,’ he says clinging to Stern. ‘Why did we keep the car? We could have got more people. We could have got ten more people. Look at this pen, it’s gold, it could have given me two more people, even one more person.’ Schindler realises that he threw away so much money. Stern tells him in those solemn moments, ‘There will be generations because of what you did. You did so much.’
The film ends by showing a procession of now-elderly Jews who worked in Schindler’s factory, each of whom reverently sets a stone on his grave. The actors walk hand-in-hand with the people they portrayed, and also place a stone on Schindler’s grave. The audience learns that at the time of the film’s release, there are fewer than 4,000 Jews left alive in Poland, while there are more than 6,000 descendants of the Schindler Jews. Today there are more than 7,500 descendants of his Jews living in the United States, Europe and Israel.
Oskar Schindler died in Hildesheim in Germany, 9 October 1974. He wanted to be buried in Jerusalem. As he said: ‘My children are here . . .’ Schindler died penniless, but he earned the everlasting gratitude of his Jews. He was mourned on four continents and generations will remember him for what he did.
What will our legacy be? How do we use our time, our money? Do we measure success by the profitability of our business, our wage packet, the state-of-the-art home cinema system, the holiday, the latest computer gadget, the new car, the clothes, the company we keep . . . How might our world change if Christians begin to measure every resource at our fingertips in terms of souls? Some say ‘time is money’, but no, time is souls. How about making that next extravagant gift a gift for the Lord’s work? A new computer game, or one hundred Gospel tracts delivered to a spiritually isolated place somewhere in the world? A new handbag, or a dozen Bibles to the Middle East? A trip to the cinema, or an evening handing out tracts outside? If our hearts could only be drawn to the value of the eternal, this globe could be reached and we will not be disappointed. We will become rich in the things of Christ. And treasure in Heaven can never be taken away.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19–21)
This is your time.
(Passion © 2010)