Schindler's List

Schindler's List Summary and Analysis of Scenes 36 to 39 : End of the War/Schindler's Grave


Itzhak Stern questions Schindler, asking if he has any money hidden away somewhere. Schindler says no, and asks if he is broke. Stern hesitates and sits down. The camera cuts to a large group of Jewish workers in a room together. The camera pans and shows them to all be staring at a radio, from which a voice is announcing Germany's surrender. The Nazi officers are sitting with them. Schindler invites the guards into the factory for the first time.

As everyone gathers on the factory floor, Schindler stands before them to speak. He announces Germany's surrender. He tells everyone that, starting tomorrow, they will begin to look for surviving friends and family. In many cases, he warns them, they will not find them. He tells the Jews to thank themselves and to thank Stern, not him. He informs them that, as a member of the Nazi party and a profiteer of slave labor, he will be hunted as a criminal. He will remain with them until five minutes after midnight and after that time, he must flee.

Schindler then turns to the German soldiers and tells them that he knows they have received orders to dispose of the population of the camp. He tells them that this is their opportunity. However, he then proceeds to provide them with a more pleasant alternative: leave now and return home as men, not murderers. One boy turns and leaves, and the rest of the soldiers follow suit. After the soldiers exit, Schindler calls for three minutes of silence in honor of those who have been lost.

The scene cuts to a group of men thanking a man and removing his tooth. The tooth has a gold crown, which the workers melt and mold into a ring. The workers follow Schindler as he leaves the factory later that evening. Schindler provides to Stern a list of things that he has left for the workers. Outside the factory, all the workers have gathered to bid farewell to Schindler. They remove their hats out of respect. Rabbi Menasha Lewartow steps up to present Schindler with a letter that the workers have written and signed, which explains Schindler's innocence should he be captured as a war criminal.

Stern then steps forward to present the gold ring to Schindler. On the ring is inscribed a Talmud expression: "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." Schindler, hands trembling, drops the ring but retrieves it and slides it on his finger. He grabs Stern's hands and whispers to him that he could have gotten more Jews out of Plaszow. Stern shakes his head and tells him that there are 1,100 people alive because of him. Schindler gets upset, realizing that if he had just sold his pin or his car, that he could've saved more lives. His Jewish workers comfort him by surrounding him and embracing him. The workers watch as Schindler's car exits through the factory gates.

The scene changes to the next morning. A Soviet soldier finds the Jews sleeping outside the factory on the train tracks. The soldier tells them that they have been liberated. They ask him where to go and the soldier provides no real answer, simply informing them that they are not liked on either side of Europe but that there is a town nearby. The camera cuts to a massive line of Jews walking across a field toward a town while a popular Hebrew song plays.

The scene changes to a clip of Amon Goeth's hanging. He was charged with crimes against humanity and executed. The scene changes to the outside of Schindler's original factory, and a title informs the viewer that Schindler failed at his marriage and several businesses after the war. Another title tells the viewer that Schindler was declared a righteous person by the council of Yad Vashem in Israel in 1958. A tree was planted in his honor that grows there still.

The scene changes back to the line of walking Jews, and the shot fades into color. A subtitle tells the viewer that the people now walking toward the camera are the actual Schindler Jewish survivors in the present day. The survivors, accompanied by the actors who played them in the film, walk by Schindler's grave and place stones on it. At the end of the procession, the camera shows the stone-covered grave of Schindler. An unidentified hand that we understand to be the hand of Liam Neeson (the actor who played Schindler), places two roses in the center of the grave. The camera cuts to a shot of Neeson in the distance looking down at the grave before fading to black.


Schindler's acceptance of his impoverished state illustrates the total change that overcame him throughout the war. He calmly accepts the information that he no longer has any money, understanding that he lost his funds to save the lives of others. His bankruptcy also comes at a convenient time: in conjunction with the end of the war, when the factory is going to be shut down anyway.

Schindler's speech on the factory floor is one of the most moving moments of the film. He extends his deepest thanks and condolences to the Jews, humbling himself to a level not yet seen in the film. His motion to the Nazi soldiers is a risky one, but one that represents his faith in humanity, despite the atrocities of the Holocaust, and disgust with his own party. Having the German soldiers leave in such a manner is also a reminder that not all men enlisted in the German army wanted to kill. Their exit sends an uplifting message. Schindler's moment of silence for the Jews shows his respect for their people and the acknowledgement of their humanity, an action that works directly against the frequent dehumanization seen throughout the rest of the film. Furthermore, Schindler's sign of the cross followed by the Rabbi's prayers sends a message of the possibility of religious cohabitation.

The ring presented to Schindler contains the message of the entire film. Its presentation to Schindler in conjunction with the letter illustrates the immense respect and gratitude Schindler's workers had for him. To have this scene not long before the execution of Goeth conveys the triumph of power by respect over power by fear. Schindler's emotional breakdown only adds to his workers' respect for him, since it shows he also has the power of strong emotion, something not seen in Schindler until this point.

It is significant that the workers awaken on top of railway tracks. Trains are used throughout the film as a symbol of passing on. At every point until the end of the film, they bring Jews to Auschwitz and consequently, to probable death. By sleeping on top of the train tracks after being liberated, the Jews are conquering this symbol of death. They have survived the Holocaust and have not been put on the deathly passage. They can stand by the tracks without being hurt now.

Spielberg fades the actors into the real-world survivors at the end in order to promote cinematic realism and adhere to the genre of docu-drama. In doing this, he directly connects the actors to their real-world counterparts and instills a sense of truth in the viewer. The transition to color also brings the viewer into the present tense and highlights the historical, documentary-like quality of the black and white film that the viewer has just watched. The partnerships of the actual survivors and the actors acts to similarly add to the truthfulness of the tale. The epilogue titles serve to remind the viewers that the film that they just watched was based on a true story, a real man, and real workers. It's therefore not just a film, but a story with real-world consequences and results.