Schindler's List

Schindler's List Study Guide

Released in 1993, Schindler's List is a film that tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saves the lives of over a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust in World War II. The film is adapted from the book Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally and is based on a true story. It stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as an S.S. officer named Amon Goeth, and Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant who works alongside Schindler.

The film received seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score. It was also awarded seven BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, and numerous other awards. The American Film Institute named Schindler’s List one of the top 100 American films of all time.

Keneally published Schindler’s Ark in 1982 after speaking with Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Jews who worked under Schindler during the Holocaust. Spielberg read a New York Times review of the book and was fascinated and surprised by the story and the paradox of a Nazi saving Jews. Although he received word of the story soon after the book was published, Spielberg was reluctant to take on the project. He doubted his ability to properly direct a Holocaust movie. After hearing about the Bosnian genocide and Holocaust deniers, however, Spielberg finally decided to begin production on Schindler’s List. Keneally turned his book into a 220-page script, but his draft was too long. After going through several other screenwriters, Spielberg finally decided upon a 195-page screenplay.

Shooting for Schindler’s List began in 1993 in Krakow, Poland. The film was shot at the real-life locations, although Plaszòw had to be reconstructed at a nearby site and the crew was not permitted to enter Auschwitz. Spielberg decided to shoot the film in English so that viewers would not be distracted with the translation at the bottom of the screen. Spielberg also wanted to shoot the film documentary-style and thus used handheld cameras for 40% of the film and shot in black and white.

Schindler’s List was released in December of 1993 and grossed $96.1 million in the United States and more than $321.2 million worldwide. In February of 1997, NBC showed the film uninterrupted on television.