Schindler's List

Schindler's List Summary and Analysis of Scenes 11 to 14: Liquidation of the Ghetto


Scene 11 opens in a dark room. Schindler is in bed with his mistress. In a heated moment, Pfefferberg shows up and knocks on Schindler's glass door, attempting to avert his gaze. He tells Schindler that it's about Stern. The scene cuts to Schindler walking purposefully toward the train headed to Auschwitz at the station. Nazi officials yell at Jews to leave their baggage on the platform before boarding the train. Schindler approaches a young man with the list of Jews on the train, and the man tells him that Itzhak Stern is, in fact, on the list.

Schindler removes a pad from his pocket and begins to take down the man's name when a young officer approaches. He tells Schindler that the list is always correct, and Stern must not be an essential worker. Schindler also takes down the officer's name before telling the two men that he can guarantee that they will both be in southern Russia by the end of the month. The camera follows Schindler as he scours the train for Stern. The two young men enter the shot behind him and also begin calling for Stern. Schindler finally finds him on a car as the train is pulling out. The young man with the list makes the conductor stop the train, and Stern is removed safely. He walks with Schindler and apologizes for forgetting his work card at home.

The camera cuts to two officials at the station wheeling away a cart of the Jews’ luggage. They bring it into a storeroom with piles of boots, glasses, photographs, and suitcases. Men are removing items from the suitcases and sorting them into piles. One man takes candlesticks and menorahs to a shelf. Several other men are tasked with examining valuables. The camera lingers on one worker's aghast face after a pile of gold-capped teeth are presented to him.

The camera cuts to a scene inside the ghetto. A group of Jews stand around discussing how the ghetto is actually liberating because no one comes after them behind the walls. They say that this is the absolute bottom, that there is no lower than their current position. The scene changes and now the camera is in the backseat of a car with two German officials. One looks back at the camera and describes the different ghettos as the car passes them. The shot suddenly cuts to Amon Goeth, who is sitting in the backseat of the car blowing his nose. Out of the car, the men show Goeth his villa and he is disappointed at its size. The men stop walking as a group of girls lines up in front of them. Goeth selects the prettiest one, Helen Hirsch, to be his maid.

There is then a close up of Goeth's profile as he gazes onto a building project where a young woman is yelling orders at workers. She runs up to Goeth and the other officers and explains what needs to be done to the building so that it will not collapse. Goeth orders the officer to shoot her, despite protests of her necessity. After she is dead, Goeth orders the men to do what she instructed.

The scene cuts to Schindler shaving his face. It then cuts to a parallel shot of Goeth shaving. The shot continues to go back and forth between the two men as a voice-over by Goeth is heard. He speaks of the historical importance of his and his soldiers' actions. The camera shows Goeth standing in the center of a square of soldiers. He speaks of how the Jews, from this moment on, will be erased from history. Soldiers and attack dogs storm out of trucks and line up. As Goeth talks strategy with several other officers, the camera cuts to Schindler and his mistress riding horses through a wooded field. They pull up to a ledge that overlooks the ghetto. The camera provides a close up of his mistress’s oblivious look before panning to an expression of horror on Schindler's face.

The scene cuts to the Dresner family eating dinner. When they hear noises, Chaja and Danka Dresner stand up to grab valuables. A hoard of soldiers runs into the ghetto and storms the apartments, throwing personal items from the balconies. Pfefferberg tells his girlfriend Mila that they must escape through the sewers, and that he will go make sure that they are clear. The scene cuts to a pharmacist putting together vials of poison. He brings it to the hospital, and the nurses feed each of the infirmed a vial. When the soldiers arrive, the patients are already dead. The soldiers separate the Jews into men and women, splitting up screaming families and children. Anyone who does not cooperate is shot. The camera cuts to Stern, standing alone among the crowd, staring in horror at the activities around him. Pfefferberg's attempt to escape through the sewers is unsuccessful and he only escapes the soldiers narrowly. He goes to his apartment to find Mila missing. On the street, he hears Goeth and the officials approaching and pretends to have been assigned to clean up the streets. They believe him and leave him alone.

Meanwhile, Chaja and Danka Dresner run into a room and open a hiding space under the floor. There is only room for one, so Chaja leaves Danka there. While she is attempting to escape, she runs into a young boy who is working as a Jewish policeman. A friend of her child's, the boy agrees to hide her while the officers pass by. Danka suddenly runs out to find her mother. The boy tells them he will bring them to the good line. Music from a children's choir plays as the camera gives an aerial shot of the action. Schindler continues to look on, horrified, as his mistress tears up and asks him if they can leave. Men are lined up and shot.

A little girl in a red coat is noticeable because her coat is the only color in the shot. She escapes the line and goes upstairs to hide under a bed. That night, the soldiers gather and listen in all the buildings for heartbeats of people hiding. They begin shooting rapidly into all the buildings, while one man sits and plays the piano.


Schindler's ability to remove Stern from the train to Auschwitz is representative of his growing power. His factory is doing well and he has successfully integrated himself into the ranks of the Nazi party. His reaction to Stern's apology, however, indicates that Schindler has not yet taken into consideration the lives of the Jews over his own wealth. When Schindler says, "What if I had gotten here five minutes later?", he follows it with "Where would I be?" instead of saying "Where would you be?" It is a matter of his own business success, not of Stern's wellbeing. Furthermore, the two young men behind Schindler and Stern apologize, explaining that one Jew over another does not matter to them. It is only a matter of paperwork. This statement not only dehumanizes the Jewish people, but also is the first in a series of statements in the film about paperwork. One of the ways in which the film works to show Nazi dehumanization of Jews is through their complaints about the annoying paperwork required to move them and deal with them.

The scene with the piles of Jewish belongings in a German warehouse serves to once again show the vast extent of the Holocaust. It also hints at mass extermination, without actually showing the violence. Even though the Jews are told that their baggage will follow them to Auschwitz, the Nazis know that most of them will not survive and that their baggage will be unnecessary. The pile of photographs serves to emphasize the Jews' humanity and to remind the viewer that they are not just leaving behind possessions, but memories and family.

The Jews' discussion of the ghetto is ironic foreshadowing of the liquidation of the ghetto. One woman says that it cannot get worse than it already is. However, in the next scene of the movie, it gets much worse. Goeth's arrival and his immediate order for the murder of the head of construction indicates that the worst is yet to come. The rules as they have been no longer apply. His disgust with the weather and with his villa are indicative both of his greed and self-centered personality and of his disgust with the Jews. When Spielberg cuts back and forth between Goeth and Schindler shaving, he highlights the similarity between the two men: greed. However, the following scene is the first instance in which an essential personality difference arises between the two men. While Goeth gives orders for attack as if it just a normal matter of business, Schindler looks onto the ghetto from his horse in total disbelief and horror.

Goeth's monologue to his soldiers is the one instance in the movie in which the Nazi motive for the Holocaust is spelled out. Goeth recites the frustration and resentment the Nazi party has for the Jews who came to Poland with nothing and excelled. The monologue also creates an ominous and foreboding mood before the destruction and slaughter that occurs during the liquidation of the ghetto.

During the liquidation of the ghetto, there are many Jews who attempt to escape, whether through the sewers like Pfefferberg or by hiding like the little girl in the red coat or the Dresners. All attempts are unsuccessful. Those who hid are found at night and shot. Pfefferberg is nearly shot while in the sewers and ends up in a line headed to Plaszow work camp. These unsuccessful attempts at escape highlight the helplessness of the Jewish position. They either had to obey or be killed. Additionally, the escape attempts often play on the theme of loyalty. Chaja and Danka Dresner prove their loyalty to each other by risking their lives to help the other. Pfefferberg scopes out the sewers for Mila, risking his own life in the hope that he could save both of them. These bonds of family loyalty make the separation into lines especially heart wrenching.

Finally, the little girl in the red coat is one of the most notable symbols from Schindler's List. Schindler notices her as she dodges through the crowd. He seems especially struck by her; to him, she represents the innocence of the people being killed. The color of her jacket symbolizes vitality and ambition. Even though she is young, she strives to get away and hide. Additionally, the red of her jacket symbolizes the red flag that the Jews waved at the Allied powers for assistance.