Was Oskar Schindler considered an opportunist or a true hero?
The focus of this paper is to provide an analysis of the life of Oskar Schindler. The paper forms the basis of its argument through the analysis of Stevens Spielberg’s world renowned Schindler’s list. The movie is thus used to argue on whether Oskar Schindler is an opportunist or a hero. The paper gives evidence of Schindler’s heroic character that overpowered his past actions. The paper finally provides a concluding paragraph that summarises the contents of the analysis.
A hero is a person who places his or her individual needs aside so as to focus on the greater good of society. Very few people get the privilege of being called a hero due to the selfless nature of the act. Most heroes have a certain characteristic that makes them identify with qualities desired by the community. Oskar Schindler has on many occasions been referred to as a hero due to his role during the holocaust. This notion has however been dismissed by some who argue about his past and his relation to the Nazi party. Oskar Schindler’s life is thus one of a kind making his character one of a kind. Many movies have been dedicated to the Jewish holocaust. This is due to the number of lives that that were lost as a result of the massacre. One of the monumental movies that made a significant impact is that of Schindler’s list. The movie displays the character of Oskar Schindler and his shift from predator to hero (Crowe, p. 92).
Born into a considerably wealthy family, Oskar Schindler was the son of an influential figure in his country. This acted as an advantage to him in that he had the privilege that most children at his time would dream of. The sudden death of his father changed the dynamics of his life in that he lost the fortune that was accorded to him at an early age. Schindler was thus tasked with the responsibility of catering for his family so as to maintain his lifestyle. One of the choices he had was to join the prestigious Nazi party which was a one party state (Keneally and Taylory, p. 178).
All the qualities mentioned so far do not display the qualities of a future hero. The life of Oskar Schindler showcases the different characteristics that on individual can encompass. During his time in the Nazi party, Schindler was loyal to his leader and most of his efforts were dedicated to all things Nazi. During this time, the Nazi were a strong party that had control of the entire region. One of the principles of the Nazis was to wipe out the entire Jewish race so as to maintain the purity of the society. These racist ideologies were the motivating factor for the murder and persecution of the Jewish community in the country at the time (Spielberg, p. 185).
Schindler used his position in the party to venture into different businesses making him a successful and influential member of society. This was ideal for his relations to the ruling party making him one of Hitler’s allies. His position in society gave him privileges that most men would dream of. One of the factors that he took full advantage of was his good looks and money. Schindler was known for his love for women and extravagant lifestyle. This earned him a reputation as a womaniser and conman. Most of his friends were associated with the Nazi party making him a key figure in the country (Spielberg, p. 215).
Schindler used his business prowess to take over a factory that death with enamelware. This factory was located in a Jewish community making more significant in the society. Most of his labourers were Jewish who worked for a minimum wage due to the economic situation in the country. The low income was an example of the exploitation the Jews experienced at the hands of the German community. This however was not in vain in that his exposure to the Jewish society displayed the living standards that they were accorded. The people in this area were prone to attack from the Nazi government. This was not appealing to Schindler in that he realised a side of the government that he had not experienced. Most of the activities involved the slaying of young Jews who were the future of their community. This was meant to eliminate the able bodied so as to weaken the community. The activities went on for a considerable amount of time until the persecution reached its peak. This saw the beginning of the holocaust which is termed as one of the most evil acts in the modern world. The lifestyle of the Jews in Poland brought out the empathetic side of the businessman making him review his stance on his political allegiance.
Schindler had slowly been converted into a crusader for the Jews. This was not ideal for his position making him vulnerable to the Nazis. He therefore had to be tactical in his approach so that he could achieve success. One of the ways he could do this was by beating his fellow Nazis at their own game. He used the same qualities that he had used to rise to high ranks in the government. These consisted of bribing the Nazi authorities, spying on the government so as to save the lives of the Jews in his area (Keneally and Taylory, p. 138).
A hero possesses qualities that are modest in the eyes of the society. The qualities that Schindler portrayed are not reflective of the ordinary hero. Despite this he managed to outwit the strategic Nazis making him a hero in his own right. The Nazi soldiers were an extremely powerful lot in the continent. Most of their soldiers were situated in all parts of the country so as to monitor the activities of the Jews and their supporters. Schindler’s decision to take on the government was thus not only risky for the Jews but could mean the end of his comfortable lives. Despite the disadvantages that came as a result of his support for the Jews, Schindler chose to follow his heart as opposed to his privileged lifestyle. This displayed the amount of torture that the Jews were accustomed (Crowe, p. 290).
Schindler used his position to find out the plans that the government had for the Jews who worked in the area of the factory. This was a strategic area for the government due to the presence of thousands of Jew residents and workers. One of the plans of the Nazis was to use the gas chambers to explode the concentrated Jewish population. Schindler managed to secure information before hand giving his an advantage over the government. This made him outsmart Hitler’s men saving the lives of over 1200 Jews dubbed as the Schindler Jews. It is essential to note that his Schindler’s actions saw the depletion of his savings making denying him the power and influence he had initially. This however did not make him lose heart due to his determination to save the lives of the Jews. The movie brings out the different character Schindler thus displaying the contradictory nature of his qualities. This unique situation make the movie a must watch in that it brings out the different type of hero not known to society (Keneally and Taylory, p. 209).
In conclusion, Oskar Schindler lived a controversial lifestyle for the most part of his life. Most of his previous activities left allot to be desired with making him a villain as opposed to a hero. His realisation of the conditions of the Jews changed the dynamics of his life making him sympathetic to their plea. Schindler used the most absurd methods to save the lives of 1200 Jews located next to his factory. This earned him a new position as a hero in the eye of the enemies of his people. Oskar Schindler rose from a manipulative womaniser and profit driven businessman to a humanitarian. His actions triggered argument on the true definition of a hero making his character the subject of discussion to date. This disputes the perception of his opportunistic nature that is part and parcel of his character. Schindler can thus be described as a brave hero who defied the odds to save the lives of a people who had lost all form of hope.
Crowe, David. Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List. New York: BasicBooks, 2004. Print.
Keneally, Thomas, and Nancy Taylor. Schindler’s List. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2008. Print.
Spielberg, Steven, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, Embeth Davidtz, John Williams, Thomas Keneally, and David James. Schindler’s List. Universal City, CA: Universal Studios, 2004.