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The popular movie, Schindler's List (which had grossed four billion dollars by 1994), by Stephen Spielberg -- a Jew who has subsequently instituted yet another Holocaust memory perpetuation agency, the Shoah Foundation, as a repository for Jewish oral history of the Holocaust -- is a good example of the standard stereotypes and Jewish reconstruction and decontextualization of history to singularly render themselves the world's continuous and consummate victims of injustice. (In February 1997 this film was presented on national TV, sacred and hallowed, without commercial interruption. It is supremely ironic that the sponsor for this prime time showing on NBC was the Ford Motor Company. This corporation's founder, Henry Ford, is widely reviled by Jews today as one of America's most notorious anti-Semites. Corporations know which way the economic wind blows. By 1997 the company he founded was on their knees to the secular religion of the Holocaust, trying to buy Jewish redemption.)
"Schindler's List," notes Betsy Zelizer, "has generated a slew of unresolved questions about who has the right to tell the story of past events, and in which way." [ZELIZER, p. 18] "This is a Jewish film" says Estelle Gilson, "from its opening shots ... the film speaks to secret places in the Jewish heart." [GILSON, p. 12] "Uninformed viewers," notes Andrew Nagorski, "which includes many Americans, may emerge from the film with no idea the war was aimed at more than the destruction of the Jews or that there were other victims of Nazi atrocities ... Moreover, the movie's few fleeting images of Polish Catholics -- such as the chilling scene of a young girl screaming with hatred, 'Goodbye, Jews!' as victims were herded into the ghetto -- seem to suggest that the only role Poles played was to applaud Nazi terror." [NAGORSKI, p. 152-157]
In another review of the movie, H. R. Shapiro notes who the Jews were -- in real life -- that worked intimately with Schindler:
"The Nazis formed the Judenrate to implement Nazi policy in the
Jewish community and, more importantly, to divide and conquer
the Jews and to crush any resistance to the Nazis. The Jews who
worked with Schindler were all leaders of the Judenrate ... The
Judenrate ... through secrecy and lies, convinced the Jewish masses
that reports of horrors to the east were only rumors, and that Jews
were merely being 'resettled.' With potential opposition thus neutralized,
the Nazis were able to deport and exterminate most of the Warsaw Jews.
By contrast, those who had some connection to the Judenrate and
their associates, especially the privileged and the wealthy, survived
the war." [PIOTROWSKI, p. 70]
Even taking this "life-saving" statement at face value, it is
subject to interpretive manipulation. Some Jewish observers have noted
that "this Talmudic saying, taken literally, is the ideological basis
for an amoral survivalism," i.e., saving "a" life is merely
Yet this supposedly noble refrain is clouded even further. In the talmudic Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5, the original really says this: "Whoever destroys a single Jewish life, Scripture accounts it to him as though he had destroyed a whole world." It is quite particularist in its scope, i.e., it only cares about Jews, self-survival or not. Nonetheless, this literal fact does not hinder many Jewish non-Orthodox apologists from universalizing this chauvinist quote anyway. "Most Jews whose study of the Mishna," says Jacob Petuchowski, "is confined to the standard edition continue to invest this statement with a particularist limitation, while the few scholars who deal with textual criticism are aware of the greater universalistic breath of the original statement." [PETUCHOWKI, p. 8] When dropping the adverb "Jewish" from the seminal source, insists the likes of Petuchowski, one arrives at the "correct reading."
Schindler's List first appeared as a novel by Thomas Keneally, a non-Jew of Irish heritage. The movie was based upon his meticulously researched story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi industrialist who had the moral courage and consciousness to rescue, at great personal risk and inevitable financial destruction, 1100 Jews from the death camps under Hitler's rule. Keneally writes that he "intended to avoid all fiction, since fiction would debase the record, and to distinguish between reality and myths ... " [KENEALLY, p. 10]
So, taking the facts presented in the novel, where did Spielberg and Hollywood go with it? The sufferings under Nazi oppression is carefully rendered a purely, innocently, and entirely Jewish experience. The fact that there was a World War going on is barely noticeable. Spielberg's movie is singularly The War Against the Jews skirting the pan-human themes of good versus evil in focusing entirely upon "evil versus Jews." This is simply done, by ignoring some facts, and emphasizing others.
For starters, it was important to render all Jews -- as a block -- as innocent, unified, moral and holy people. Hence, Spielberg's movie entirely ignores the Jews who (in Keneally's book) were absorbed in ruthless self-preservation, profit, and intra-Jewish hatreds and who actively and openly functioned in the Jewish ghetto as agents for the Nazi regime. The most sinister among them was Symche Spira. "Spira," writes Keneally, "was of orthodox background and by personal history as well as temperament despised the Europeanized Jewish liberals ... He took his orders from ... [the] SS headquarters across the river... [The Nazis] had asked him to set up (a Jewish police force) and he recruited various of his friends for it. ... Spira's Political Section would go beyond the demands of grudging cooperation and would be full of venal men, men with complexes, with close-held grudges about the social and intellectual slights they'd received in earlier days from respectable middle-class Jewry. Apart from Spira, there were Szymon Spitz and Marcel Zellinger, Ignacy Diamond, David Gutter the salesman, Forster and Gruner and Landau. They settled in to a career of extortion and of making out for the SS lists of unsatisfactory or seditious ghetto dwellers."
Later we learn about another evil Jew in cahoots with the Nazis, one who, in his desperately selfish actions, aids in stealing food from his fellow people, many of whom will starve to death: "Amon [the concentration camp director] was ... selling a percentage of the prison rations on the open market in Cracow through an agent of his, a Jew named Wilek Chilowicz, who had contacts with factory management, merchants, and even restaurants in Cracow." [p. 195]
But the exploitation of Jew by Jew in the original Schindler tale gets worse. Oskar Schindler went bankrupt in spending his fortune on saving Jews who worked at his factory. Incredibly, Marcel Goldberg, the man responsible for the final decision about what fellow Jews got on Schindler's list -- a list that meant the difference between life and death -- demanded extremely hefty bribes from the desperate Jewish prisoners. To get on the list, he tells Poldek Pfefferberg, "it will take diamonds." [p. 292-293]
Such predatory creatures -- middlemen to the Nazis and life itself -- cannot be shown in Spielberg's film because they allude to the most horrible stereotypes of Jews. And Jews hating Jews and betraying Jews in the midst of their horrible torment is difficult to explain away. Certainly it clouds an easy division of the good guys and bad guys. If one attempts to explain the Spiras and Chilowiczs and Goldbergs of the Holocaust away as due to desperate inhuman conditions and primal survival instincts by which the Jews found themselves under Nazi rule, one then must likewise permit such excuses for anyone in those hellious times, including Germans who were sucked into the Nazi steam roller, and the Polish Slavs, who are widely villainized and demonized by Jews to this day for their alleged hatred and betrayal of the Jewish people to the Nazis. The Poles, who themselves were slated for mass extermination under Hitler, and who -- as a largely impoverished peasant group -- had centuries of socio-economic grievances against Jews, bore their own profound misery under Nazi occupation. But we do not hear about them, never whatsoever, in this film or anywhere else in Jewish Holocaust folklore. Decontextualizing history, Speilberg's film is absolutely and exclusively Jewish. There is nothing else that matters but "saving Jews." When we watch the Nazis drive their auto over a road of Jewish tombstones in Spielberg's movie, the viewer does not know that there were Polish tombstones used in the same way in the very same concentration camp. [p.166] Although there were, by midsummer of 1940, 250 Poles working in Schindler's factory, [p. 72] the movie's factory is populated only with Jews. When we watch in horror Spielberg's huge pile of burning Jewish bodies outside the Plaszow concentration camp, we are not informed that in the real world many of these corpses -- there and elsewhere -- were those of Poles and Gypsies [p. 253] When the movie Schindler -- at great risk to himself -- defies Nazi regulations and compassionately sprays water into a cattle car stuffed with Jewish prisoners Spielberg omits the fact that there are Poles in those cars too. [p. 265] Nor does the film director address the implications of Keneally's observation that Jews and Poles and gypsies "kept brief residence" at the dreaded Birkenau concentration camp on their way to respective roads to Hell. [p. 306]
Spielberg never once alludes to any misfortunes but that of Jews in his movie. The sufferings of others is marginal -- invisible -- to his political theme. This systematic myopia, ostensibly shaped to sharpen the exclusive dramatization of "Schindler's Jews" in Nazi Germany -- and Jews in general -- leads somewhere: the rationale for the modern Israeli state.
Spielberg's subtle political intention is evidenced at the end of his movie in his own interpretive addenda to Kineally's Schindler story. When the Jews are released from internment in the film by the Russian army, they query amongst themselves where they should go. A Russian officer -- himself a Jew -- reminds them that they are not welcome in the West, or East, but might try a nearby town. The Jews, en masse, homeless and hungry, strangers in every country, reviled everywhere, are pictured in the distance moving across a field in search of a new home. Spielberg then cuts immediately to similar shot of a group of Jews in the distance, in color now, distinct from the black and white movie. The "wandering" Jews in the farmer's field in the fictive movie are now transposed to modern times in a short "documentary," one that chronicles a group of "real" Jews who have lived to this day thanks to Schindler’s compassion and humanity. Schindler's grave is in a Christian cemetery in Jerusalem and Spielberg has gathered a number of concentration camp survivors and their children to pay homage to the Righteous Gentile at his grave. "In the background," writes Michael Goldberg, "we hear the strains of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav -- 'Jerusalem of Gold.' Written in the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967, the song celebrating Israel's historic recovery of the ancient city, has become a virtual anthem." [GOLDBERG p.]
In the last few minutes of the film, Spielberg has thus abandoned the Keneally version of things (from which the movie director snaked an entirely personal path anyway) and transformed the Schindler story into a piece of Israeli propaganda. Non-Jewish audiences are lured by the shocking horror of the Nazi story, then find solace that one of their own, a Gentile, had the moral courage to stand up for what is right and protect the Jews under his governance. With his coda in Israel, Spielberg deftly infers in the viewer the necessity for setting up the state of Israel as protection against violent anti-Semitism, which is the cornerstone of the Zionist belief system, and, indeed, modern Jewish identity. "Spielberg," observes Goldberg, "... here seems heavy-handed, bent on wresting one particular emotion response from us: unallayed support for the state of Israel." [GOLDBERG, p.] "Schindler's List," says Steven G. Kellman, "is Zionist affirmation, a lustrous assertion that Israel is the only alternative to persecution if not eradication of Jews." [KELLMAN, p. 10]
Underscoring the ideological manipulations and machinations at base in the film, the version of Schindler's List that was released in Israel has a different song for its concluding scene. While "Jerusalem of Gold" finds a soft spot in the heart of diaspora Jews in their myths of Israel, in Israel itself this song's connotational range is more expansive, even controversial, symbolizing "first the euphoria of the Israeli victory of 1967 and then the bitter fruits of conquest, occupation, and repression of others by the young Jewish state." [BARTOV, p. 45] The new song in the Israeli version of the movie (Eli, Eli) "shift[s] the politics of the film's ending from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Israeli-sponsored 'heroic' aspect of the Holocaust." [BARTOV, p. 59]
In our time, the systematic omission of all World War II contexts of the Holocaust -- except those that reinforce the exclusivity of Jewish suffering -- is endemic to Jewish discussion of the subject. The movie Schindler's List evidences this profoundly. A reviewer in Poland (site of the film's historical base and the movie production itself), remarked that the film was "not an anti-Polish film: Poland basically does not exist in it." [SHANDLER, p. 161] Incredibly, Spielberg's systematic omissions are exponentially compounded in a remarkably myopic review of the film in academia by Daniel Fogel, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Chairman of the Advisory Council for the Jewish Studies Program at Louisiana State University. In a gushing and laudatory article about the film, Fogel nonetheless notes that "Spielberg's departure from [Keneally's book], principally in the form of omission, are striking ... As I inventoried discrepancies [between film and novel] with my students in a course on the literary response to the Holocaust, our puzzlement grew ... " I refer to Fogel's review here in tandem with Spielberg's myopic vision because of its profound implications, for here we come to the quintessential Jewish Blind Spot, always manifest as an ideological censorship. And we must bear deeply in mind that this is not a review by some small-fry bozo in a bar on a street corner, but by an academic hot-shot of some repute. This is a man who evidences -- in his unwieldy bureaucratic titles -- significant educational input as an "advisor" in the matter of "Jewish studies."
After noting that he (and his class!) has made an inventory of "omissions" and "discrepancies" between book and novel, he proceeds to list the differences he found. These include the fact that the Spielberg film collapses many characters into the personality of Yitzak Stern and the fact that various scenes in the book are relocated to different ahistorical sites in the movie. Fogel also notes the movie's changes in event chronology, an omission of some of Oskar Schindler's "most memorable actions" of heroism against the Nazis, and a collapsing of events together for the sake of drama.
Incredibly, Mr. Fogel, Chairman to the Advisory Council for Jewish Studies, eminent educator, after stating that his self-appointed task was to look for omissions and discrepancies between film and book and to make an "inventory" of them, never notes the more politically sensitive -- per Jews -- omissions I have cited earlier. None of them. Zero. Zip. And omissions were what Fogel's article, per his own thesis, was largely supposed to be what he was addressing. Mr. Fogel, adorned in the Emperor's New Clothes, announced that he was "looking," but had no inclination to "see."
But he did see something. In fact, in his own list of the film's omissions he still managed to bring in something that helps us to understand the kinds of things he was singularly looking for. Somehow, in his review of Schindler's List, he manages to drag in journalistic commentary about former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke and his unsuccessful bid for Louisiana public office, and how a group of the righteous managed to stop him. We are left to wonder that perhaps Fogel thinks Spielberg should have been more explicit in allusions to the resident Nazis of America.
And what of Fogel's students, those in his class who all sat around wracking their brains and sounding each other out as to the omissions and differences between Spielberg's depiction of Keneally's story? None of these students noticed the whoppers described earlier? Was this class in the "Jewish Studies" program, and does that dictate a limited line of seeing? Were they all Jewish kids who shared their mentor's political blind spot? Or did Fogel, the educator, censor the obvious omissions cited here out of his own class? Or, worse still, were the students in his class intimidated by the sacred, self-righteous wail by yet another Jew in authority about the Holocaust and they could find no welcome space to speak what they recognized? Whatever the answers to these questions, it underscores the omnipresent limitations of critical discourse about Jews in modern America, even at a university. And, of course, that there are likely reprisals to face for those who dare to venture into the hornet's nest.
As intended, Spielberg's fictional Schindler's List, which won seven Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, has been monumental in confirming Jewish martyrology in the public mind as irrefutable "history." The Wall Street Journal called the film "a valuable historical document.. a film almost entirely free of artifice." The Washington Post declared that "Spielberg, so famous for manipulation, has let the material speak for itself." One critic even suggests that "to question Schindler's List [is] to trifle with the memory of the Holocaust." [ZELIZER, p. 22] "Yet," notes Barbie Zelizer, "Spielberg was not a reputed scholar of the Holocaust. Rather, he came from the widely contested terrain of popular culture, a known culture-monger best recognized for turning errant sharks, dinosaurs, and extraterrestials into box-office hits." [ZELIZER, p. 22]
Not atypically, Spielberg is another of the many influential public figures who have been "reborn" as a didactic Jew. He described himself as "bearing witness" in making the film; he mystifies his direction of the movie, calling the experience one that "any witness or victim would have. It wasn't like a movie." [ZELIZER, p. 23] "I think I'm prouder now of being a Jew than I ever was in my history," said Spielberg, "... the movie is a result of what I went through as a person." [ZELIZER, p. 25] Manipulative sectarian political use of the film as self-promotive leverage even included a New Jersey Jewish senator's exploitation of the movie as a "campaign gimmick." [ZELIZER, p. 33]