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Inside and Outside of the Holocaust: the Pianist and Schindler's List

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The trail of destruction left behind in the wake of World War II left most of the world untouched. Lives lost, were counted in the billions worldwide and no nation was left unaffected. Of the more significant groups affected by WWII, were the Jews. Without a legitimate nation of their own, they were persecuted by the millions at the hands of Nazi Germany. To this day, the Jewish Holocaust remains unmatched in its scale. Today, modern depictions of the Holocaust and its myriad of interpersonal relationships have created varying degrees of interpretation. One of the films seen in class was The Pianist, a movie following the persecution and resistance of Polish Jews and Poles against Nazi invaders. Comparable to The Pianist is Schindler's List, Another story of Jewish Persecution and survival, but with a look inside the Holocaust within heartland Germany. Although the movies are both accounts of the Holocaust, their different settings portray vastly different stories. To understand the intricacies of each Movie, one must look into the history of each respective country.

The Pianist, set in Poland takes place from the Nazi Invasion of Poland to its Liberation in 1945. In the opening scene Wladyslaw Szpilman the main character in the movie is seen playing Piano in a very refined and upscale radio station, when all of a sudden the sound of explosions rips through the ambience and eventually shatters the glass of the studio. This brutal interruption of life is concurrent with the ferocity of the German invasion. The contrasts between the two lifestyles: the serene studio and the cacophony of the attack, serves to acclimate the viewer to the harsh new climate which has fallen upon Poland. Initially the mood among Poles was optimistic upon discovering that Great Britain and France had entered the war they expected a swift end, however this was not be. Shortly following the Invasion a series of institutional changes were implemented onto occupied Poland. The changes affected the Jews most extensively. Contrary to history, these changes came systematically, beginning subtly with limitations on how much money a Jewish family could possess then growing more invasive such as the mandatory wearing of a Jewish Star outside of the house. All of these changes culminated into the forced movement of all Jews in the city to the Warsaw Ghetto. Wladyslaw's journey throughout the movie showcases the continually deteriorating conditions inside and out of the Ghetto. In the end of the Movie, Wladyslaw is found by the Russian 'liberators' in the shell of a blown out building, the stark contrast between this and the now destroyed and lifeless Warsaw reflect the deteriorating German front and the toll it takes on Poland as a whole.

Conversely, the story of Schindler's List also takes place in Nazi occupied Krakow yet portrays a very different culture. Scenes of busy factories and lavish Nazi cocktail parties dominate the beginning of the movie. Such images give the audience a feel for how disconnected the Pro-Nazi Poles were from the realities of war just beyond their borders. As was historically the case, Industry was a very central part of German society (and their subordinate nations) during WWII. Countries often taken by Germany often had rich natural of human capital to contribute to the war effort and Krakow was no different, providing a wealth of manpower and natural resources. Occupied life was so intertwined with the Nazi war industry that even Jews kept in the concentration camps were forced to work in support of them. Ironically, such work in support of the German war machine was being provided by the very people they had inadvertently enslaved. The premise of the movie is of Jews being liberated by working in a factory who supplied the Wermacht, illustrating a unique symbiotic relationship between the enslaved and oppressors. The changes brought about by war in the movie are much more subtle, in comparison to the dramatic change seen in The Pianist - going from a buzzing metropolis to a city of rubble. Changes in Schindler's List are more centered on the evolution of a persona and re-discovery of humanity in a world desensitized to emotion.

Oskar Schindler initially started his munitions factory with the help of contributions from those inside of the Krakow ghetto, so from the very beginning of his endeavor Jews were involved. Schindler also preferred Jews over Poles due to them being cheaper labor, only paying their labor fee to the SS as opposed to a salary for individual polish workers. The Jews working in Schindler's factory are from the Płaszów concentration camp, a forced labor camp and quarry overseen by Amon Göth a ruthless SS officer. In order to work for Schindler, he bribes him for passes allowing selected Jews to work outside of the camp. The trend of bribery remains constant throughout the movie showing that even the most discipline and hardline individuals were susceptible to exploitation. By hiring them to work in his factory, Schindler inadvertently is shielding them (while they are at his factory) from transport to an extermination camp or death by the sporadic violence within Płaszów. The real change within Schindler occurs when he witnesses first hand, the atrocities committed by the SS. He witnesses the liquidation of Krakow from his home in the hills. Another moment where an immense change can be seen is when he notices the Jewish girl in the red dress amongst a pile of bodies following a German raid in the city. Prior to this, his experiences with Jewish brutality stopped

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