Schindler's List was Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning film about a heroic German man, Oskar Schindler, who saved thousands of Jews by writing their names on a list and having them sent to his factory to work, thereby escaping the concentration camps. The movie is heralded as one of the best movies about the atrocities of the Holocaust as well as the actions of one brave man (Schindler), and is remembered for its searing images of Jews in the camps.
The film goes out of its way to portray Schindler in a positive light, as a man desperate to help the Jews, scribbling their names frantically in an attempt to save as many as he can. However, the real-life Oskar Schindler was less than the hero the movie says he is, and was probably not that great of a guy.
Like with many biopics, the worst truths were omitted to make Schindler the hero the movie needed, even if that meant causing the movie to be historically inaccurate. The real truth behind Schindler's list, including the fact that Schindler didn't even compose the list himself, is less than heroic, but still paints a picture of a historical figure that has captivated audiences since the release of the film. Here's everything wrong with Schindler's List, and the truth behind the legendary figure.
Schindler Aided The Nazi Invasion Of Poland
In April of 1939, Hitler began plotting the invasion of Poland, an action which would eventually kickstart World War II. The key to the invasion was German soldiers disguising themselves as Polish soldiers—an impossible feat were it not for the assistance of Oskar Schindler. According to his wife, Emilie, Schindler procured and distributed the disguises.
At this time, Schindler was a notable member of the Nazi Party, having developed solid relationships with several Nazis after utilizing their interests to avoid the death penalty in Czechoslovakia. Many Jewish survivors recalled the swastika badge Schindler boasted on his coat collar.
Schindler's List Was Actually Nine Separate Lists Penned By A Jewish Man
In Schindler's List, the frantic composition of the eponymous series of names––Jewish people Schindler planned to save by sending them to his factory rather than concentration camps––is a primary point of focus. This depiction, however, strays considerably from history. According to a Forbes review of Schindler's biography,
"Oskar Schindler convinced German authorities his [enamelware] factory was vital and that he needed trained workers. But Schindler did not author or dictate the list of who would go on the transport."
The famed list was actually comprised of nine different lists made over the course of several years, compiled largely by a Jewish man named Marcel Goldberg, a reportedly corrupt member of the security police. Schindler allegedly suggested names for the lists, but was largely unaware of which people he was saving. The author of the final five lists is unknown.
Schindler Was In Prison When The List Was Written
Contrary to Spielberg's film, Schindler was in prison for bribery while Marcel Goldberg wrote the first four lists. In addition, Itzhak Stern, the list's transcriber in the movie, wasn't even working with Schindler at the time the lists were penned.
Schindler Never Saw The Girl In The Red Coat
In the film, the girl in the red coat is the catalyst for Schindler's moral transformation, but historically, this moment never happened. While he did witness a similar scene about a year later, and while that particular girl did exist, she wasn't part of the roundup Schindler witnessed in the movie. He eventually did undergo a moral transformation, though it was much slower than depicted onscreen.