Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, Schindler’s List, won vast critical acclaim, including the Academy Award as Best Picture of the year, and was an enormous success with the public. The American Film Institute has also named it the eighth Best American Film of all time.
The movie opens in 1939, with World War II just commencing and Polish Jews being herded to a ghetto in the capital of Krakow, from other locations in the country. At this time Oscar Schindler arrives in the city, to cash in on the business needs mandated by the war. With the German military sponsoring him, he obtains a factory which produces mess kits for the army, and he enters into a partnership with Itzhak Stern. Stern both has connections in the Jewish business circles and with the black markets, and he efficiently runs Schindler’s operation for him.
While Schindler is enjoying his profits and his status as a patriot with the Nazi party, he begins ensuring some protections for his factory workers, all of whom are polish Jews. By declaring to the government that these workers are necessary for the greater war effort, Schindler is preventing them from being seized and taken to concentration camps.
Eventually, a high-ranking SS officer named Goth arrives on the scene to set into action a new concentration camp at Plaszow, within Krakow. The plan is to exterminate the entire Jewish population of the ghetto, and Schindler himself witnesses a great deal of the slaughter. This is his true turning point, and he then determines to save as many Jewish lives as he can. To do this, he must bribe, and act in concert with, Goth, all the while appearing to be only interested in saving the Jews who are useful to the German war machines. Orders come from the Third Reich declaring that all Jews are to be exterminated, and Schindler undergoes a temporary conflict; he can still exit the scene with his fortune, or perhaps try to ease the slaughter, and he decides on the latter. His workers are all marked to go to the Auschwitz death camps, but Schindler offers large bribes to save them from being boarded on those trains. The fiction that these Jews are to continue factory work is maintained, as Schindler moves those on his “list” to an old factory in Moravia, away from the threat of German massacre.
Suspense occurs when a train carrying the Jewish women goes to Auschwitz by mistake. Schindler hurries to the scene and manages, through a massive bribe of diamonds, to have the women join the others in safety. A last-minute disaster nearly occurs when the SS officers attempt to stop the children from leaving as well, but Schindler convinces them that he requires the small hands of the children to polish artillery shells.
For months, Schindler maintains a tight control on his “factory”, using his wealth to purchase shells not being made there and allowing his “workers” to observe the Jewish Sabbath. By 1945, the Soviet Red Army is coming to liberate the Jews, and Schindler, ostensibly a Nazi and profiteer, is in danger for his life. His “workers”, however, give him a letter testifying to his bravery. Schindler also manages to convince SS officers, perhaps less patriotic in the face of the lost war, to not carry out their final orders and to spare the Jews. The film’s story ends with the now-liberated Jews walking in the sunlight to the nearest town, to get food.
An epilogue to the movie reveals both the actual results of war crime trials, including the execution of Goth, and visits to Schindler’s grave by the surviving Jews whose lives he made possible.