What's Wrong With 'Schindler's List?' Kind Of A Lot

Now that “Schindler’s List,” Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning 1993 film, is being rereleased 25 years after its premiere and nearly two months after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, it’s probably time to revisit the second opinions.

It’s only natural that the film, which Spielberg submitted to Cal State Long Beach as his thesis some 30+ years after matriculating, has received breathless academic attention.

In Miriam Bratu Hansen’s essay for Critical Inquiry “‘Schindler’s List’ Is Not ‘Shoah’” she details the rejection of the film by critical intellectuals including Art Spiegelman (“there weren’t any Jews in the picture”), Phillip Gourevitch (“‘Schindler’s List’ depicts the Nazis’ slaughter of Polish Jewry almost entirely through German eyes.”), (“hale and self-regarding”) and “Shoah” documentarian Claude Lanzmann (more on him later).

Very often, film treatments of the Holocaust, that don’t strive for the legendary length or documentary fastidiousness of “Shoah” end up focusing on lucky or singular victims.

Because the most common stories of the Holocaust are lacking in uplift and propulsive narrative, nearly every dramatization follows the exceptions to the rule of genocide.

In a 2011 ranking of Jewish films for Tablet, Liel Leibovitz puts “Schindler’s List” dead last, arguing “the fact that the movie, really, is about a Christ-like gentile who saves a horde of hapless Jews who have no agency or resolve of their own… makes ‘Schindler’s List’ not just one of the most ham-handed Holocaust films ever made but also, peculiarly, one of the least Jewish in sensibility.”

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