Schindler’s List tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a war profiteer and member of the Nazi party who saved over 1,100 Jews during World War II. The movie explores the human capacity for monumental evil as well as for extraordinary courage, caring, and compassion. It turns history into an opportunity for moral reflection.
As you consider whether to use Schindler’s List with your students, we recommend that you view the film yourself (even if you have seen it before). The film is available online from streaming services, and you can also borrow it from your school or public library. Members of Facing History’s educator network can borrow it from Facing History’s library.
While the pre-viewing lesson includes historical background for students, we recommend that you spend time reviewing the complex history of the Holocaust in order to answer additional questions that students may have. See the “Context” section of Lesson 19, The Holocaust: Bearing Witness from the unit Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior for a summary of crucial historical background information. For deeper background, read Chapter 9, The Holocaust of the resource book Holocaust and Human Behavior. As you review, consider what details of the history you think will be most important for students to understand before they watch Schindler's List.
The Teaching Schindler’s List unit consists of eight lessons organized into three sections:
Preparing to View the Film
Lesson 1: “Take This Giant Leap”: Preparing to Teach Schindler’s List
Lesson 2: Establishing the Historical Context for Schindler’s List
Viewing and Responding to the Film
Lesson 3: Watching Schindler’s List
Lesson 4: Oskar Schindler and the Making of a Rescuer
Lesson 5: Analyzing the Art of Schindler’s List
Confronting Hate in the World Today
Lesson 6: The Persecution of the Rohingya and the Persistence of Genocide
Lesson 7: Responding to Hate In Our Communities Today
Lesson 8: Building a Toolbox against Hate
How much of this content you can use will depend on the amount of time you have available. However, we recommend that—at a minimum—you spend at least one class period before viewing the film providing students with historical context and preparing them for what they will see, and then one or two periods after the film, reflecting on the film itself and exploring contemporary connections.
Preparing to Teach
A Note to Teachers
When presented in the context of a thoughtful, reflective, and safe classroom community, Schindler’s List can provide a powerful and transformative learning experience. In order to ensure your students have such a meaningful experience, you may want to consider:
The film is rated R and contains graphic depictions of violence, as well as profanity and nudity. If you need to obtain family consent, please refer to the Letter to Parents and Guardians for a template you can use. Also consider informing your school’s administration and counseling department, so they can provide further support to students if needed.
The film is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. If you are showing it in your classroom, rather than taking students to a theater screening, consider how many class periods to devote to showing the film, in addition to time spent before and after viewing. Segmenting the film thoughtfully is essential. The handout Watching Schindler’s List in Five Class Periods provides one recommended way to do this.
You know your students best. Preview the resources in each lesson before you share them with students, and let them know in advance when they are about to encounter material they may find upsetting. If necessary, omit resources that you believe will be too disturbing.
Be prepared for a variety of responses. Students often react to the Holocaust with sadness, anger, disbelief, or frustration, yet many students do not have a visible emotional response. Experience has taught us that it can take time before students are able to make sense of this material. In the meantime, many students report that their journals provide a safe space where they can begin to process their emotions and ideas. (We have woven journaling activities throughout the lessons.) See the teaching strategy Journals in a Facing History Classroom for suggestions about how to effectively incorporate them into your class.
Sometimes teachers are able to arrange the schedule so that students can view the film in one sitting. More often, teachers must find a way to break the film up over several days. If you plan to screen the film in one sitting, see the activities “Preparing to View the Film” and “Responding to the Film after Viewing” in section of Lesson 3, Watching Schindler’s List for pre- and post-viewing activities. If you need to divide the film over several days, consult the handout Watching Schindler’s List in Five Class Periods for suggested segments.
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