Unit

Teaching Schindler's List

Music, Art, and Culture
History

Introduction

Using Schindler’s List in the Classroom

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.

Before You Teach

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:

  • Appropriateness
    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.

  • Pacing
    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.

  • Preparing to Teach Emotionally Challenging Content
    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.

Lessons and Assessments

Introduction
Holocaust

Get Started

Prepare yourself and your students to use the Teaching Schindler's List unit to view and analyze the film as a class. 

Lesson 1 of 8
Holocaust

Pre-Viewing: “Take This Giant Leap”: Preparing to Teach Schindler’s List

Students prepare for their study of Schindler's List by creating a contract establishing a thoughtful, respectful, and caring classroom community.

Lesson 2 of 8
Holocaust

Pre-Viewing: Establishing the Historical Context for Schindler’s List

Students are introduced to the history of ideas, events, and decisions that shaped the world of Schindler’s List.

Lesson 3 of 8
Holocaust

Viewing: Watching Schindler’s List

Students experience a thoughtful viewing of Schindler's List by completing activities immediately before and after watching it that help them reflect and process reactions.

Lesson 4 of 8
Holocaust

Viewing: Oskar Schindler and the Making of a Rescuer

Students consider how Schindler's evolution from collaborator to rescuer adds to their thinking about the importance of individual choices.

Lesson 5 of 8
Holocaust

Viewing: Analyzing the Art of Schindler’s List

Students analyze the film as a work of art and consider how Spielberg’s artistic choices foster emotional engagement with Holocaust history.

Lesson 6 of 8
Holocaust

Post-Viewing: The Persecution of the Rohingya and the Persistence of Genocide

Students reflect on how the Holocaust can educate us about our responsibilities to confront genocide and injustice today.

Lesson 7 of 8
Holocaust

Post-Viewing: Responding to Hate in Our Communities Today

Students begin to relate Schindler's List to the contemporary world by examining recent stories of racial hatred in Charlottesville and Germany.

Lesson 8 of 8
Holocaust

Post-Viewing: Building a Toolbox against Hate

Students create a "toolbox" of the skills, attitudes, and actions that are necessary to respond to and prevent hatred from taking hold in their communities.

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