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:
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.
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.