While Schindler’s List is based on a true story, the film cannot address the full historical context of the events it portrays, for practical and artistic reasons. Many questions may surface for students as they watch the film: What was the Holocaust? What was its relationship to World War II? Why are Jews being targeted for deportation and death? Offering some answers to these anticipated questions, and introducing the history of ideas, events, and decisions that shaped the world of Schindler’s List, will enrich students’ experience and understanding of Spielberg’s film as they view it.
The resources in this lesson trace the roots of the Holocaust from the long history of the ideology of anti-Judaism and antisemitism to the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and the evolving persecution and murder of Jews and other targeted groups throughout Europe under the cover of war. The activities in this lesson can be adapted to be taught in one class period or several.