Schindler's List - the Movie

Scene from the movie Schindler's List

The photo above shows a scene from the movie Schindler's List in which Oskar Schindler is dictating, from memory, the names of his factory workers whom he wants to take with him to his new factory in Brünnlitz, near his home town in Moravia, which is now in the Czech Republic. His factory manager, Itzhak Stern, a prisoner who works for Schindler, is typing the names.

When all the names were listed, Stern asked Schindler if he was buying the names from the camp Commandant Amon Goeth, and Schindler answers that the list is costing him a fortune. The Nazis did not want to send Jewish prisoners to Moravia, which was part of the former country of Czechoslovakia, that had become a German mandate. Schindler had to resort to bribes in order to move the munitions part of his Krakow factory to Brünnlitz.

In the movie, Schindler then shows the list to Amon Goeth, who tells him that there is a clerical error: Helen Hirsch, a prisoner who works as a servant in Goeth's villa, is on the list. Goeth tells Schindler that he wants to take Helen Hirsch with him back to Vienna after the war.

Schindler offers to play a game of cards with Goeth to win Helen's freedom, suggesting that they play double or nothing. If Goeth wins, Oskar will give him 7,400 Zloty ($2,312.50) but if Goeth's winning hand is a "natural," Schindler will pay him 14,800 Zl ($4,625). If Schindler
wins, he can put Helen Hirsch on his list of prisoners to be transferred to his Brünnlitz camp.

In his book entitled "Oskar Schindler," David Crowe wrote that this scene is pure fiction.

According to Crowe, Oskar Schindler had no role in preparing the famous list, other than giving SS-Hauptscharführer Franz Josef Müller some general guidelines for the type of workers he wanted on the list. Amon Göth had been arrested by the SS on September 13, 1944 and was in prison in Breslau when the list was prepared.

David Crowe wrote that the person responsible for the preparation of Schindler's List was Marcel Goldberg, a corrupt Jewish prisoner, who was a member of the Ordnungdienst, the Jewish police force in the camp. Goldberg was the assistant of SS-Hauptscharführer Franz Josef Müller, the SS man responsible for the transport lists. Only about one third of the Jews on the list had previously worked in Schindler's factory in Krakow. The novel, "Schindler's Ark" tells about how Goldberg accepted bribes from the prisoners who wanted on the list.

In his book "Oskar Schindler," David Crowe wrote: "... watch how Steven Spielberg traces the story of Marcel Goldberg, the real author of Schindler's List, in his film. He begins in the early part of the film with Goldberg sitting near Leopold "Poldek" Page and other Jewish black marketeers in Krakow's Marjacki Bazylika (church) as Oskar Schindler tries to interest them in doing business with a German. What follows throughout the rest of the film is the subtle tale of Goldberg's gradual moral degeneration. Schindler, for example, gives Itzhak Stern first a lighter, then a cigarette case, and finally a watch to bribe Goldberg to send more Jews to his factory from Plaszow."

Commandant Amon Goeth had two Jewish housemaids who lived in the basement of his villa: Helen Hirsch and Helen Sternlicht. Helen Hirsch is now Helen Horowitz and Helen Sternlicht is now Helen Jonas, formerly Helen Rosenzweig. According to David Crowe's book, Goeth differentiated between the two Helens by calling Helen Hirsch by the nickname Lena and renaming Helen Sternlicht with the name Susanna. In the movie, the two Helens are a composite of the two real life Helens, although both appear together briefly in one scene.

Helen Hirsch moved to Israel after World War II ended, and became part of the close-knit circle of the "Schindler Jews" in Israel who provided the information that became the basis for Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark and Steven Spielberg's movie Schindler's List.

According to author David Crowe, Helen Hirsch was the older of the two Jewish maids who worked for Goeth. She had originally worked in the camp's Jewish kitchen and was chosen by her superior, Leon Myer, to work for Goeth. Myer took several weeks to acquaint her with the commandant's personal likes and dislikes. Initially, Helen lived in a special barracks for Jewish workers, but eventually moved into the maid's quarters in the cold, damp cellar of Goeth's villa. Living with Goeth, she said after the war, "was almost like living under the gallows twenty-four hours a day."

David Crowe wrote that Helen Hirsch Horowitz told Martin Gosch and Howard Koch in 1964 that "insofar as she was concerned, he (Goeth) had made some attempts physically and sexually upon her." Gosch and Koch decided not to put this in the film script because "she might be accused even today of having acceded to his physical demands in order to preserve her life, and this does not happen to be true."

The story that is told in the movie about how Amon Goeth chose his housemaid is actually closer to the story of how Helen Sternlicht was selected by Goeth.

According to David Crowe's book, the true story is as follows:

When the Germans began the construction of Plaszow in late 1942, Helen Sternlicht's mother, Lola, and one of her older sisters, Sydel (Sydonia), were sent there to work. As the Krakow ghetto was being liquidated, Helen Sternlicht decided to try to sneak into Plaszow because she did not have the blue Kennkarte which was necessary for identification. Helen had already learned about the death trains to Belzec and was desperate to join her sister and mother at Plaszow. She hid in a milk wagon going to Plaszow but was discovered by the driver just before he arrived at the camp. She managed to escape his grasp and made it into the camp, where she was given a job cleaning barracks. One day while she was cleaning windows, Amon Goeth walked in and said, "I want this girl in my house. If she is smart enough to clean windows in the sunshine, I want her."

When Plaszow was being closed in the fall of 1944, Oskar Schindler requested that Helen Sternlicht and her sister, Anna, be put on the female "Schindler's List."

In his book "Oskar Schindler," David Crowe wrote that Helen Sternlicht never mentioned sexual advances toward her from Goeth.

The sex scenes in the movie Schindler's List involved Helen Hirsch, as shown in this YouTube video.

The following quote is from the book "Oskar Schindler," by David Crowe:

Mietek Pemper told me that Goeth, who had liver and kidney problems, was not attracted to women. In fact, he found the idea that Goeth was somehow sexually attracted to Helen Hirsch Horowitz pure "baloney." She was not, he added, "Miss Krakow or Miss Poland." Helen Rosenzweig added that Goeth was also a diabetic who drank heavily. He believed firmly in Nazi racial laws and would not have had relations with a Jew. This does not contradict Helen Hirsch's claim that Goeth tried to sexually abuse her when he was drunk. However, the idea, as depicted in Steven Spielberg's film, that Goeth was somehow infatuated with Helen Hirsch and even toyed with the idea of kissing her is totally fictitious.

In February 2009, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum did a series of interviews with Holocaust survivors called Voices on Antisemitism. As part of this project, Helen Sternlicht Jonas was interviewed by Aleisa Fishman.

The following quote is the words of Helen Sternlicht Jonas in her interview with Aleisa Fishman:

When I arrived in Camp Plaszow, I was assigned to clean barracks. At the third day, a tall SS walked in the room, and he was Amon Goeth. At the time, I didn't know who he was. But he looked around and he said to the woman that was in charge of us to send me to his house. And I really didn't know what a brutal man he is, but he was a madman. He was a madman. He always, from the balcony he watched the camp, and he's standing with the little machine gun through the window. He said, "You see those dumb heads? They're standing, doing nothing." He says, "I'm going to shoot." And you could hear shooting like hell. And I could hear him whistling a happy tune, like he did so well. And this face with such satisfaction! I can't forget that. The dreams after so many years he's chasing me, I'm hiding. Because I lived in constant fear, constant fear, just looking at him. He was barbaric.

Amon Goeth with his rifle on the balcony of his villa

The most famous scenes in Schindler's List show Commandant Amon Goeth shooting prisoners in the camp from the balcony of his villa. The photo above shows the real life Amon Goeth.

The photo below is a still photo from the movie Schindler's List. In the movie, the balcony of Goeth's house is only a few yards from the camp. Visitors to Goeth's villa today can see that the house was behind a hill and the camp was not visible from the balcony.

Amon Goeth shooting from his balcony in the movie Schindler's List

In 1943, SS Judge Georg Konrad Morgen of the Haupt Amt Gericht (SS-HAG) was given an assignment to investigate and prosecute corruption and unauthorized murder at the Buchenwald concentration camp. His next assignment was to investigate the Plaszow camp. As a result of his investigation, which involved interviewing the prisoners, Amon Goeth was arrested by the Central Office of the SS Judiciary and imprisoned. Goeth was charged with stealing from the warehouses and factories at Plaszow, but not with shooting prisoners from the balcony of his home.

Amon Goeth at the Plaszow camp

In the photo above, taken at the Plaszow camp, Commandant Amon Goeth is shown on his white horse. The groom for Goeth's horse was 14-year-old Irwin Gotfried, who managed to survive the Holocaust. After the war, he emigrated to the San Francisco bay area where he lived in a community that included 2,000 other Holocaust survivors. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 16, 2005, staff writer Charles Burress wrote the following:

"That was me in the movie," Gotfried said, referring to a scene from "Schindler's List," where the young groom is shot and killed by the commander. In real life, Gotfried was not shot and lived to become president of AGI Shower Door and Mirror Co. in Redwood City.

In the movie scene, where Gotfried is shot by Amon Goeth, Spielberg deviated from the real life story in order to make a point that is essential to the theme of the movie: Oskar Schindler was an exception. For the most part, the Nazis were depraved degenerates who were incapable of changing their ways. In a key scene in Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler attempts to teach Goeth that he would have "real power" if he would choose to pardon prisoners for minor infractions instead of summarily executing them. Goeth tries this suggestion, and even practices his pardon demeanor in a mirror, but he cannot overcome his intrinsic evilness. He pardons his 14-year-old groom when his work performance does not meet his standards, but then shoots him in the back with his high-powered rifle.

In the movie Schindler's List, the Germans are always portrayed as not only brutal, but stupid and inept. There is a famous scene where three German SS officers attempt to execute a Jew, but their pistols won't fire. The German Luger pistol was highly prized by Allied soldiers in both World War I and World War II; thousands of them were taken from dead or captured German soldiers because the Luger was considered the best pistol in the world. This scene attempts to show that even the best that the Germans could do wasn't good enugh. Remember that Schindler's List is a fictional story, based on a fictional novel, Schindler's Ark; it is neither objective nor true history.

Podgorze ghetto in Krakow

Holocaust Survivor Books

Books about Schindler's List

Back to Kazimierz index


This page was created on November 25, 2009