Schindler’s Amnesia

I pardon you “, said Amon Goeth.

Lisiek, his young Jewish servant walked down the stairway to ground, in a moment of mercy and escape. Geoth had pardoned him for his sins. Yet, the luxury of the powerful mustn’t be intruded. As soon as Lisiek’s soul descended to the earth of reality, he was warned by a shot towards his left. Up he looked and then above at Goeth — with faith. He walked forth, only to hear a shot towards his right. Yet he moved on with a disappointed hope. We see him last, dead on the ground. “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ Gods/They kill us for their sport”. Itzhak Stern, the man alive, walks past the dead. Every hour had numerous Lisieks being killed. Every day was death to a Jew in the Nazi occupied Germany.

I sat in the AV room of our college, a naïve fresher, silenced by the grim visuals of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993). Each scene triggered in me a memory of violence — seen and heard. Conscience was evoked and sympathy rekindled, for the dead and the alive.

I closed my eyes at the sight of the innocent body on the movie screen and the blackness inside my closed eyes took me into an event of colours. Purple mountains, blue lake and red blood. Every summer the world has tried to ignore the new streams of blood that flow into the turbulent history of Kashmir. Even as there is a sense of pathos which humans are naturally devised to feel; it is still inadequate.

We have no sense of the shared roots which bore us. Our common goals clash in irony. To exercise a monopoly over the meaning of truth, we compromise on the possibility of truths. Many are ready to kill others for a difference of opinion. Bigotry rules the roost.

In India, Dalits and Muslims have been the first casualty of hatred. Communal crimes are the order of the day in a country which could not have been delineated into a “majority”, “minority” and the “others” only less than a century ago.

In every sense, power has made us into subjects who play by the rule books of those who it benefits. Our ideas and identities are used to either oppress others or they become the means for us to get oppressed.

However, in a world where power exercises a monopoly over meaning, it has become all the more important to reassert marginalised narratives and work on subaltern histories.

In the movie, some of the Jews are saved by a German industrialist, Oskar Schindler. The Jews present Schindler with a token of gratitude for saving their lives. He is given a ring with an inscription in Hebrew .It is said of the verse that it is from Talmud, one of the Holy Books of Jews. Itzhak starts reciting the meaning, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire”, as I complete it in my head and add, “And Whoever Kills a soul, it is as if he had slain mankind entirely”. The verses that my heart added were from Quran, the holy book of Muslims. As I felt the heard and the uttered melting into each other, I was shaken. Why don’t we stop? Why can’t we see the ironical similarities in our differences?

It reminded of the Israeli occupation of Palestinians. The words of the survivors of Christchurch terrorist attack reverberated in my head.  The footage of Jacob Blake being shot in front of his children ran through my eyes as I jumped in the anxiety of the unfortunate pervasiveness of racism, after all these years.

Some of us have learnt to be uncomfortable. We’ve tried to raise our voices which tremble under the pressure of censorships, legislations and policies. We stop to protest but stop in silence —out of fear.

It was said of the Schindler’s List which saved the enlisted Jews,” This list is an absolute good, the list is life. All around its margin lies the gulf”. Today, in this world full of hatred and malice, it is important for us to stand with those who are “othered”. We must ensure that even if our beliefs clash with beliefs of others; the principle of justice must never be compromised.

When any part of the creation is bruised, let us refuse to move on. Let’s us be good allies to all who face marginalisation and let us all pledge to never compromise on anyone’s right to be who they want to be.

  • The author does not support the inconsistencies in Spielberg’s take on Schindler’s List and does not endorse infantilisation of Jews in the movie.


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Tooba Towfiq

Tooba Towfiq is the Opinion Editor at Kashmir Observer. She tweets at tooba_tweets

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