Schindler's List: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

'Schindler's List' is a movie based on the life of factory owner Oskar Schindler and his work during World War II to save about 1,100 Jews from the concentration camps. This lesson describes the film's major characters and summarizes the plot.

A Film Based on a True Story

Have you ever done something to help another at your own risk? Maybe you realized you could suffer consequences, but you took a risk anyway to do the right thing. Schindler's List is the story of a real man who took a tremendous risk to save over a thousand Jewish people during the Holocaust.

The famous film Schindler's List was adapted from the book Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally that was published in Australia in 1982, but then was released as Schindler's List in the United States the same year. The book is believed to be based on a true story as was told by Schindler's friend Pfefferberg to Keneally in his later years. The author took creative license and invented some facts that Pfefferberg didn't know.

Important Characters

Oskar Schindler

Oskar Schindler is a factory owner and member of the Nazi party living in Poland during World War II. At the start of the story, Schindler is an unlikely hero more concerned with philandering and moneygrubbing than morality. Yet as he starts to see how the Nazis are treating Jews and realizes his Jewish employees' likely fate, he slowly changes from a selfish man to a giving one. He spends a good portion of the novel bribing Nazi party members to keep his employees safe. In the end he saves about 1,100 people from the concentration camps in Germany.

Emelie Schindler

Emelie is Oskar's wife, who deeply loves her husband. However, once she realizes he is not going to stop cheating, she moves away and waits until he is willing to settle down.

Amon Goeth

Goeth is the head of a death camp in Poland, a truly angry and vile man who takes pleasure in the torture and death of his Jewish prisoners. He is a true believer of all the Nazi party's ways, and shows this in horrific fashion.

Itzhak Stern

Itzhak is Schindler's accountant and moral compass. He works for Schindler but only because he needs the money. He does not like the man, until Schindler starts to change. Itzhak's ability to help Oskar make money creates a relationship of respect, which turns to friendship as Schindler starts to realize the horrors happening to good people.

Helen Hirsch

Helen is Amon Goeth's maid and punching bag. She is Jewish, which makes her easy to despise, but Goeth also yearns for her since she is beautiful. This creates a constant tension and Helen gets the brunt of his terrible hatred.

Poldek Pfefferberg

Pfefferberg is a black market trader and ends up becoming a contact for Schindler to obtain certain goods. He is also Jewish and over time becomes Schindler's friend.

Marcel Goldberg

Goldberg though Jewish is only interested in himself and the money he can make. This makes him easy to use by Schindler, who bribes him often to smuggle goods and Jewish people to safety.

The Dresners

Chaja and Danka Dresner are mother and daughter, and, as Jews, they are singled out and put in the Jewish ghetto. However, they escape and work for Schindler until the end of the war, constantly supporting each other.

The Nussbaums

The Nussbaums are an elite Jewish couple, whose home Schindler occupies when they are forced into the ghetto. They start off arrogant and judgmental but learn that their money means nothing in the ghetto.

Regina Perlman

Regina is a Jewish woman masquerading as a gentrified woman, but risks it all when she reaches out to Schindler to ask for his assistance in saving her parents from the ghetto.

Rabbi Menasha Lewartow

Menasha was a rabbi prior to World War II, but is now no longer allowed to do his work and is almost murdered by Goeth. Yet Schindler hires him for his factory saving his life.

Girl in the Red Dress

Though this character never gets a name, she is a small little girl in a red coat that is horrifically walking through a street of Jewish people that are being slaughtered before her young eyes. She also becomes the catalyst for Schindler as he sees her small form staggering through the street, showing in stark reflection what is happening, and what type of people the Nazis truly were.

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