Preface: I have probably watched Schindler's List more times than most people, and it's not because I just loved it so much, I watched it for fun over and over again. No, the actual reason is because when I was a senior in high school, I was taking a class called 21st Century Writing. We have four major papers to complete over the trimester and for one paper, we were supposed to select a movie from AFI's Top 100 and analyze the various components of the film - lighting, sound, color, etc. I am the giant moron who chose Schindler's List, then proceeded to have to watch it repeatedly as I took notes, wrote, revised, rewrote, etc. I have not watched it since. I can't. Ten+ times was enough and I may well only watch it once more in my lifetime - with Eleanor when she is old enough.
If you are unfamiliar with Schindler's List (and really, this should be no one), it tells the story of a German businessman who ended up saving approximately 1,200 Jews from certain death. He does this by employing workers from Krakow's Ghetto, keeping them safe and healthy and fed. To be fair, his intent was not so noble in the beginning. A businessman to the core and a member of the Nazi party because it benefited him businesswise, he wanted cheap labor to keep his factories running, thereby growing more and more wealthy each day. However, he came to be protective of 'his Jews' and fought to keep them together, bribing whoever he had to in order to keep those destined for the camps safe within his factory. The scene near the end when he must leave because the camps are being liberated, and he in tears, sobbing as it comes to him that perhaps there was more he could have done, more he could have saved, even one more. If you doubt that Liam Neesen is one of the top five greatest actors of all time, then watching that scene alone will change your mind.
Rena Finder was born in Krakow and at age eleven the Nazis arrived in full force. She and her family, along with every Jew in the city, were moved to the Ghetto. From there they are sent to Plaszow, outside of Krakow and Rena and her mother begin working in a factory owned by Schindler. Plaszow is eventually closed and Rena, her mother, and hundreds of Schindler's other employees are sent to Auschwitz. Schindler is determined to save them, so he completely up and moves his factory. He has it reassembled near Auschwitz and was able to get his workers back. They survived the Holocaust because of his actions.
It was truly a thing of horrific beauty to get a story of the Holocaust from a child who survived it. Even younger than Anne Frank, and living through the trauma of life in the Ghetto, then the camps. To have the reprieve, then it all taken away with the mix-up that sent them to Auschwitz, that feeling of lose and despair. But then to be found once more, to be saved. She recalls these events in great detail, with a kind of clarity only a child can express. When that moment of liberation finally comes, it is almost hard to believe. After the years of uncertainty, not knowing if they would again be shipped off from the safety of Schindler's factory, to finally knowing they were free once more.
This is a must for any upper elementary/lower middle school classroom library, and especially important for teaching on the subject of the Holocaust. It would also make a great small-group book for study. Highly recommended.