Below is a scene from the movie Schindler’s List. It is one of the most haunting exchanges I have ever seen on the screen.

We all find ourselves in the same circumstance as Schindler: confronting unending opportunities to save lives at low cost. Indeed it is easier for us to save lives than it was for Schindler. None of us faces the risk of arrest and execution by the SS.

We may not weep for those we fail to save because we never see them, but they are just as real.


Schindler and Emilie emerge from his quarters, each carrying a small suitcase. In the dark, some distance away from his
Mercedes, stand all twelve hundred workers. As Schindler and his
wife cross the courtyard to the car, Stern and Levartov approach.
The rabbi hands him some papers.

We’ve written a letter trying to explain
things. In case you’re captured. Every
workers has signed it.

Schindler sees a list of signatures beginning below the
typewritten text and continuing for several pages. He pockets
it, this new list of names.

Thank you.

Stern steps forward and places a ring in Schindler’s hand. It’s
a gold band, like a wedding ring. Schindler notices an
inscription inside it.

It’s Hebrew. It says, ‘Whoever saves
one life, saves the world.’

Schindler slips the ring onto a finger, admires it a moment, nods
his thanks, then seems to withdraw.

(to himself)
I could’ve got more out …

Stern isn’t sure he heard right. Schindler steps away from him,
from his wife, from the car, from the workers.

(to himself)
I could’ve got more … if I’d just … I don’t
know, if I’d just … I could’ve got more…

Oskar, there are twelve hundred people who
are alive because of you. Look at them.

He can’t.

If I’d made more money …I threw away
so much money, you have no idea.
If I’d just …

There will be generations because of
what you did.

I didn’t do enough.

You did so much.

Schindler starts to lose it, the tears coming. Stern, too. The
look on Schindler’s face as his eyes sweep across the faces of
the workers is one of apology, begging them to forgive him for
not doing more.

This car. Goeth would’ve bought this car.
Why did I keep the car? Ten people,
right there, ten more I could’ve got.
(looking around)
This pin -

He rips the elaborate Hakenkreus, the swastika, from his lapel
and holds it out to Stern pathetically.
Two people. This is gold. Two more people.
He would’ve given me two for it. At least one.
He would’ve given me one. One more. One
more person. A person, Stern. For this.
One more. I could’ve gotten one more person
I didn’t.

He completely breaks down, weeping convulsively, the emotion he’s
been holding in for years spilling out, the guilt consuming him.

They killed so many people …
(Stern, weeping too,
embraces him)
They killed so many people …

From above, from a watchtower, Stern can be seen down below,
trying to comfort Schindler. Eventually, they separate, and
Schindler and Emilie climb into the Mercedes. It slowly pulls
out through the gates of the camp. And drives away.

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