Greatness

Greatness

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When a Jewish girl living in Krakow under false papers visits Schindler, she asks that he hire her parents to work in his factory.
He is infuriated with the girl and she runs from him, fearing her life and liberty. Schindler expresses his rage at Stern, whom he
accuses of harboring Jews in the "haven" of a factory. Schindler is not angry at the idea of his factory as a haven, but the fact
that such activities are illegal. However, as the atrocities of the Nazis become more apparent, Schindler begins to see the great
opportunity he is presented with. He hires the girl's parents.

Although there is no dialogue to give the viewer any direct clues, the scene in which Schindler observes the liquidation of the
ghetto at Krakow hints at the change that begins to overtake him. He appears to be gripped by the stark realization of what the
Nazi's are actually doing. He watches from a hill overlooking the ghetto, as Jews are massacred and children are oblivious to
what is happening. The horror of it all overtakes his mistress, and she begs him to leave the tragic scene.

Later, the change that has overtaken Schindler becomes more apparent. In a conversation with Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Goeth,
Schindler expresses his feelings about the relationship between that Nazis and the Jews. Goeth states that the reason the Jews
fear the Nazi's is because they have the power to kill. Schindler believes otherwise. He says that the power to kill is a
punishment to be used in exercising justice, but the real power lies in exercising mercy. According to Schindler, to have every
justification for killing someone and letting him or her go demonstrates real power. This idea leaves an impression on Goeth,
who begins to practice "mercy" the next day in his dealings in the concentration camp. Unfortunately, practicing mercy does not
leave Goeth with the same fulfillment as murder, and he reverts to his old habits.

This demonstrates a fundamental difference in the way Goeth and Schindler see the Jews. Goeth views them in typical Nazi
fashion. His deep-rooted resentments, hatred, and perhaps even sadism, do not allow him to treat the Jews in a humane
fashion. He sees them as a scourge to be eliminated, and at the very least a means to an end. He finds joy in shooting innocent
Jews from his hilltop villa, and from exploiting them in cruel and unusual ways. He even finds pleasure in beating his maid.

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In
some regards he is not unlike the Oskar Schindler discussed earlier, in that he uses people for his own benefit. However, the
new Oskar Schindler does not view the Jews in the same light as he used to. Schindler begins to view the Jews not as a means
to an end, but as individuals worthy of respect and consideration. He has adopted, to some degree, Kant's ethical theory.

Immanuel Kant developed an ethical theory that was, in some respects, an elaboration on the "Golden Rule." He called this
principle the Categorical Imperative. Kant's first formulation of the Categorical Imperative stated that a person should "act only
according to that maxim by which you can at the same time desire that it should become a universal law." In order to
understand what this means, we must understand what Kant meant by "maxims." Kant believed that people did certain things
for specific reasons, and when they did so they were following a maxim. With that in mind, we can understand the Categorical
Imperative to mean that we should only act a certain way in a situation if that action would be acceptable every time that
situation arose. Kant later reformulated his Categorical Imperative to say that we should "act so that [we] treat humanity,
whether in [our] own person or in that of another, always as an end, and never as a means only." In other words, we should not
merely exploit people in order to accomplish our own goals. We should not treat them simply as objects, or tools, to be used in
our own endeavors. In this light, Schindler's appeal for mercy makes sense.

In Crimes and Misdemeanors there is no character that appears to be a steadfast believer in Kant's ethical theory. However,
a closer inspection of dialogue reveals one character that grasps Kant's Categorical Imperative. Judah Rosenthal, in discussing
his adulterous relationship with his friend and patient Ben, tells him "You know, I kidded myself about loving her. But deep
down I knew I was behaving selfishly... for pleasure, for adventure- for lust." Judah realizes that despite what he thought, he
was not treating his mistress Delores as a person, but merely as an object. He received gratification from her, but he was not
willing to reciprocate.

Schindler visits Goeth on a day that sick and unhealthy Jews are being shipped off to Auschwitz to make room for new
residents at Plazow. He sees the suffering of the Jews as they are packed into hot crowded railcars. To the amusement of his
Nazi colleagues, Schindler insists that they humor him and spray the railcars down with water, that they might ease the suffering
of the people inside. Schindler knows that he might be ridiculed for this, but he is willing to take that chance if it might help so
many suffering people.
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