American Ideologies

American Ideology (Spielberg Ideology)

What would have happened if there had been many Schindlers?”

“With 6,000 Schindlers there would have been no extermination of the Jews” Schindler’s plan worked simply because he found a gap in the system that he could use without attracting attention. Had he taken on a greater volume of Jewish workers, his plan could no longer have been concealed. Generalized individual courage and a sense of civic duty is a laughably inadequate means of struggle.

It is no accident that Spielberg chose the story of an employer, a man from the Nazi establishment, who “sees the light” a popular theme in religious America.

The ruling class does not want to hear tales of working class self-organization, or class struggles of industrial sabotage, of subversion in the army. That is why German histories of the period parade the military chiefs around Stauffenberg, who decided to overthrow Hitler when it became clear that the Nazis faced defeat.

Spielberg obviously did not want to start a debate about the role of former Nazis in the post-war Federal Republic of Germany. In particular he did not want to draw attention to the fact that its justice system showed definite continuity with the institutions of the Nazi state, using many of the same people as judges and officials.

These armies had taken over many towns and workplaces in the immediate aftermath of liberation, and re-established the old state apparatus under the protection of the Allied military administration, making only a few changes. In their project of ensuring capitalist stability and building an anti-Soviet bloc, the Western “democrats” regarded the old Nazis as far more reliable than the resistance fighters, most of whom came from the working class movement.

Spielberg thus seems to break with the banal schema of most American anti-fascist films that present “the Germans” as being all little more than fanatical Nazis. But once we leave Schindler himself out of account, Spielberg’s film stands four-square in this tradition. All the German characters come across at best as cowardly fellow travelers of vicious camp bosses. This is exacerbated by images of children filled with anti-semitic hatred, cheering on the incarceration and annihilation of the Jews. There is no doubt that these examples are entirely authentic. The point is that they are not representative of the majority of Germans under the Nazis.

As well as reinforcing stereotypes of the Germans, Spielberg reinforces stereotypes of the Jews. Spielberg’s film reproduces an image of the Jews as passive victims, who accepted their fate resignedly, who ran their businesses even under Nazi repression, who relied on “instinctive cleverness” to overcome the worst, but were incapable of collective resistance and relied on well-meaning saviors.

In view of the uprising’s revolutionary character it is no accident that the US film industry hasn’t latched on to that particular “story”. In Spielberg’s film there is not a single reference to this, the most significant instance of Jewish resistance.

Finally, Spielberg hints at the pro-Zionist conclusions that the establishment wants us to draw from the Holocaust. After the Red Army soldier makes it clear that the Jews are not welcome in the East and that things scarcely look better in the West, he leaves the freed captives to march off into the sun. Together with the positive image of Israel in the documentary epilogue, the message is clear: a Jewish state in Palestine is the salvation and the future for the Jewish people. This is very similar to the early American values of settling west.


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