Steven Spielberg Reflects on Working Toward Peace
was shocked many years ago to read a statistic showing an
alarming number of Americans who had only the barest knowledge
of the Holocaust, and a startling number who had no knowledge
at all. This was bad enough for the adult population. For
younger people, it had the potential to begin a plague of
That fact, more than anything else, compelled me to make
Schindler's List in 1993-even though I knew that what I
could put on film, the most powerful medium, could only
show a fraction of the suffering that occurred-suffering
I cannot begin to imagine.
If there was one result of making Schindler's List that
was particularly gratifying, it was that more than 1,250,000
high school students have seen the film, either on their
own or at the free high school showings arranged through
the cooperation of Universal Pictures, American theater
owners, and the governors and departments of education of
more than forty-five states. It is particularly noteworthy
that most of these showings have been in places far from
the urban, Jewish centers, places where students may have
never even met a Jew, such as Wasilla, Alaska; Pocatello,
Idaho; and Summersville, West Virginia.
My hope with my last film, Saving Private Ryan, was to
honor those who ended the Holocaust. D day was the pivot
point of the twentieth century. All that went before was
preparation, all that followed was consequence. And then
there were the men of D day-the junior officers, NCOs, and
enlisted men-who hit the beaches at Omaha and Utah on June
6, 1944. They were born mostly between 1920 and 1925. To
them had come the responsibility, the sacrifice, and the
honor of saving Western civilization. This isn't Hollywood
hyperbole; it is simple fact.
At 0500 hours, June 6, 1944, the outcome of World War
II was very much in doubt. If Hitler's armies were able
to stop the invasion and then drive the British, Canadian,
and American forces back into the sea, he would have been
free to move major forces from his western to his eastern
front, enough maybe to win a victory-and almost certainly
enough to impose a stalemate. The war would have gone on.
The Holocaust would have gone on. It really is too terrible
It all came down to a bunch of twenty-year-olds-men like
Dick Winters, Len Lomell, Dutch Schultz, Bob Slaughter,
Melvin Paisley, Barney Oldfield, James Colella, Peter Howenstein,
and John Harrison.
John Harrison lost his brother to the war. The Sullivan
family lost all five brothers. The Borgstroms lost four.
The Slighs, three. The Hobacks, their only two sons. The
Niland family also lost two sons. If these men hadn't defied
death to ensure our freedom, then this day would never have
It is to honor these men and their buddies-the men who
put an end to the Holocaust and saved Western civilization-that
I made Saving Private Ryan.
My hope in making Schindler's List and Saving Private
Ryan is that eyes have been opened. My hope is that lives
have been changed.
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