5 Things You Didn't Know About Schindler's List

On December 15, 1993, the film Schindler's List opened in theaters. The film tells the true story of a German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saves the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Here are 5 things you didn't know about Schindler's List...


The Film Helped Steven Spielberg Finally Graduate from College Spielberg has originally enrolled at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) as an undergraduate years ago in 1965, but he dropped out when his film career took off. In 2001, he re-enrolled in secret at CSULB, using a pseudonym and working on independent projects to complete his degree. He also submitted Schindler's List as his final project for one of his classes. This movie had already won Spielberg Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.

The Girl in the Red Coat Was Based on a Real Person Who Survived The most striking image of the movie was more than an artistic decision. Schindler’s List was shot in black and white but one character, a little girl in a red coat, had her garment presented in color. It turns out the character was based on a real girl who was known for her bright red coat in the Warsaw ghetto. This girl, who in real life had survived, had no idea of the connection until she saw the film in theaters. Roma Ligocka, born Roma Liebling (her mother changed their last name to avoid detection after escaping the Warsaw ghetto after its liquidation), didn't want to see the film at first due to too many bad memories. However, when she saw it, she recognized the coat and realized it might have been based on her. She later met Spielberg, who was delighted to find she was alive. She wrote her own memoir of survival. (By the way, Ligocka's cousin is Roman Polanski, who went on to make his own Holocaust film, The Pianist.)


Spielberg Directed The Movie For Free Spielberg was not comfortable with taking a salary or any royalties from the film. He did not want the film to be done as a way to earn money and so refused pay and refused to profit personally from the film. Instead, he funneled the profits into forming a foundation called the Shoah Foundation, which was and still is based at USC. The Shoah Foundation's purpose is to record testimony from Holocaust survivors.

Spielberg Didn't Want a Hollywood Movie Star to Portray Schindler Kevin Costner, Warren Beatty, and Mel Gibson all auditioned for the role of Oskar Schindler. However, Spielberg cast then relatively unknown Irish actor Liam Neeson, whom the director had seen in a Broadway play called Anna Christie. “Liam was the closest in my experience of what Schindler was like,” Spielberg told The New York Times. “His charm, the way women love him, his strength. He actually looks a little bit like Schindler, the same height, although Schindler was a rotund man,” he said. Besides having Neeson listen to recordings of Schindler, the director also told him to study the gestures of former Time Warner chairman Steven J. Ross, another of Spielberg’s mentors, and the man to whom he dedicated the film.

The Movie Wasn't Supposed to be in English For a better sense of reality, Spielberg originally wanted to shoot the movie completely in Polish and German using subtitles, but he eventually decided against it because he felt that it would take away from the urgency and importance of the images onscreen. According to Spielberg, “I wanted people to watch the images, not read the subtitles. There’s too much safety in reading. It would have been an excuse to take their eyes off the screen and watch something else.”