The 1993 Academy-Award-winning movie “Schindler's List” showed again in select theaters last week to honor its 25th anniversary. In an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt the film's director, Stephen Spielberg said the story resonates more now than at the time of the film's release, citing the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue this year. “We have to take it more seriously today than I think we have had to take it in a generation.”

The past is prologue

Last year the Washington Times made a similar point owing to a reported 86 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents.

“It isn't a good time to be a Jew in America,” the paper said. The Anti-Defamation League also noted a whopping 106 percent leap of such incidents in the same period at elementary, middle and high schools nationwide. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL told the Washington Times, “We are very concerned the next generation is internalizing messages of intolerance and bigotry.” Pointing out the increase in hate-crimes during the run-up to the election of Donald Trump, he recalled a sign in Denver that said, “Kill the Jews, Vote Trump.” Greenblatt went on to say, “These incidents need to be seen in the context of a general resurgence of white supremacists activity in the United States.”

Behind the scenes of polite society

All that said, I have to wonder if Spielberg's Holocaust movie is the one of choice to warn Americans that history may be repeating itself.

The film recounts the true story of German businessman Oskar Schindler who resolutely employed 1,200 Jews to save them from the Nazis. A more pointed cautionary tale for our time should take place after WWII. And I'm thinking of the 1947 film “Gentlemen's Agreement,” also an Academy-Award winner, directed by Elia Kazan. Based on the best-selling novel of the same title by Laura Z. Hobson, a daughter of Jewish immigrants, it tells of anti-Semitism in postwar America when Jew-hating was not seen in the street but was hidden in the minds of a polite society that restricted Jews from housing, hotels, schools, and jobs. Gregory Peck played the part of an investigative reporter who posed as a Jew to experience the bigotry first-hand.

A cautionary tale for contemporary America

Variety drama critic Hobe Morrison, considered "Gentlemen's Agreement" better than the popular book because it's more graphic, lending the story “greater emotional impact.” He gave, as an example, a scene when the Peck character tries to explain anti-Semitism to his young son: “Even the least-informed and least sensitive filmgoer can hardly fail to identify himself with the characters on the screen, and be profoundly moved.” By contrast, Schindler's List may be wrongly dismissed as some bloody chapter in a history book.

More insidious is the bloodshed in "Gentlemen's Agreement" because the bleeding is internal. And if hate-crimes against Jews continue, America is liable to bleed out.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more