Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Gary Hamburg

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© 2021 Teressa A Ulrich


Steven Spielberg, a world-renowned filmmaker who built his reputation on science fiction and adventure classics, affirms that his greatest accomplishment is Schindler’s List. A documentary drama about Oskar Schindler, the Nazi war profiteer who saves the lives of over a thousand Jewish people, Schindler’s List became the quintessential Holocaust film. It is shown in classrooms around the world, and continues to receive praise for its historicity since its release in 1993. This thesis studies Schindler’s List from development through production, reception and legacy, and considers whether the film should be valued as true history or artistic license. It first analyzes the film’s source material: Thomas Keneally’s book, Schindler’s Ark. Written from extensive secondary research and primary survivor testimonies, Keneally crafts a detailed account of Schindler’s life, and the experiences of the Jewish prisoners at Płaszów labor camp and the Kraków ghetto. The screenplay adapts this novel, condensing certain elements of the story in order to create the film’s narrative. As the film moves into production, Spielberg shoots in black-and-white on location in Kraków, Poland, in an effort to recreate the documentary newsreel footage from the war. The project examines the historic details throughout the filming and post-production process, including the costuming, cinematography, casting, and music. It then considers the film’s release: the initial reactions, academic criticisms, and praises. In addition to the reviews, it also evaluates the film’s legacy through the creation of the visual history library of genocide survivor testimonies at the USC Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg. Through analyzing the film for historical accuracies and intentions, the thesis discusses Schindler’s List as an artistic, cinematic monument to the Holocaust, and differentiates it as a historical drama rather than a documentary.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.