Played by Liam Neeson
The protagonist and eventual savior of approximately 1,100 Jews. The film follows Schindler’s progression from a callous, greedy war profiteer to a man willing to sacrifice his fortune to save the lives of his Jewish factory workers. Schindler is a womanizer and con artist who never hesitates to do something outside the law, such as placing bribes, to get what he wants. His metamorphosis into a hero is slow in coming. Initially, he is indifferent to the plight of the Jews and has little concern for the moral issues at stake. However, he develops compassion for the Jews and begins to see his factory workers as humans deserving of life. His compassion ultimately compels him to save them at great personal risk. Schindler’s motives are never directly stated in the film, and the real-life Schindler never offered an explanation.
Played by Ben Kingsley
Schindler’s Jewish accountant and conscience. Stern is an intelligent man who never loses his pride in the face of the violent and dehumanizing conditions the Jews face under the Nazi regime. He is able to influence the good, moral side of Schindler. Stern is the first to recognize that Schindler’s factory can be a haven for Jews. His paternalistic attitude toward his fellow Jews in the ghetto leads him to take advantage of his position to save those who would otherwise be exterminated. He initially expresses contempt for the materialistic Schindler but gains respect for him as the profiteer changes. Stern’s relationship with Schindler contributes greatly to Schindler’s decision to save the Schindlerjuden.
Played by Ralph Fiennes
A Nazi soldier in charge of building of Plaszów work camp. Goeth is a cruel, sadistic man deeply entrenched in Nazi philosophy. Goeth exhibits a true hatred for the Jews, at times shooting them randomly from his balcony high above the labor camp. He and Schindler share many common traits, such as greed and callous self-centeredness, but Goeth gives himself totally to evil and hatred. He is also deeply conflicted, torn between feelings of attraction and disgust for his Jewish maid. Goeth represents the all-consuming hatred of the Nazi Party.
Read an in-depth analysis of Amon Goeth.
Played by Caroline Goodall
Oskar Schindler’s wife. Emilie is a good and patient woman who loves Schindler unconditionally, even as he cheats on her continually. She expresses only exasperation upon finding another woman in Schindler’s apartment but is visibly hurt when she finds that the doorman does not even know Schindler is married. Emilie has pride, however, and leaves Schindler in Poland because he cannot promise to be faithful to her. She tells him to “send chocolate” to her at home in Czechoslovakia.
Played by Jonathan Sagalle
A Jewish smuggler and Schindler’s black-market connection. Pfefferberg, whom Schindler first approaches in a church, becomes Schindler’s provider of black-market luxury items. Pfefferberg is enterprising and determined to survive. During the liquidation of the ghetto, he plans to escape through the sewers. Though his wife, Mila, refuses to go in the sewers, he reassures her and goes to see if they are clear. When he returns for her, she is gone. He uses his quick wit to save himself in an encounter with Amon Goeth by pretending to be working under Nazi orders.
Played by Embeth Davidtz
Amon Goeth’s Jewish maid, who lives a tortured life as the object of Goeth’s desire and disgust. Helen Hirsch is a strong woman lost in despair, forced to work for Goeth, whom she despises. She faces brutal, unpredictable beatings at Goeth’s hands and begins to lose hope, accepting the probability of her own death. She is representative of victims who experienced psychological abuse under the Nazi regime.
Played by Mark Ivanir
A friend of Poldek and a ghetto policeman. Goldberg is an opportunist and black marketer and becomes a policeman after striking a deal with a Nazi. The job pays well, which is all he cares about. Goldberg continues to be opportunistic throughout the film, accepting bribes from Schindler via Stern to move Jews into Schindler’s factory.
Played by Andrzej Seweryn
An SS officer whom Schindler bribes in order to gain the necessary permits for the sale of his enamelware factory. Although Scherner is a member of the Nazi Party and buys into all the beliefs of that party, he is not a sadist like Goeth. Scherner’s total disregard for the plight of the Jews comes from indifference and latent anti-Semitism. He represents the institutional evil that was the Third Reich.
Chaja and Danka Dresner
Played by Miri Fabian and Anna Mucha
A mother and daughter who epitomize family bonds and loyalty. Chaja and Danka are inseparable throughout the film. During the liquidation of the ghetto, Chaja makes the ultimate sacrifice, forcing Danka to take the last hiding spot left in a building. Danka, however, exhibits the same loyalty as she leaves the hiding spot to find her mother. This mother and daughter represent the loyalty and devotion of family.
Mr. and Mrs. Nussbaum
Played by Michael Gordon and Aldona Grochal
A wealthy couple forced to vacate their apartment, which later becomes Schindler’s. The Nussbaums are rich and snobbish, initially disgusted with not only their ghetto quarters but their country neighbors as well. However, they quickly lose their snobbery as they realize that all the Jews in the ghetto are in the same boat.
Rabbi Menasha Lewartow
Played by Ezra Dagan
A man who serves as a rabbi prior to the Nazi invasion. Rabbi Lewartow, whom Schindler saves, escapes execution at Goeth’s hands, and his inability to lead religious ceremonies represents the oppression of the Jewish faith. The rabbi is grateful and redeemed when Schindler, in the Czechoslovakian factory, tells him to begin performing prayers again.
Played by Bettina Kupfer
A woman who attempts to convince Schindler to save her parents. Regina lives in Kraków and passes as a gentile in order to avoid Nazi capture. She is desperate to save her parents and risks detection by dressing up and going to Schindler’s office to beg him for help. She is crushed when he refuses her, but her spirit is redeemed as she later sees her parents enter the factory gate.