Conflict is both certain and unavoidable. Although conflict is mostly a terrible thing, it is because of conflict that the true nature of ordinary people is seen. The way people behave in times of conflict show who we are and how we are seen in civilization. There are some who, motivated by fear, conduct themselves in a disgraceful way during conflict but there are some who are able to rise above and act in extraordinary ways in times of conflict. This is evident in the history of Oskar Schindler, one of few who cared for the Jewish community during the holocaust and managed to save 1,200 Polish Jews. People don’t need to be known to be motivated to do great things, the unknown protester referred to as “Tank Man” risked his life during the Tiananmen Protests… The defiance of “Tank Man” are also shown in the film Paradise Road as the women of a Japanese POW camp during World War 2 rebel by the use of a vocal orchestra. The Holocaust is one of the worst things to happen in history, Nazis treated Jewish people like animals and killed over 6 million of them.
Although the Jewish community was seen as an inferior race that didn’t deserve to live, there were many that sought to help them. Many people would hide Jewish families in their houses, risking their lives to save others as they knew it was the right thing to do. Oskar Schindler is an example of how an ordinary person can do extraordinary things during conflict, throughout the holocaust he managed to save approximately 1,200 Jewish people. As being a part of the Nazi party, Schindler was an unlikely ‘hero’ for the Jewish people, he was a businessman who made his money out of exploiting a cheap source of labour, the Jews. Schindler was a wealthy man, but he gave it all up to save the Jewish people that he employed, his courage and audacity saved over 1,200 Jews from the ‘final solution’, but left him with nothing, except respect from the Jewish community. Schindler saved these people through bribery and his ammunitions factory. He persuaded German officials to agree to build a camp for his workers close to the factory to cut down travel time and cost, he also bribed the guards and smuggled in food, clothing and medication to the camp.
Schindler continued to make his factory a safe haven by continuing to bribe guards to make them stay outside the fence and denying entrance to anybody who hadn’t had his permission, Schindler would even sleep in his office at night to stop the `night calls’ the Gestapo (the ‘secret police’ of Nazi Germany) would make. Schindler’s factory was useless to the German army, Schindler made sure that there was no working armoury coming from it. With his boldness came great danger, Schindler was arrested several times and was only saved through his Nazi party connections. When the war was over Schindler was honoured by the Jews but rejected by his own countrymen. Although Schindler is a very well-known person, there are many who remain nameless despite their great actions during conflict. People don’t do extraordinary things for fame or recognition they do it because they know it’s the right thing to do.
Twenty years ago, on June 5, 1989, following weeks of huge protests in Beijing and a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of hundreds, a lone man stepped in front of a column of tanks rumbling past Tiananmen Square. The moment instantly became one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, a symbol of the protests as well as a symbol against oppression worldwide, an anonymous man referred to as the ‘Tank Man’ acted in defiance and was seared into people’s minds around the world. The man stood in the middle of a column of approaching Type 59 tanks. With nothing or no one but 2 shopping bags in each hand the man was able to get the tanks to stop, as the tanks repeatedly tried to drive around the man, he simply followed in a show of nonviolent action, stopping the tanks further progression. After the tanks stopped their engines the man climbed on top of the tank and began talking to the driver. The man’s identity still remains a mystery and the mention of the man is frowned upon in China but because of the tank man’s courageous act, people around the world use him as a symbol of oppression. The same defiance can be seen in the film Paradise Road.
When looking at the tank man and references of paradise road, what is revealed is the inner courage and defiance that comes out in times of conflict when their life is on the line. During World War 1 many innocent women and children were captured and detained in Japanese prisoner of war camps. The true story of Vivian Bullwinkel, Betty Jeffrey and many others formed the basis of the film. As Japan never signed the Geneva Convention women and children were never off limits and were treated just as bad as men, as the ones the Japanese despised the most were “Europeans, then prisoners, then women”.
The poor treatment, living condition, sexual harassment and constant oppression caused many of the women to start a vocal orchestra as a way of keeping their spirits alive. One of the main characters that came up with the idea of an orchestra, Margaret, understood that many of the women in camps willpower to survive had vanished and realised the orchestra would boost morale of the prisoners. By the end of the film, Margaret passes away and although the women are not strong enough to sing for her funeral they begin to smack rocks together in a beat. As normally the Japanese would not allow such noise, this act is a direct defiance to them, showing that they still have a bit of control.
It is clear to see, through conflict such as the holocaust that Oskar Schindler was involved in, the Tiananmen Protests where the unknown defiance of ‘Tank Man’ was seen, along with the defiance of the prisoners in the film Paradise Road, show that people are definitely capable of extraordinary things when under the influence of conflict.
Courtney from Study Moose
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