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“Schindler’s List” to appear commercial-free on television

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11 (JTA) — Thanks to the Ford Motor Co., “Schindler’s List” will appear commercial-free on network television. NBC-TV will air the three-hour film on Feb. 23, in prime time, the first time the film is appearing on television. The Oscar-winning film, which its creator, Steven Spielberg, expected to be a money-losing labor of love playing to small audiences, will be seen by an expected 30 million television viewers. So far, some 200 million people around the world have seen “Schindler’s List” in movie theaters or on video. By forgoing commercials during the screening, the Ford Division of Ford Motor Co. will make TV history as the sole sponsor of the program. The company will present a discreet one-minute message before the film starts, and a 50-second announcement after its conclusion. There will be two, non-commercial, intermissions during the movie telecast. There is a touch of delayed irony in the Ford company’s sponsorship of “Schindler’s List,” given its founder’s pronounced anti-Semitic leanings. In the early 1920s, Henry Ford was publisher of “The Dearborn Independent” and the “International Jew.” Both newspapers depicted Jews as warmongers and war financiers and gave wide circulation to the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1927, faced with a lawsuit, Ford retracted his anti-Semitic statements. Questioned on this aspect of the company’s history, Gerry Donnelly, communications and advertising director for the Ford Division, denied that the founder’s sins had influenced the decision to sponsor the Holocaust film. “Many of our people were involved in this project, and no one ever mentioned Henry Ford,” said Donnelly. “I think quite a few are not even aware of this background.” Donnelly added that “We have great respect and a long association with Mr. Spielberg. For instance, we provided the vehicles for the film `Jurassic Park.’ We just felt it was the right thing to do to present this great story of one man’s courage.” Along with the broadcast, NBC will distribute to educators a study guide on the Holocaust and how to fight prejudice. The film has already been shown, free of charge, to 2 million high school students in 40 states. Four states have mandated the study of the Holocaust, as well as of black slavery and the American Indian experience, in their high schools. After the movie, Spielberg will give a 90-second promotional message for his Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which so far has videotaped the testimonies of 25,000 Holocaust survivors throughout the world. Neither Ford nor NBC would divulge the cost of the broadcast. “Schindler’s List” won seven Oscars in 1994. It tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, a hard-drinking, womanizing German entrepreneur, who saved his 1,100 Jewish workers in wartime Krakow, not far from the Auschwitz death camp.