While filming Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg found what he believes to be his true purpose, to tell the stories of genocide survivors and educate people about the dangers of hate.
“This is something that I was put on this earth to do — not just to make movies, but to tell this truth to people, especially to young people,” Spielberg said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Maria Shriver that aired on Monday’s Today.
The legendary director opened up about the Shoah Foundation he established (with the proceeds from Schindler’s List) which has videotaped the stories of 52,000 survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Nanjing and Rwanda. He also shared what he hopes to accomplish through the foundation’s accompanying IWitness program, designed to use those stories to teach students about acceptance and empathy.
“I feel like I have 52,000 grandparents that I never knew I had, and I adopted them, and when we meet in person, they adopt me,” Spielberg said of the survivors whose stories he’s collected.
“They could have been me if I had been born at a different time and place,” he said. “And this could happen again.”
Spielberg, who revealed he was bullied when he was younger, said his ultimate goal in educating students about hatred is to get them to end that behavior.
“Stop bigotry. Stop bullying,” Spielberg said of his goals for students. “Be an active leader through history in stopping any genocide from ever happening again.”
Watch Spielberg’s full interview below.