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Oskar Schindler's Factory

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Oskar Schindler's Factory


Basic Information

Location Lipowa 4, Krakow, Poland
Phone number (+48) 122571017
Country Poland
City Krakow

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Website http://www.oskarschindlersfactory.com/
Geographical Coordinates 50.04743,19.96133


The museum is located at 4 Lipowa street, in the city’s industrial area of Zablocie. Oskar Schindler’s Factory of Enamelled Vessels ‘Emalia’, now a modern museum, displays a variety artefacts, photos, documents and exhibitions from the five-year Nazi occupation of Krakow, during World War II. The museum contains set-piece arrangements, creating a full-immersion experience of the war. A central exhibition being displayed is that of the centerpiece depicting Oskar Schindler himself, which has been conserved over the years. .

History and time period

As an opportunistic businessman, Schindler was one of many who sought to profit from the German invasion of Poland in 1939. He gained ownership from a bankruptcy court of an idle enamelware factory in Kraków, named Pierwsza Małopolska Fabryka Naczyń Emaliowanych i Wyrobów Blaszanych "Rekord", which he renamed Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik or DEF (location). With the help of his German-speaking Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, Schindler obtained around 1,000 Jewish forced laborers to work there. Schindler soon adapted his lifestyle to his income. He became a well-respected guest at Nazi SS elite parties, having easy chats with high-ranking SS officers, often for his benefit. Initially Schindler may have been motivated by money, as Jewish labor cost less, but later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. He would, for instance, claim that certain unskilled workers were essential to the factory. While witnessing a 1943 raid on the Kraków Ghetto, where soldiers were used to round up the inhabitants for shipment to the concentration camp at Płaszów, Schindler was appalled by the murder of many of the Jews who had been working for him. He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden ("Schindler's Jews"), as they came to be called. Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked at DEF, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations. Once, says author Eric Silver in The Book of the Just, "two Gestapo men came to his office and demanded that he hand over a family of five who had bought forged Polish identity papers. Three hours after they walked in, Schindler said, “two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded”. The special status of his factory ("business essential to the war effort") became the decisive factor for Schindler's efforts to support his Jewish workers. Whenever "Schindler Jews" were threatened with deportation, he claimed exemptions for them. Wives, children, and even persons with disabilities were shown to be necessary mechanics and metalworkers. In the factory itself, Jewish workers were treated civilly, with none of the shouting, abuse and random killings that were going on in the Płaszów camp next-door. The Jews were able to pray in a minyan daily, and gathered at night to learn Chumash and exchange words of Torah and stories of Gedolim. At the close of Shabbat, the workers gathered for Shalosh Seudos and sang zemirot (Shabbat-table songs), said words of Torah, and told stories of tzaddikim. Schindler was arrested three times on suspicion of black market activities and complicity in embezzlement, as well as breaking the Nuremberg Laws by kissing a Jewish girl. Amon Göth, the commandant of the Płaszów camp and other SS guards used Jewish property (such as money, jewelry, and works of art) for themselves, although according to law, it belonged to the Reich. Schindler arranged the sale of such items on the black market. None of his arrests led to a trial, primarily because he bribed government officials to avoid further investigation. As the Red Army drew nearer to Auschwitz concentration camp and the other easternmost concentration camps, the SS began evacuating the remaining prisoners westward. Amon Göth's personal secretary, Mietek Pemper, alerted Schindler of the Nazis' plans to close all factories not directly involved with the war effort, including Schindler's enamelware facility. Pemper also persuaded and encouraged Schindler to switch production from enamelware to anti-tank grenades in an effort to save Schindler's Jewish workers. Tipped off to the factory closure, Schindler persuaded the SS officials to allow him to move his 1,200 Jewish workers to Brünnlitz (Czech: Brněnec), in the German-speaking Sudetenland, thus sparing them from certain death in the gas chambers. Mietek Pemper further aided Schindler's efforts by compiling and typing the list of 1,200 Jews—1,000 of Schindler's workers and 200 other inmates—who were sent to Brünnlitz in October 1944. In Brünnlitz, Schindler gained another former Jewish factory, which was scheduled to produce hand grenades and parts for V-2 rockets. It is unclear how much armament was actually produced there; Schindler and some of the workers claimed in the immediate post-war years that there had been no production that would have been useful to the German war effort, and even that some if not all of the output had been sabotaged.

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