The Man And His Factory Who Saved 1,200 Lives
Oskar Schindler (center) standing with his workers in the factory
Before You Go
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Watch Schindler’s List on Netflix.
Watch Steven Spielberg’s interview on the legacy of Schindler’s List 25 years later.
Located 1.5 miles south of Krakow’s Wawel Castle
If you learn just one thing about Oskar Schindler, remember this: He recognized his own privilege and used it to save lives. Nearly 1,200 lives. He helped save generations of Jewish people in Krakow, Poland. His empathy and compassion, something scarce during WWII, is something we all should strive for.
Summer Hours: April - October
Monday: 9am - 4pm (every first Monday of the month - open to 2 pm)
Tuesday - Sunday: 9am - 8pm (every first Tuesday - closed)
Winter Hours: November - March
Monday: 9am - 2pm
Tuesday - Sunday: 9am - 6pm (every first Tuesday - closed)
Today Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory is bare on the outside. But, plastered on the windows are the photographs of every worker who worked at the factory. Behind the gate is the Modern Art Museum of Krakow which purchased part of the factory in 2004.
Germany invades Krakow, Poland
German troops officially took control of Krakow on September 6, 1939. Not long after, the Nazis created new laws requiring Jews to wear armbands with the Star of David. Synagogues & schools were closed, their homes were looted & it became illegal to own a business as a Jewish person.
By the Summer of 1940, Jews could no longer live in Krakow. Scared of being forced into the ghetto 23,000 fled the city hoping to find safety in the countryside. A mandatory evacuation began in December forcing 43,000 Jews across the river to the ghetto. They were forced to live in a single room with many other families.
Oskar Schindler was an opportunist and saw a way to profit off the war. He purchased the enamel factory with secret funding from a few Jewish families. It was less than a mile from the newly formed Jewish ghetto. Schindler was a member of the Nazi Party and used those connections to hire Jewish workers at a discounted rate. At the peak of production, over 1,000 Jews worked in the factory producing various metal works for the German army.
In 1941, a liquidation of the ghetto began. Those deemed fit for hard work were then sent to Plaszow, a nearby concentration camp. The thousands who didn’t pass the Nazi inspections were killed on the spot. Schindler was appalled when he became aware of the liquidation. From that point forward, says Sol Urbach, Schindler "changed his mind about the Nazis. He decided to get out and to save as many Jews as he could."
The walls of the ghetto were shaped by tombstones.
Pots and pans made in the factory.
Maps of the Nazi takeover of Krakow.
The floors inside Schindler’s factory.
Nazi uniforms complete with skull & bones.
Nazi propaganda was plastered around Krakow.
Schindler bribed many of the Nazis to not kill his workers. He even suggested building his own sub-concentration camp at his own expense. By the fall of 1944, the German army decided to send the remaining Jews of Krakow to Auschwitz. When Schindler got word of this, he spent his last dime and favor with the hope of moving the factory to Czechoslovakia. The list of 1,200 Jewish workers submitted to the Nazi army for approval later became known as Schindler’s List.
After the move in October 1944, Schindler ran his factory under his rules. Workers were no longer abused and were free to openly practice their religion. Seven months later, Churchill announced the end of the war and the Jewish people were set free.