Schindler’s Factory

Oskar Schindler was a German businessman and industrialist from Sudeten in the present Czech Republic. He was married but that did not stop him from constantly surrounding himself with mistresses and didn’t say no to a drink when the opportunity arose and if it could involve business contracts. Schindler became a member of the Nazi party in 1939 and as the opportunist he was, he made good contacts in the wake of the German occupation of Poland. Using laws within what the Nazis called Aryanisation (industries were not allowed to be owned by Jews), Schindler was able to gain control of an enamel factory in Krakow previously owned by Jews and used jewish slave workers as labor. Schindler’s relationship with his approximately 1,000 Jewish workers (also called Schindlerjuden) developed into something more and he used all his cunning and charm to prevent these from ending up in Plaszow or anything else encampment.

He also arranged a meeting with the Plaszow commandant, Amon Goeth, and managed to get about 700 Jews transferred to a small industry under Schindler’s control. He justified his reasons for not allowing his Jews to be deported for the simple reason that it was skilled labor that was important for German war production. He was on several occasions the subject of investigations into eco-crimes with managed each time to cope, sometimes with bribes if necessary. When the Red Army approached Krakow, he moved about 1,100 Jews to a factory in Brunnlitz in the present Czech republic (czech Brnec) where they produced ammunition until liberation on May 10, 1945. After the war, Schindler was largely bankrupt and he constantly failed his business despite financial help from various Jewish organizations both inside and outside Germany. He died poor and alone in Frankfurt in 1974 at the age of 66. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem and was given a place in the garden of the righteous (non-Jews who, at the risk of their own lives, protected Jews during the war) as early as 1967 at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished (2012).

Address: ul. Lipowa 4, 30-001 Krakow.

Get there: Tram to Ghetto Square and then walk to the museum.

My comment:

Between 1948 and 2002, telecommunications parts were manufactured by a company called Telpod on the premises. The Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List (1993) created a great interest in the Holocaust and now it is possible to make trips in Schindler’s footsteps. The museum that was established in Schindler’s former factory in 2010 is a consequence of the film and has become a major tourist attraction with sometimes long queues. The museum not only depicts what happened in the factory, but focuses on Krakow during the German occupation where the factory was a part. The museum is very lavish and is well worth a visit despite the commercialism that characterizes the museum. The positive thing about films like Schindler’s list is that it creates an interest in a historical phenomenon, but the negative is that there is a pure commercialism where the Holocaust trivializes and becomes a business idea. On Tadeusza Romanowicza 9 street in a side street near the factory is the villa that Schindler lived in during his time in Krakow.

Follow up in books: Crowe, David: Oskar Schindler (2007).