Thursday's Child: Schindler's Factory, Krakow, Poland

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Oskar Schindler's office, in the Schindler Factory Museum
With this week being the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I wanted to write about my visit to the Schindler Factory in Krakow, Poland. If you've seen the movie Schindler's List, you'll be familiar with the story of the German Nazi who saved the lives of 1200 Jewish people, who would otherwise have perished at Auschwitz.
An enlarged reproduction of Schindler's list
The factory, located in an industrial area of Krakow, had fallen into disrepair since the Second World War. However, it was recently turned into a museum that depicts prewar life in Krakow, the five years that the city was under Nazi occupation, and its liberation in 1945. Part of the exhibit featured the horrors that existed behind the walls at Auschwitz.

Visiting a museum like this wasn't easy. Life in Krakow under the Nazi occupation was difficult and dangerous. Life in Auschwitz was, of course, much worse. To see the human tragedies depicted here was to see some of the worst of humanity.

The tinware sarcophagus, a memorial to the Jewish workers at the factory
The museum ended with two thought-provoking exhibits that illustrated how goodness often coexists with evil, and how we can often choose which path to follow.

The Room of Choices was a circular room, with quotations on the walls in many languages. These quotes described the actions of those who, faced with ethical choices, took action to assist another person, even if that choice imperilled their own lives.  The rotating pillars around the room presented occasions when people might have helped, but did not.


Before leaving, we were invited to peruse a book that featured some of the courageous and generous acts people did for others during this time. Each page was labelled with a virtue, such as humanitarianism, compassion, or dignity, and told a story that illustrated that virtue in action.



Oskar Schindler was no saint. He was a Nazi, a heavy-drinking womanizer who began his business as a profiteer. Why did he do what he did? He is quoted as saying, "I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That's all there is to it."

Some of the more than 1200 Jewish people saved from death at Auschwitz by Oskar Schindler




15 comments:

Delectably Green said...

I can imagine how very difficult the museum must have been, the cruelty is chilling and the bravery is wonderful.
Mary

Liz Berg said...

You cannot come away from a visit like this untouched, unchanged. Thanks for sharing, Beth.

scrambledhenfruit said...

This is a thought provoking exhibit, for sure. It must have been very difficult.

yummychunklet said...

Wow. What a great way to see the names/people from the film.

Barbara said...

Must have been difficult to see, Beth. Thanks for sharing this visit...I doubt few of us have been there.

Kayte said...

For the past 8 years at school, at the end of the year when the seniors have more or less finished all their bookwork and exams, I have shown Shindler's List to them. No one can see the movie without it having great impact on them. We have a study packet to accompany the movie. It is the most profound bit of "teaching" that I share with the students...years go by and I run into former students here and there and they always say, "I will never forget when we watched Shindler's List together." Which is the whole point of having them watch it...so they never forget. It changes you forever, no one is ever the same after having seen that movie. I can imagine how powerful the factory museum must have been.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

A visit to the museum had to be a moving experience…thanks for sharing this post.

Laura Dembowski said...

I have never seen Schindler's List, but I would like to. I am sure it is a tough film, but it's so important to know about history like that.

Natalie Aguirre said...

That must have been a very difficult place to visit. But so important that there are places like that to remind us not to forget. Especially now.

The Glamorous Gourmet said...

Wow what a visit & such a deeply moving experience! Thank you so much for sharing your visit with us:)

Marcela said...

I live in Cracow and I've been there once.. I cannot forget it...

Gloria Baker said...

Amazing and interesting post!
BTW I think Schindler make a lot of good things, and help in these terrible times Beth!
Thanks by sharing !

Mary @ The World Is A Book said...

Schindler's List was such a powerful movie and I can only imagine the experience of visiting the factory. No matter how difficult, visits to historical sites like these are necessary and can make such a profound impact. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Catherine said...

Dear Beth, Thank you again beth for sharing your journey. xo Catherine

I Wilkerson said...

The film was difficult to watch, so I can see how the visit would be hard. But so important to remember.

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