The museum housed in the former administration building of Oskar Schindler’s Factory of Enameled Vessels, Emalia, tells the story of the man himself and of the Jewish prisoners of the nearby Płaszów concentration camp, who were the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s hit film “Schindler’s List”.
The museum is located in the administration building of the former plant at Lipowa street, in Krakow’s industrial district of Zabłocie, on the right bank of Vistula. The exhibitions include period items, photos and documents with multimedia and fixed arrangements, designed to give a genuine experience.
Items illustrating the life of Oskar Schindler, the factory and the lives of its Jewish workers form the core of the exhibition. The museum also presents pre-war Krakow, the German invasion in 1939, everyday life under Nazi occupation, the resistance movement and underground Polish state and last but not least, the Soviet capture of Krakow.
The central part of the exposition concerning Oskar Schindler himself is his office. About one sixth of the museum’s permanent exhibition is dedicated to Schindler, his factory and the history of Jewish workers who used to work there. The museum’s facilities of Schindler’s Factory consist of three parts. These include its permanent show, the screening room and space set aside for temporary displays. The permanent exhibition is entitled ‘Krakow under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945’, which correctly summarises the contents. The screening room is designed as a venue for lectures, movies, meetings and various cultural or educational activities.
Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist who is credited with saving over 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic respectively. He is the subject of the novel “Schindler’s Ark” and the film based on it, “Schindler’s List”.
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 Krakow. With the help of his German-speaking Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, Schindler obtained around 1,000 Jewish forced labourers to work there.
Schindler renamed the factory Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik or DEF. He 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 might have been motivated by money, as Jewish labour cost less, but later he began shielding his workers without regard for costs. He would, for instance, claim that certain unskilled workers were essential to the factory. 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 handicapped persons 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 killing” that was going on in the Płaszów camp next door.
As the Red Army drew nearer to Auschwitz concentration camp and the other easternmost concentration camps, the SS began evacuating the remaining prisoners westward. Tipped off to the factory closure, Schindler persuaded the SS officials to allow him to move his 1,200 Jewish workers to Brünnlitz (Brněnec), in the German-speaking Sudetenland, thus sparing them from certain death in the gas chambers. Mietek Pemper, Schindler’s employee, further aided his efforts by compiling and typing the list of 1,200 Jews – 1,000 of Schindler’s workers and 200 other inmates, or the famous Schindler’s list – who were sent to Brünnlitz in October 1944.