“ A poignant museum housed in a former enamel factory,made famous in the film "Schindler`s List", telling the story of Krakow between 1939-1945. „
Schindler's Factory - The museum of Krakow 1939 - 1945 -1956
The museum can be found at 4 Lipowa street which is about three kilometers southeast from Krakow's Old Town historical centre. Apparently parking is hard to find in the area so it might be best to park elsewhere and walk or use public transport.The nearest bus stop within walking distance of Schindler's Factory is Krakowska Akademia stop at Herlinga Grudzinskiego street. The closest tram stop is situated at Plac Bohaterow Getta square.
Oskar Schindler's extremely brave sheltering of hundreds of Jewish people who would otherwise have perished in the Concentration Camps just outside Krakow is a story that most people know well from the film 'Schindler's List' which was based on a Thomas Keneally book called 'Schindler's Ark' I believe.
We went hunting for the factory on foot across a bridge and then stupidly followed road signs so we turned the wrong way and walked about a mile more than we should have. It isn't very well signed so do use your map and common sense and don't follow the signs for cars as it takes you a very long way round.
The factory when used by Oskar Schindler made enamelware and one section of the museum spends some time on the history of the factory and what they made, who worked there and how Schindler was able to save them from the Nazis. There was also a film with clips from Schindler survivors who told their story of how they were gradually pushed into the ghetto then rounded up and how Schindler managed to rescue about 1200 from the Nazi clutches.
Strangely Schindler was a Nazi and it was this fact that enabled him to hide all these Jewish people. He was no saint as he enjoyed a drink and was keen to turn a profit but his heart must have been in the right place as he didn't need to save all those people and risked his life so doing. The factory was previously owned by a Jewish family and initially he was motivated by greed employing Jews as they were cheap labour and he arranged for a pretty awful camp to be built near to his factory to house his work force.
So although he was initially after turning a profit he soon began to spend his own money on rescuing these people. He persuaded the Nazis to move the factory further out of the city. It has been estimated that he spent about 4 million marks of his own money on bribing Nazis and protecting his work force and his wife even sold her jewellery. Interestingly whilst he was making shells at his factory in Brunlitz not one shell left the factory in working condition.
The museum is open April to October on Tuesday to Sunday from 10am till 5.30. In Winter the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am till 4pm most days but 10am till 5pm on the week end and it stays open late on Thursday till 7pm.
Today the original factory gates are still there and the windows have photos of many of the survivors saved by Schindler. Once you enter the building you have to leave any bags and coats (great as it is really hot inside the museum and mighty cold outside when we were there) with a cloak room attendant and you are given a ticket for its collection.
Opposite the cloak room is a small gift counter, not really a shop and really it had postcards and books and not a lot else. Oh yes you could buy enamel mugs with Schindler's factory on them too.
Entry to the museum is 15 zloty which considering what an amazingly huge place this is with the most fabulous exhibits and gallery after gallery packed with information and photos as well as interactive displays I think it is just so worth a visit.
Before visiting Krakow Ii was pretty ignorant of how badly the residents of this city suffered under the Nazi invasion. Everyone knows the Nazis were foul but they refined they art of foulness here I think.
The galleries covered so many aspects of life in Krakow and the stories are told through individual people's stories. So many aspects are covered from everyday life of the people, the role of Krakow as the seat of central government, the underground and the ghetto. The exhibits include film clips, photos, actual items as well as interactive things such as mini films you look through sort of viewers a bit like binoculars and there were also stamping machine with cards that had a specific memorable date and information. You could then put a printed stamp on your card as a souvenir. I think there were about five or six of these and if you were taking a class of children around I suspect that these could be very busy.
The central feature of the entire museum is the city of Krakow and its inhabitants, both the Polish and the Jewish communities who were confronted with the German occupation.
As you move through the galleries you are taken from pre -war Krakow with happy looking people, lots of photos and music and radios playing, the German invasion in 1939, Krakow as the capital of Poland under the Nazi occupation, the horrors and struggles of everyday living in the occupied city, family life, the wartime history of Krakow Jews, the resistance movement, the underground Polish state, and lastly the Soviet capture of the city. You really are taken on an emotional roller coaster as you walk from gallery to gallery.
Within the museum parts of it had been left as they were or recreated and these included Schindler's office and a huge display of enamel ware as made in the factory but this is only part of the entire story which starts in 1939 and as you move through galleries, all 22 of them you become immersed in the horror that Krakow underwent during these years of terror. As a visitor become increasingly aware of the fear, uncertainty, pain and terror felt by the people in the city not only the Jews, but all the residents of Kraków.
Entire streets have been recreated to show what Krakow was like at the time and indeed the ghetto complete with the wall built to look like gravestones is also recreated within the museum. This is no small insignificant museum the galleries are huge and the exhibits life sized and so real.
It is a really huge museum and you do have to walk quite a way. They say allow a couple of hours but in my view you could take even longer as there really is a lot to see and a lot of walking. We had to go up and down several sets of stairs so if you have mobility problems this could be difficult. I think that I saw a lift but should you need this I would phone before going to check.
This is a very new museum using the latest technology and interactive displays so that children can access the information as well as adults. It is a museum that will also help the residents of Krakow and Poland come to terms with what they went through. It is a chance for the younger generation to have an idea of what their parents and grandparents lived through and survived despite the odds.
The exhibition brings to life all the horror and problems of this time which had particularly unusual significance for the later history of not only Kraków but Poland and the whole of Europe. This time and war changed the face of Europe as it was known then and it was not until fairly recently that the residents of many parts of Europe have been allowed Western freedoms tha we have enjoyed for many years. All the information is in both Polish and English which was very forward thinking as so many nationalities speak English and so few English speak other languages.
If you are in Krakow this is one place that I would say really opens your eyes to the history of the city and the terrible suffering that the inhabitants underwent at this time. Having seen the film I really wanted to visit the factory and it was an unexpected bonus that we found this fabulous museum.
Just around the corner you can also visit the Gestapo cells which were used for torture and imprisonment and the empty cells now bare the inscriptions carved by former prisoners. We didn't visit these as by the time we had been around the museum we felt pretty emotionally drained and also suffering a little from information overload. I do find there comes a point in most museums when Ii just can't actually take in any more information. That is why I like to visit local museums and only go to a small part each time.
As well as toilets, which were very modern clean and efficient and free there was the small gift shop I mentioned and a lovely little cafe called as the 'Movie Cafe'. This was made to be part of the museum too as all the walls are covered in pictures taken during the making of 'Schindler's List' and memorabilia from the film itself is displayed. We didn't stop here for food as we were wanting to get closer to our hotel and were planning on grabbing a bit at one of the places in the nearby shopping centre but the food was quite appetising.
Anyway as I said this is a pretty impressive museum fill of information and exhibits recreated and original and I certainly learned a lot from my visit. I would say allow at least two hours but probably longer is really needed to take it all in.
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