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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Exploring History: A Visit to the Oskar Schindler Factory in Krakow - 2023

The bastardly SS Nazis in Poland did unspeakable destruction of life for almost five long, cold years - 1939-1945 (even more years in their occupied countries like France during the 1930s). They kept impeccable records on almost everything, though they couldn't destroy them all when the USA and their Allies liberated the European cities in '45. Plenty of movies portrayed their brutality, slaughtering, and annihilation of millions of innocent people, which is difficult to understand or even comprehend, or at least for me.

Last year, while visiting two main concentration camps, Auschwitz and Treblinka, I blogged that I would get back to unpacking a few more stories about them since I was touring and had spotty Wi-Fi. But after yesterday's post, I wanted to challenge myself today to report there was good over evil by the man many know of, Oskar Schindler.

Director Steven Spielberg was onto something grand in filming the extraordinary story of a man who outwitted and outsmarted many German SS officers - even after joining the Nazi party. Heck, Speilberg and the movie won seven deserved Oscars for the 1993 film and did an amazing job opening hearts and eyes to WW11 atrocities.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II, which has just started. After joining the Nazi party primarily for political expediency, he staffs his factory with Jewish workers for similarly pragmatic reasons. When the SS begins exterminating Jews in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory in operation but soon realizes that, in so doing, he is also saving innocent lives.

When my cousin, Renata, and her husband, Jerzy, mentioned in the preplanning stages of my trip to Poland, and more specifically, Kraków, I was all in. I love that medieval city and its environs, which, to my utter delight, included a visit to the Schindler Enamel Factory Museum on the itinerary.

After the war, the factory was nationalized as a company manufacturing telecommunications equipment. Only in 2005, the territory returned to the use of the city of Krakow, and since 2007, the exposition of the ‘Krakow Historical Museum,' or as we know it - the Schindler Factory. The museum has the desk and the stairs from the set of Schindler's List as part of the tour, plus more artifacts that uncovered the unbelievable humanitarian efforts to keep over a thousand people alive.

Schindler, although saddled with guilt and long hours of work for his employees, used bribes, contacts for food sources, and anything else to make it just a bit easier for his workers whenever he could. He was not a perfect man, but he was a perfect example of trying to bring good over evil in harrowing times. Having the opportunity to be up close and "personal" with visiting this factory and all it stood for in debilitating and challenging times, not only gave me pause but an appreciation for how difficult life was for millions of people for far too long.

I wonder how many other "Oskar Schindlers" are out there, unsung heroes we may never know. And since so many journals, books, and letters were destroyed with their people or went up in smoke due to the bombings throughout Europe, there is probably little chance something will turn up now. Miracles do happen, as Anne Frank's journal was held for safekeeping by her father. So, I suspect there are some chances of discovering many more war heroes and heroines in our future.




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