Thanks to Steven Spielberg, almost everyone knows the film Schindler’s List.
Schindler’s Enamelware Factory is located in the working class distract of Podgórze, about a 15-20 minute walk over the mighty Vistula from the Jewish Quarter, or it is easy to take a tram from a major stop in Kazimierz toward Podgorze.
There are several sites near the factory that should not be missed, especially if one is in search of Holocaust and World War II history. One site is the Ghetto Heroes Square. Try to find it at a time when less people are around, as the silent shadows of chairs dot the square, a testimony to the ghetto residents who left all their things behind and were shipped off to death camps. It is a solemn memorial of the people who would never come back.
At the back corner of the square is the Pharmacy Under the Eagle, the only Gentile business allowed to operate in the Jewish ghetto. The owner is known for having dispensed medicine to those who needed it, and he also reportedly saved several Jews from deportation. The resorted pharmacy allows visitors to open drawers, check through old medicines, and read the stories of the people from the ghetto. The ticket can be bought in combination with one from Schindler’s Factory, and it’s well worth a visit.
Just down from Schindler’s factory is the only surviving remnant of the old ghetto wall, the tops curved just so. The “just so” part is actually a representation of Jewish grave markers. The symbolism was hardly lost on those in the ghetto – or on the Nazi oppressors determined to exterminate the Jews. I stood under the white, flowery trees and listened to the relative quiet of the street on that afternoon, and it is hard not to get lost in the past.
Schindler’s factory is the anchor for all these sites, and it is a must-visit. At 4 Lipowa, it’s identifiable by the pictures of Jews Schindler saved on its outside windows. The exhibit inside is very well-done, telling more about the Jewish culture in Krakow and life under Nazi occupation rather than only glorifying Schindler. He is a very small part of the museum in general. The focus on what happened to the Jews is telling. Walking through the makeshift ghetto walls brings an eerie and sombre feeling.
Everything reminds me that this was only 70ish years ago. Our survivors are dying, and soon, their memories will be gone. One day, there will be no more Holocaust survivors. What do we do then?
This is why we need Schindler’s Factory, the Galacia Jewish Museum (which I’ll visit later), and the death camp museums. Why we need the stories now, why the next group of students need to learn about it, and why we need to pay attention to global issues now instead of ignoring them.
The past cannot be undone. But the future? There is so much we can make better if we make an effort.