Emailwarenfabrik: Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow
Emailwarenfabrik: Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow


In the period between the two World Wars, this site on the outskirts of Krakow was a production home to the ‘’Krakow factory for the production of wire, mesh, and metal products by Władysław Kukharski’’. In 1936, three wealthy Krakow Jews rented several production workshops from the plant and bought a piece of land out of the crop, which would later become the famous Lipowa 4. Already in the same year, the new owners built a stamping room for metal processing, a pickling premise to remove dirt, and an enameling one for enameling. The new enterprise was named ’LLC RECORD First Malopolska factory of enamelware and metal products’’.

The ‘RECORD’ factory was declared bankrupt already in the summer of 1939, several months before the outbreak of war and the German occupation. In November of the same year, the Czechoslovak entrepreneur Oskar Schindler was put in charge of the board of trustees of the factory. On January 15, 1940, Schindler succeeded to rent the factory buildings at Lipowa 4, and later, thanks to the assets from Jewish investors, acquired the whole territory into ownership, changing the official name to “Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik” or DEF. Oskar Schindler obtained full ownership only two years later, in 1942. Other buildings, workshops, and premises were completed the same year. In particular: dining room, stables, accounting, and three more workshops: turning hall, pressing machine hall, and a tool room. Later on, another stamping workshop was added, as well as warehouses for manufactured goods. In 1944, a new stamping room, designed by SIEMENS was added.

DEF Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik Oskar Schindler's factory
Oskar Schindler and his administrative staff, 1944. Celebration of the fours years of operation
Oskar Schindler's DEF factory 1944
Some sources misleadingly attribute this photo to Brünnlitz, while it is in fact Emalia in Krakow

At the start, the workers of the DEF (Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik) were mainly Polish citizens, but gradually the focus of the workforce was shifted to Jews from the Krakow ghetto. Initially, they covered the distance to work on foot from the ghetto,  and after its elimination did walk from the Plaszow labor camp. Later, Oskar Schindler received permission to build a labor camp within the adjacent site with living conditions in fact much better than in Plaszow. With the elimination of Plaszow and the approach of the Red Army, Oskar Schindler evacuated his enterprise to his hometown of Brunlitz in the Czech Republic, and the DEF was closed. Two years later, the territory of the former Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow was nationalized. For more than half a century, from 1949 to 2002, the production of ‘TELPOD telecommunication hubs’ operated at Lipowa 4. Only in 2005, the territory returned to the use of the city of Krakow, and since 2007 the exposition of the ‘Krakow Historical Museum’ called ”Krakow. The period of occupation 1939-1945” has been located here.

Schindler's Factory in Krakow in the 1950s. d.e.f deutsche emailwarenfabrik
A view over Lipowa Street and the former Schindler’s factory in the 1950s during the stagnation of the communist regime



Just one block from the famous Oskar Schindler’s “Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik” factory, at Tadeusza Romanowicza 9, you can find one of the former properties owned by Oskar Schindler. Very few tourists praise the existence of this building, only a couple of hundred meters from the DEF. For most of the time spent in Krakow, Oskar Schindler lived in an apartment on the third floor of the building at Straszewskiego 7, which we saw in the “Schindler’s List” by Steven Spielberg. This very apartment is often mentioned within the “Schindler’s Ark” book by Thomas Keneally, whereas in contrast there is no information about the villa near the DEF Schindler factory. At the same time, the building once belonged to Oskar Shindler has remained almost unchanged since the 1940s.

Oskar Schindler's house (villa) in Krakow. oskar schindler house krakow
This villa house is literally around the corner from Lipowa at Tadeusza Romanowicza 9
Villa of Schindler at Tadeusza Romanowicza 9
The building has slightly changed in the last eight decades, at least it looked like this in May 2018



The front side of the former “Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik (DEF)” building or, as we know it, the Oskar Schindler factory in Krakow, Poland has changed little since the occupation of Krakow and the entrepreneurial activity of Oskar Schindler during the war. We can still observe the same two columns on either side of the entrance, the forged gate at the entrance, the rounded front of the building with windows, and the windows on the second and third floors. The original gates were eventually replaced by the modern ones. The second and third floors are covered with facing plaster today. And, of course, the modern entrance to the “Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera” museum from the front of the building along Lipowa 4 did not exist in the 1930-1940-s and was added after the passing into the ownership of Krakow in 2005.

“Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera” museum
While I had come to the site one hour before opening, toward 11 a.m. the street was crowded with tourists

Today four LED lamps have been installed right above the main gate of the former Oskar Schindler Factory, to illuminate the entrance at night. To their left, on the six stained stained-glass windows, the museum exhibits photographs of some of the “Schindler’s children” – Jews who once worked within the Schindler DEF factory and survived the war. Photos of survivors of different post-war ages were memorized on more than 200 tablets. For example, the portrait of Mila Prefferberg, known for the “Schindler’s List” movie depicts this woman in old age.

The front-side of the Krakow factory. oskar schindler factory
The new administrative building during the War
Lipowa 4. Krakow. schindler's factory
The front side of the building was renovated several times but the iconic image is still pretty recognizable
FABRYKA SCHINDLERA Cracow. schindler factory krakow
The photos (mainly post-war) of more than 200 Schidler’s Jews near the entrance

A semicircular stand with exhibitions of the city of Krakow faces the entrance of the building at Lipowa 4. To the left of the door, there are two plates, made figuratively in the shape of metallic gears with inscriptions in Polish and English. The smaller one titles: KRAKOWSKI SZLAK TECHNIKI – ”Krakow’s industrial heritage route”. The bigger one: FABRYKA SCHINDLERA and the text: ”This production and warehouse complex was built in 1936 as a facility for the “Record” metalwork factory. Between 1939-1944, the DEF factory belonged to Oskar Shindler, who hired the workers among the Jews, otherwise, threatened to be destroyed. In 1948, the plant’s territory was expanded and used to house an enterprise for the production of telecommunications hubs”.

Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik (DEF) Lipowa 4
Two metallic gears with inscriptions in Polish and English

Still, to the left, between the two windows, we see a black metal sign with inscriptions in Polish, English, and Hebrew. First contains the very name of the historic site – ”Oskar Schindler Factory. 1939-1944”. Below is the famous dictum from the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves the entire world”. Next, the name and surname of Oskar Schindler in English and the years of his life: 1908-1974. And below the creators of the tablet are mentioned. ”Jewish Community Council of Krakow. Students and faculty of Albion College (Michigan, USA).

Oskar Schidnler's factory Lipowa 4 Krakow. oskar schindler factory museum
The famous phrase “Whoever saves one life saves the entire world” and my reflection in the window



All expositions of the “Krakow. The occupation period of 1939-1945″ exhibition occupies three floors of the main building on Lipowa Street 4 and is divided into several parts. Out of the gate, the visitor is greeted by a small piece of the exhibit – a real spindle press for metal pressing (made back in 1908), as well as the workshop carts transferred to the museum by the Emaliya factory, originating from the Polish city of the Olkusz. Unfortunately, the original press machines of the Oskar Schindler Factory have not survived to this day.

There used to be a small room to the right of the entrance, which was once used by cleaners to spend time and keep the inventory. Today it is a part of the museum exposition, representing more than 200 photographs of the “Schindler’s Jews” survived. There is a copy of the same photos that can be seen outside.

Main hall at Lipowa 4. schindler factory krakow museum
The former room for the cleaners now serves as a part of the museum exhibition
FABRYKA SCHINDLERA Lipowa 4. schindler factory museum krakow
A preserved museum piece of a machine once used for the production of enamel cookware

Passing into the depth of the hall on the first floor, we find a thematic gift shop. Here you can buy books on the Holocaust, the history of Poland and Krakow, and historical photo albums. As well as enameled souvenir cups with the signature of FABRYKA EMALIA OSKARA SCHINDLERA, magnets with the LIPOWA 4 signature, postcards, “Schindler’s Ark” book by Thomas Keneally in different languages. Here you can take for free a small booklet with a brief description of the museum exhibition. Immediately behind the store, there is a reception desk where entrance tickets are sold six days a week.

Perhaps the most atmospheric place on the first floor, in the main hall of Oskar Schindler’s Factory in Krakow can be found within a themed cafe dedicated to Steven Spielberg’s ”Schindler’s List” masterpiece. A number of frames out of the movie are placed inside the frames. For example, one photo depicts a moment when Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) walks lengthwise on the railway platform with Yitzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley). In addition, you can see a large photograph of the shooting process on the glass partition, with Steven Spielberg at the head. And the most interesting part of the interior is the tables with the images from the movie and even a three-dimensional model of the Plaszow camp replica, recreated for filming in a Liban quarry.

I was delighted to have a break inside a small cinema cafe on the first floor. The tables are designed with the production designs from ‘Schindler’s List’
Schidnler's cafe KRakow
The still photographs from the movie add a cinematic atmosphere to the place
Models of the Plaszow camp for Schindler's list movie
The production designs made by Allan Starski for Spielberg’s masterpiece with the replica of the Plaszow camp in the Liban quarry

There is another room between the cafe and the main entrance to the museum exposition – the Hall for temporary exhibitions. As the name implies, thematic expositions connected with the history of Krakow and coordinated by the Krakow Historical Museum are exhibited here. At the actual exhibition in May 2018, the greatest impression was made by the installation of shadows – figures of people illuminated from the side and rotating in a circle, casting dark shadows.

Krakow Historical Museum at Lipowa 4. oskar schindler's enamel factory
During my visit to Krakow in May 2018, the Hall for temporary exhibitions looked like this
Temporary exhibition at the DEF factory museum
An impressive installation of shadow figures



We get to the first floor (in fact, as in Germany, the second floor from the ground). A small imitation of the pre-war photo studio tells about the life of Krakow in the period between the two World Wars. Devices of the first half of the twentieth century, city cinema and theater posters, as well as an impressive photoplasticon of the time. In addition to newspapers, residents of Krakow used to read important news, including the military annexations conquered by Germany in the second half of the 1930s. These photos of the photoplasticon prepare the visitor for a fundamental change in the history of Poland and Krakow, in particular in 1939. The photographic plates also depict ordinary residents of different religions, ages, and social statuses of Krakow.

Photographer and Photoplastikon. schindler's factory in Krakow
The opening of the exhibition invites you to look at the Photoplastikon



This exhibition symbolizes the intense pre-war period, on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War. We see typical (for the waiting room) benches on two sides, under the imitation of the window facing the platform. One of the benches accommodates bags and knapsacks with belongings, as a symbol of the upcoming path and unknown fate. Through imitation of the window, we observe a video of a real Krakow railway station, footage back in the summer of 1939. Civilians arriving in the city or leaving far away in the outback. Mobilized men with things that will soon have to defend their homeland from two aggressors (the Third Reich and the USSR). There are newspaper clippings of the 1938-1939s on the walls of this waiting room, in particular, a document announcing the partial mobilization of the male population in August 1939.

Station waiting room: DEF factory museum
The replica of the waiting room at the Krakow main railway station how it supposedly looked in 1939



Directing our visiting way from the waiting room we reveal a part of the exposition, which symbolizes the beginning of the Second World War and the German attack on Poland on September 1, 1939. The voices of the railway platform are being replaced by the sounds of military operations, dive bombers, machine-gun bursts, and emergency messages on national Polish radio. Rightward in the hole, we experience a replica of a Polish fortification with a machine gun and a rifle, both manufactured back in the times of the Great War (First World War). Archive newsreel of the Polish campaign is accessible by means of one of the openings and there are samples of uniforms of the Polish army. In particular, the officer’s uniform, helmets, binoculars, and a service pistol. A little further we manage a minify metal copy of a Polish tankette (small tank) dating back to the 1930s, re-modeled according to the drawings of the in-fact war vehicle. These small self-propelled vehicles, made with an eye on the British models, armed with only a 20 mm machine gun, had been heroically engaged in battle with the that-day-present Wehrmacht tanks.  We see crumpled military equipment on the battlefield on the wall behind the tanket.

“Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik” or DEF. schindler's factory poland
Self-propelled vehicle with 20mm gun



The first military exposition room passes into a small premise, symbolizing the hallway in a typical Polish apartment building of September 1939. A baby buggy in the corner and the flashed-on mailboxes of the apartments both refer to the tragic news from the front, as well as from Polish men who were captured or arrested by the Germans already in September 1939. A little further you can see a few letters of the Polish prisoners of war. From here we turn left into a narrow corridor, making a hair curling with the Nazi swastika banners of bloody red colors. On both sides, German agitation posters were recreated on the walls, as well as orders of the new administration, in particular on the creation of the so-called General Government with Krakow as a nominal capital. Hans Frank, the general governor of the new pseudo-political formation performed his duties in a cabinet in the Wawel Castle in the heart of the city.



We can observe German soldiers erecting a swastika over Krakow in one of the enlarged photographs in the next room. Dozens of photographs of the city of Krakow, its inhabitants, the first examples of racial discrimination against Jews, and the actions of the occupation authorities are exhibited behind the glass. German editions and portraits of Adolf Hitler are visible behind the imitation of one of the windows of the city, a bookstore. A peculiar gem of this exposition is the layout of the front part of the Krakow tram car, reconstructed in full size. At the front, you can see route number 6, as well as one of the end stations – the ”Kraków Salvator” area. Behind the car, you can experience a photo of a traffic controller, as well as two inscriptions in large letters: FUR JUDEN (For Jews) and FUR NICHT JUDEN (For non-Jews). These titles symbolize racial segregation in the city, defining public places where Jews could not appear in Krakow.

1939 city square Krakow exposition
A narrow corridor frustrates you with the swastika banners
1939 city square
This hall takes you into Krakow in 1939



The next room of the ‘’Krakow. The Occupation period of 1939-1945’’ exhibition tells us a sad story of a planned terror against the Polish intelligentsia. Museum replica of the lecture hall of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow, in which the members of the professorial college had been convened and arrested on November 6, 1939. The Germans could not allow the opposition and preservation of the intellectual heritage of the Polish people. University announcements are posted on the stand behind the glass, and a post-war model of lecture shops of the 1930s, with a professorial portfolio, and a real teaching chair of the end of the 19th century are visible ahead. Immediately behind the seat, we see a model of the back of the truck, similar to those the arrested were taken in.

The arrest of the Krakow intellectuals (Sonderaktion Krakau)
The desks and chairs, and a professor’s briefcase commemorate the opression of the Polish intelligentsia



Ahead we can observe an enlarged copy of the Krakow newspaper cover story with a photograph of Hans Frank, a former lawyer of Adolf Hitler, who was appointed as a governor of one of the three administrative divisions in the territory of conquered Poland. The newspaper announces the official arrival of Frank in the Wawel Castle on November 7, 1939, from where he will manage his “kingdom of terror”. Further ahead and to the right on the wall, there are pictures of the daily life of the inhabitants of the city after the establishment of new orders. There are photographs of the marching German military, and the big screen reflects footage of the demonstrations, parades, and holidays, which the residents of the occupied Krakow now had to endure. One of the five museum composters stands near the wall, where (on a small cardboard card) one can stamp the date on the imitation of the document dated September 1, 1940. Directly above it, behind the glass, one can observe the preserved stamps of that period, the original documents, and special badges. In a corner on a small screen, video interviews with former residents of the city are played.

General-Government hall at DEF museum
The narrow corridors and roomless halls with archival photos create a feeling of uneasiness
Books on General Government
Preserved rare books from the period of occupation of Krakow

A metal NSDAP badge is attached to the right side of the large concrete arch. Behind it, on the left, under the glass below, there are samples of German weapons: the legendary MP-40 machine gun, as well as several pistols. Behind them, we can observe the samples of porcelain of that time and books in German, the subjects of which are connected with Poland. On the right side of this room, we see a variety of architectural plans for changing the image of Krakow, as well as photographs of those works that were indeed carried out. Above one of the arches, there is a large metal plate. On either side of the Nazi eagle holding a swastika in its claws, we can read the words STAATS THEATER, and below: DES GENERALGOUVERNEMENTS. Intendant: Friedrich Franz Stampe (State General-Government Theater. Leader: Friedrich Franz Stampe).

General-Government Krakow Staats Theater
State General-Government Theater. Leader: Friedrich Franz Stampe



This chilling and awe-inspiring part of the museum exposition conveys the violent measures that were carried out by the occupying authorities to completely subjugate the Polish and Jewish population of the city of Krakow. We see a Jewish man with a Star of David on his shoulder, next to a smiling young German soldier in a full-height enlarged photo. This is a fragment of the scene of one of the first large-scale evacuations of Jews from Krakow yet to other areas of the General Government. The sign “Ulica MONTELUPICH”, letters of hostages and prisoners, and objects for torture, symbolize pre-planned terror against the population. Also, photos of the Montelupich Prison and a replica of a death ward cell symbolize one of the most sinister places in the city and the first place of mass executions even before the ‘’final solution of the Jewish question’’ was put into operation. The photographs depict the execution of civilians, in particular, by hanging directly on the streets of Krakow.

Terror exposition: Schindler's museum
While you move deeper into the building, the crowdedness eliminates



The layout of the interior of the Krakow tram car, made in real terms is a key element of the exhibition within this part of the museum. Wooden benches attached to the driver’s door, and the daily newspapers of the city form a historical perspective of the period. The four imitations of the carriage windows show synchronous newsreels of Krakow’s daily life during the occupation. Despite the terror against the population and racial intolerance, hundreds of thousands of men and women, children, and the elderly struggled to survive in this new world of the occupation of their homeland. We see propaganda pictures of the German newsreel, which show us smiling and happy people, for example, a boy who cheerfully holds products in his arms.  There are the preserved originals of ration cards, according to which the Poles could receive a meager set of products, and the rest had to be obtained on the black market.

Every-day life in 1940-1941
You can not only look at but even take a seat inside this replica of the Krakow tram



A large metal plate with the ”KRAKAU hbf.” title in German opens the installation of the Krakow Central Railway Station. We see the train schedule, as well as a large map of the General Government with the designations of such cities as Lublin, Lemberg (Lviv), Chelmn, Tarnow, and Warsaw in the north. Another sign at the door with a window indicates the passage to Platform 1 (ZUM BAHSTEIG 1), and the other – the descent to the apron B. On the wall, you can also see photos of people and trains of the time.

Krakow Central Station
A giant sign in German uneasily symbolizes the occupation
A replica of the Krakow Central Station
This replica of the part of the train station creates no other feeling than being in Krakow in the 1940s
The map of General-Government in Poland
The map of the notorious General-Government in Poland made by the German occupants



We see a sign symbolizing the decree of March 3, 1941, which prescribed the creation of a Jewish ghetto in Krakow in the Podgóřze district, with the Jewish population moving there until March 20. Those inspired by the legendary “Schindler’s List” movie will immediately recognize the famous flight of stairs. Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, had an office shown at the top right of this staircase. It is of interest that this flight of stairs was added to the building of the former Oskar Schindler’s Factory after the war and has connected the first and second floors. On the walls, we see the original street signs that were a part of the Krakow ghetto or on which Jews lived before forced evictions: Straszewskiego, Ciemna, Szeroka, Koletek, etc. The wall on the right shows photographs of the relocation of the Jews into the ghetto, and there is a screen at the top of the stairs with the newsreels of the exodus of the Jews to Podgorze. A showcase exhibits values that were taken away from the Jewish population during the robberies: clocks, paintings, and Jewish menorah candlesticks.

The signs of the Krakow streets
The authentic street signs and the stairs famous for ‘Schinler’s list’
Mass robbery in the Krakow ghetto
The exhibition is devoted to the belongings that were taken away and stolen by the Nazis during the occupation



The so-called Labor Office of the Krakow ghetto was located at Jozefinska 10 at the time of the occupation. This bureaucratic German body was responsible for employing all Jews older than 14, mostly in German enterprises outside the ghetto. The exhibition in a small office on the second floor, up to the stairs to the right, reveals the theme of forced labor, which the German occupying authorities had organized in Poland and in Krakow, in particular. In the corner, on a hanger, you can see a typical working form of the time. The originals of the working papers, which, in the case of the Jews, had to be received anew each month at the Employment Bureau. The work cards of the former employees of the Oskar Schindler Factory known as “Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik” or DEF, who worked in this very building seventy-five years ago. It’s a matter of interest, that “Schindler’s List” depicts this room upstairs as the office of Oskar Schindler, which in reality was located further down the floor.

Replica of the Labor office
The exhibition deals with the issue of forced labor and bureaucratic apparatus during the occupation



This unusual name refers to the park ring around the Old Town in Krakow, where Polish citizens used to spend time during the occupation. Since the cinema repertoire was thoroughly controlled by the occupation authorities, most of the footage shown in Krakow was German. Among them, there were propaganda movies about the superiority of the Aryan race, the victories of the Wehrmacht, and the false pictures of the happy life of Poland. Despite a similar repertoire, cinema remained a popular leisure activity in the city of Krakow. There is a projector in the middle of the room, which shows a typical propaganda film about racial hygiene in the new ideology. The photograph on the side shows the inhabitants of Krakow, who arranged a queue at the ticket office. Further ahead there is a cinematic track with a projector inside. UBERTRAGUNGSWAGEN, which can be translated as ‘‘a car with a radio broadcasting installation”.

Krakow Planty (Planty krakowskie)
The replica of the cinematic screen projection machine and newsreel of the time



We pass the cinema room in occupied Krakow to enter a dark maze with an imitation of the stone walls of the Krakow ghetto. The first turn faces us with a photograph of men engaged in the construction of the wall in March 1941, with the top in the form of Jewish gravestones. On the walls further, the exposition offers to get acquainted with real photos from the ghetto, as well as quotes from the survivors, which are highlighted against a dark background. The ceiling here is also made of stone, symbolizing a prison inside the city for several tens of thousands of people.

Ghetto in Krakow
This section of the overall exhibition meets its visitors with a photograph of the process of building up the ghetto wall in Krakow in early 1941
History of the Krakow ghetto
The figures created on the basis of the historical photos intensify a depressing feeling

After coming back to the light, we see figures of men and women in full growth, with infamous bands with the Star of David on the sleeves. Further, behind the glass, the atmosphere of the overpopulated ghetto areas was recreated, with up to several families could live in one room – the scene emotionally conveyed in “Schindler’s List” movie. Behind the glass, an installation shows apartments and people crowded with poor belongings. A mom with a child, a woman at the sewing machine, an old woman with crutches, and an elderly man in the kitchen, filled with washed clothes.


EVERY-DAY LIFE: 1941-1943

We pass the imitation of overcrowded dwellings in the Krakow ghetto to find ourselves in a light, long corridor. On the right, you can see several tablets marking the important stages of wartime. Among them – were the German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the discovery of traces of war crimes by the Soviets in the Katyn forest, and the strengthening of the Polish resistance movement in the city. On the left wall, you can see various German propaganda posters of a military nature, increased circulation of local newspapers, and photographs with descriptions of everyday life in Krakow from 1941-1943.

Everyday life in the Krakow ghetto 1941-1943
The installation invents nothing new compared to other period museums, yet these replicas of the dwellings and figures of people create an effect of a time machine
Everyday life in the Krakow ghetto 1941-1943
A figure of an elderly Jew in his Krakow kitchen inside the ghetto



We manage the real secretariat of Oskar Schindler, which was located here during the work of the DEF Factory. On the left and right behind the glass there are photographs of the factory, with a brief description of its history, as well as the biography of Schindler himself. You can see the increased shots of the former employees of the factory who managed to survive the Holocaust. Documentation about the work of the enterprise is collected in numerous folders and volumes. On the table, the composition of Secretary Schindler is recreated, which includes a hat, a desk lamp, a typewriter, a telephone, a composter, and a director’s call button. Items are not from original DEF work times. Several leather briefcases of that time are placed on the hanger.


Secretariat of Oskar Schindler
The informational signs in English tell the story of the people who worked in the factory eighty years ago
Polish secretaries of Oskar Schindler
The secretarial staff of Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory



While “Schindler’s List” once depicted the office on the site of today’s exposition of the labor office, at the top of the staircase, the real office of Schindler was located here, in the depths of the second floor. Three parts of the exhibition deserve attention. First, a real working table of Oskar Schindler, his family photos, as well as a desk lamp, a folder, and a telephone from the 1940s. The second noteworthy element is the authentic map of Europe on the wall, which was actually located here during the work of Oskar Schindler as director of the “Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik”. Although after the war its original appearance was disturbed by erasing German inscriptions, restoration work has been done to reveal the fact and appearance. The third element in the room is, of course, a glass cube, with the enamelware of the 1940s.  There is an entrance 2 * 2 meters room inside the cube with the names of all the Schindler Jews.

Oskar Schindler's office
The glass cube filled with metal dishware and a metal cylinder with the names of 1100 known ‘Schindler’s Jews’
Oskar Schindler's office at the DEF factory Krakow
The authentic map behind Schindler’s desk was restored to its original 1940s state



Coming out of the office of Oskar Schindler, we find ourselves in the next large exhibition area. We face the figures of people, recreated at full height within the glass partitions from the photographs. We see a Polish boy selling a press approved by the occupation authorities. Women who are trying to maintain a beautiful appearance and vitality, smile at the photographer. Men, poets, artists – former cultural figures, who sit at the table, organizing unobvious meetings of the Polish intelligentsia. Separate stands tell the story of those remnants of cultural life in occupied Krakow in 1943.

The main square in 1943
After Schindler’s office, the visitors find themselves at the Krakow main square, created by the use of human figures at full height



We have already seen the recreated interior of a cramped dwelling in the Krakow ghetto and here we find ourselves in a modestly furnished dwelling of a member of the Polish underground. There were dozens of banned organizations, groups, and meetings in Krakow during the occupation. Men usually gathered in one of the apartments in the evenings, where they discussed important news, used to print and distribute illegal leaflets, taught young people, and agreed on planned actions, even violent ones. The exposition has original items that at one time belonged to the members of the Resistance, in particular, samples of weapons, and war-time underground leaflets.

Underground state Krakow. The period of occupation 1939-1945
Conspiratorial apartment in Krakow, whose dwellers were involved in the activity of the Polish underground
Krakow. The period of occupation 1939-1945
In such hideouts, young people could exchange news, illegally learned history and Polish, used to give cover to soldiers



The action to liquidate the Krakow ghetto was perpetrated by the German administration on March 13-14, 1943. The left wall of the long dark corridor represents an imitation of the ghetto wall, with photographs of those tragic events on the right hand, with raids on the streets, massacres, and forced relocation of able-bodied people to labor camps, especially to Plaszow. The end of the tunnel reflects the exposure of belongings piled up, a horse’s child’s toy, and beds — an image of the chaos and disorder that was organized. Behind the bend on the wall, you can see a schematic depiction of the ghetto, Liban quarry, and the Plaszow camp.

Liquidation of the ghetto
A long corridor created a claustrophobic feeling similar to the horrors of living behind the wall
The exposition devoted to Liquidation of the ghetto
The exposition devoted to the Liquidation of the ghetto made of people’s belongings left behind in the former apartments



First labor, and after the concentration camp Plaszow, had become the place where 8000 inhabitants of the Krakow ghetto, who were deemed suitable for further work, were forcibly driven. We see an enlarged panorama of the camp, taken from a hill. Here, in capital letters, in English, there is a quote from one of the Holocaust survivors, Mila Hornik. “Graveyard is all around, a gravestone and a funeral home, and several lonely barracks. We were all depressed, telling each other that there was no turning back from the cemetery”. The most remarkable part of this exhibition deals with a gateway of Plaszow, which survived the war and today is kept here as part of the exhibition. Large gravel is scattered on the floor in the room to create the impression of a labor camp and a quarry in the very heart of the former Oskar Schindler’s factory.

Map of the Plaszow concentration camp
A panoramic photograph of the infamous Plaszow concentration camp with a quote from one of the survivors
The main gate of Plaszow
The authentic gates from Plaszow and the transport bogey recreate the scene of hard labor in the quarry



After dark images of the Plaszow camp, the excursion passes to the first floor. The unremarkable flight of stairs exhibits an unobvious part of the museum exhibition. German propaganda posters of the time of the occupation of Krakow. The earlier ones were anti-Semitic and racial in nature and were intended to blacken the Jewish population of the city and the Jews of Europe as a nation. The later propaganda posters convey an anti-Bolshevik character and called on the Polish population to side with Germany in the common struggle against the advancing Red Army from 1944 to 1945.

German propaganda
Two of the German propaganda posters which can be now seen at the staircase flight between the floors



This part of the exhibition restores the atmosphere of a barbershop in Krakow as it was back in 1944. Orders from the occupation authorities cover the walls, and announcements are heard on the radio. A kind of graphic composition, reminiscent of comics, tells about the assassination attempt of members of the Polish resistance movement against Wilhelm Knopp, the highest SS officer within the General Government. The entourage and, more importantly, the original equipment of the first half of the twentieth century, were transferred to the museum as a gift. Until 1993, it had been used for more than half a century in the urban hairdressing salon of Jozef Drabik.

Krakow barbershop
This part of the exhibition was recreated with authentic museum units from the period
The replica of the Krakow barbershop
Take notice of the authentic newspapers on the walls



This small dark room presents an idea of the conditions in which the surviving Jews of Krakow were hidden by Polish citizens, under the threat of their own death. In 1944, several raids took place in the city of Krakow and one of which was a response to the Warsaw Uprising. Behind the shelves with canned goods and empty cans, we see two small bunks and a hanger with the poor belongings of the people hiding. The information plate here recollects the story of Adam Kowalski, who hid ten Jewish fugitives from the Krakow ghetto in the basement of his house. He dared to bring the radio there and there could be no punishment for this except death.

Replica of Krakow basement
The replica of the Krakow basement reflects the dangerous life of the underground activists during the occupation



In advance of the arrival of the Red Army, the Germans evacuated the German population and the most important enterprises from the Krakow area. Local Poles were forcedly occupied with the construction of fortifications, to try to turn the city into a fortress. There are dozens of photographs of anti-air bunkers, anti-tank ditches, and barriers, air defense points, kilometers of barbed wire. Machine guns, anti-tank handguns, and a cannon are also represented here. A little further, in the next room, we can observe an imitation of the defensive bunker at the end of 1944.

The last months of the occupation in Krakow
In contrast to Warsaw, Krakow was left by the Germans almost intact which made the historical center of the city an open-air museum



Multimedia screens and photographs convey the phasing of the liberation of Krakow. The Germans had previously left the city without bloody battles, so the ”liberation” was no more than nominal. The second room exhibits a portrait of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. After the German occupation of Krakow, the soldiers of the Red Army installed similar paintings on the streets of Krakow, thus proclaiming their own victory and strength.

Coming of the Red Army exposition
The notorious bloody dictator Stalin came after Hitler and Poland was suppressed by the draconian regime



The marble walls of this hall place quotations, stories, and biographies (in English, Polish, and Hebrew) of people who opposed themselves the German occupation, saved the innocent, and fought for freedom. Several rotating disks present opposed examples of the absence of compassion and the will for justice. The following room with two books is of great museum interest. The so-called “WHITE” book, in which SPRAWIEDLIWI (The Righteous) is written in Polish, tells us about the resistance fighters, people who sheltered Jews and refugees, social workers, and those who did not lose their moral behavior even during the war. The second, “BLACK” book called INFORMERS (Scammers) talks about collaborators, henchmen of the regime, informers of the Gestapo, and policemen who adapted themselves to the war in their own way.

Hall of Choice “Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera” museum
The walls of the Hall of Choice are covered with signs in different languages
“Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera” museum
The two books symbolize the two dimensions of a choice that people had during the occupation



Passing the Hall of Choice, we have the opportunity to get into the inner courtyard of Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow – the same one behind the main gate, from where Oskar Schindler drove out to his car, both the real one and the hero of Liam Neeson from the “Schindler’s List” movie. It is worth repeating that this is not the original gate of the times of the 1940s, but they give the proper impression as part of a building. We observe the same flight of stairs from the movie from the outside – a beautiful construction made of glass. The door below is closed to visitors. Another building here has been occupied by the Museum of Modern Art since 2011.

The inner cortyard of the “Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera” museum
This is how the famous staircase flight from ‘Schindler’s list’ movie looks like from the outside
Innder gate of the DEF factory in Krakow
Those who watched Spielberg’s masterpiece should recognize the gates where Oskar Schindler and Itzhak Stern had a dispute about a man with one arm. ‘Very useful’. 

I am very grateful to war archives, museums, libraries, private collections, and writers for the historical photos in this article. To the extent that some author or a copyright owner may not want some of the above black-and-white photos to be used for educational purposes here, please contact me for adding credits or deleting the pictures from the article.