Where was Schindler’s list filmed
Schindler’s list remains one of the most famous movies in world history. A quarter of a century ago, a film crew led by the legendary Steven Spielberg spent several months in Poland, particularly in Krakow. In addition, the epilogue for the movie presents a scene within the Latin cemetery in Jerusalem, where Oscar Schindler, the Righteous Among the Nations, was buried. I encourage you to make a detailed trip to the places that were used as the Schindler’s list filming locations in Krakow. I did visit Israel in 2016 and, in 2018 managed to find all the key locations in Krakow, as well as have visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.
Although the Kraków ghetto is one of the few Jewish ghettos that were not demolished during the Second World War and retained nearly the same historical appearance until today, the scenes for the Schindler’s list were not filmed within the Podgorze area, where the ghetto was in fact located. The majority of the Schindler’s list movie locations in Krakow located within the Kazimierz city district, where the Jews of the city had historically lived before the outbreak of the war, up to the mass relocation in the spring of 1941. The reconstructed replica of the Plaszow concentration camp was erected in the Liban quarry, a few hundred meters away from the place where the real Plaszow once stood. I will attach a map with all the main Schindler’s list filming locations from the article, so you can easily make your own historical and movie journey to find all the places where Schindler’s list was filmed.
WHERE SCHINDLER’S LIST WAS FILMED — FILMING LOCATIONS
OSKAR SCHINDLER’S APARTMENT
Straszewskiego 7 was used as the exterior for the apartment where Oscar Schindler »lived» in a movie. The historical Oscar Schindler in fact lived on the third floor of this very building, and the windows of his apartment once faced the park opposite, which remains a quiet place to relax. The Jewish family of Nussbaum lived in the apartment before Schindler. The building on Straszewskiego 7 is a gray, unremarkable residential building, yet its location literally at the foot of the Wawel Castle makes the building a desirable place even today. We can identify three key scenes associated with this location in the Schindler’s list movie.
- We can observe a Nussbaum family should leave their luxurious apartment, leave the Kazimierz district and move to the established ghetto, on the other side of the Vistula River, back in March 1941. They vacate the building at the moment when Oscar Schindler arrives at his new place of residence in Krakow. The previous owners and the new one knock on the street. Nussbaum family joins the procession of the Jews, who move out of the cinematic frame with the Wawel Castle as a background.
- Schindler and his wife Emilie come across with a concierge at the front exit of the same house on Straszewskiego 7. In the course of an awkward exchange of remarks, it turns out that the elderly servant confuses both of his rich guests.
- Within the second half of the film, Oscar Schindler comes out of his apartment building. We can see the Wawel Castle in the background, a place where the governor-general Hans Frank arranged his office during the occupation. Liam Neeson’s character closes to his car and notices the ashes that the wind, as it later turns out, brought from the Plaszow and “Huyarova Gorka”, where the SS burned the traces of massacres in an open fire.
JOSEPH PILSUDSKIEGO BRIDGE
Krakow Jews were to move to the area defined by the occupation administration, the Krakow ghetto, until March 20, 1941. Since most of them had lived in the historically Jewish district of Kazimierz (to the north of Podgorze) before the war, the mass exodus passed through two bridges over the Vistula River. The first one, to the east, was called Krakus and was destroyed during the war, replaced with the more modern Powstancow Slaskich bridge. The second one is the Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego bridge. The real bridge by means of which the Jews of Krakow passed into the ghetto, was built in 1933 and seriously damaged by the Germans during the retreat and then restored, in a slightly modified form, as early as in 1948.
The film crew of the «Schindler’s List» movie obtained permission for the temporary blocking of the automobile and pedestrian traffic on the Piłsudskiego bridge to recreate the scenes of the mass exodus of the Jews of Krakow. Since the modern buildings were already built on the side of the Kazimierz district in the 1990s, the perspective was reversed. The statists went from the former Podgorze area to Kazimierz and, thus, we see the southern part of Krakow, where the ghetto was located, in the background. Today, the bridge includes pedestrian traffic and gives a panoramic perspective to both sides of the Vistula river.
ST. MARY’S BASILICA
The first act of the Schindler’s List movie depicts Oscar Schindler as he decides to establish contacts with local smugglers. He needs luxuries that are not always easy to get in the occupied Polish city, such as nice shirts, delicacies for himself, and bribes for the high-ranking German officials. Liam Neeson’s character comes to church, where several male Jews carry on the illegal trade of the smuggled goods, up to the volume of thousands of items. The movie introduces Oscar Schindler and Leopold Pfefferberg.
The Catholic Church, which is visited by Jewish men, who hide the star of David from the clothes, is the Church of St. Mary or St. Mary’s Basilica. In fact, the most honored church in Krakow, a landmark originally from the XIV century was used as one of the Schindler’s list filming locations. The entrance has its fee for tourists, yet you can sit at the very place where we have once seen Schindler and Pfefferberg.
GHETTO MAIN SQUARE (PLAC ZGODY)
Seeing that the historical main square of the Krakow ghetto known as “Plac Zgody” (Ghetto Heroes Square today) had several modern glass buildings (although a memorial with 70 chairs would be installed only in 2005) and the existing bus station already in the 1990s, it was decided to choose another location. For this reason, the film crew went to the Kazimierz district and found a suitable place on Szeroka street. In fact, the location is not a square, yet just a wide street. But most of the pre-war buildings have not changed since the 1940s. Both peaceful scenes and the ghetto liquidation massacre were filmed here. The second floor of the building with the Ariel restaurant once accommodated Steven Spielberg with his family, as well as the movie cast could be seen having their lunch here. Szeroka Street locates a small old Jewish cemetery, a Nissenbaum Holocaust memorial, and numerous guides who conduct poor-informative tours of the historic Kazimierz district and places from the Schindler List. The main square in a movie is presented within a number of scenes.
- The first scene, where the ghetto main square appears, follows the shots, where the Kraków Jews cross the Pilsudski Bridge. “Plac Zgody” sign on the wall marks the place through which Jews are allowed to enter the territory of a separate area. Later, Mila and Leopold Pfefferberg meet their friend Goldberg, who leads them through the bureaucratic cordon.
- The next scene here depicts Yitzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), who invites Jews to become workers in a new factory outside the ghetto walls on Lipova Street, owned by Oscar Schindler. People of different professions and ages are trying to get the so-called »Blauschein» — a document that allows them to work and avoid »loading» onto trucks. While Stern helps the Jews to get papers for work, we can see the location from different angles. The Old Synagogue of Kazimierz can be seen in the background.
- Several scenes depict the ghetto gate which was built at the intersection of Dajwor and Na Przejsciu streets for the movie. In the background, behind the people leaving the ghetto walls, the building of the Old Synagogue (Stara Synagoga) is again visible.
- In the next scene, where Szeroka Street is clearly visible, the Krakow Jews stand close to a small fire, bake potatoes, and exchange thoughts about their situation. A man talks about his dream, which makes him laugh.
- The scene where Amon Goeth reviews the state of the ghetto was also filmed on Szeroka street as well. When the camera looks at the driver and the passenger from the front, we see another edge of a small square, the trees of the Jewish cemetery, and the place where the Holocaust memorial is set today. A man from the SS speaks of dividing the territory into ghettos A and B, which indeed was performed after December 6, 1942.
- In a short scene before the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, Yitzhak Stern looks out of the window of his apartment, which faces the Main Square. Then we see the SS soldiers leaving their trucks right here, and the fence of a small park on Szeroka Street.
OSKAR SCHINDLER’S FACTORY
Another existent location is directly related to Oscar Schindler and is known as the Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik or DEF. The facade of the building, which has later become world-famous, as well as three workshops: stamping, pickling, and enameling, was built on Lipowa 4 in 1937. In 1947, the factory was nationalized by the Polish government and from 1948 to 2002 implicated the production of telecommunications hubs. In 2005, the buildings on Lipova 4 became the property of the city and include two museums today. Historical Museum of Krakow (Exposition “Krakow during the Occupation”) since 2007, and the Museum of Modern Art since 2011.
At the time when Steven Spielberg was shooting his legendary film, many of the premises of the former DEF were abandoned. Cinematographers had to make use of the facade on Lipowa 4, a courtyard, and one staircase. It is important to understand that the footage of the workshops themselves, as well as the Schindler’s office with a panoramic window for production, were shot at an enterprise in the Polish city of Olkusz. So let’s take a look at three remarkable scenes where you can see the real Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik.
- Schindler’s list has a very short scene, only a few seconds long, when Oscar Schindler is being photographed, along with his new female employees, against the backdrop of the DEF building’s facade at Lipova 4. Also, open gates to the courtyard fall into the frame, and cinematographers hang replicas of the Nazi symbolism over the entry.
- After a meeting with a one-arm Jewish worker, arranged by Stern, Schindler and his deputy descend the stairs to the courtyard, and we see the gate from a different perspective. Men briefly argue, and the director’s car leaves the factory, driving to Lipova.
- When Regina Perlman comes to the factory looking for a meeting with the «Herr Director», Schindler arranges a kind of test for the girl. She is waiting for a response at the bottom of the stairs leading (not in reality) to Schindler’s office. We see Liam Neeson come out of the office, and after a silent pause, he returns inside. A little later, Miss Perlman sees her parents entering DEF territory.
In addition, I would like to mention the thematic cafe located on the first floor of the museum building today. Printed frames from the Schindler’s List are hung on the walls, and drafts of the Plaszow camp replica are painted on the tables. The place is very cozy and just aside from dozens of tourists who are run for inspection of the exposition.
SCHINDLER ON A HILL
One of the rarest places associated with the «Schindler’s List» movie and movie locations in Krakow for tourists to visit and paid guides generally do not lead their clients here. A not very convenient path upwards begins behind the school at Limanowskiego 62 — right next to one of the two surviving fragments of the wall of the Krakow ghetto. The path leads to a hill with dogs, picnics, a small stadium, a small Catholic church, and an old fort Benedict.
Schindler and his secretary and part-time lover, make a horse ride on a hill and witness the liquidation of the ghetto on March 13, 1943. The movie creates a continuous illusion that Schindler sees not only one perspective and the street from the hill, but becomes a witness to all the horrors that occur even inside the houses and especially in the hearts of people. At this moment we see one of the most legendary scenes in world cinema with a girl in a red coat. It is noteworthy that the part of Krakow that Schindler and his »girlfriend» see as a panorama does not belong to the territory of the former ghetto and the Kazimierz district as well. They look to the right of the eastern border of the ghetto at Podgórze. Today, an overgrown path leads you to the very place, now hidden by greenery and inaccessible for horse riding.
A COURTYARD WITH BALCONIES
One of the first scenes depicting the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto is the forced eviction of residents from an apartment building. We see the SS soldiers who climb the stairs to the second and third floors. A little later, the same soldiers unceremoniously dumped the things of the Jews right from these balconies, complementing the general picture of chaos and hopelessness. The man, who later on the film will escape death at the hands of Amon Geth, picks his papers from the ground, after the soldier’s disdainful act.
This is the same courtyard that will later be used for the scene where Mrs. Drezner hides under the stairs and, when the soldiers climb to the second floor, you will notice that this is the same staircase. Such courtyards were typical for the Jewish districts of the early twentieth century. It is located in the Kazimierz district, north of the real Krakow ghetto in Podgorze, within walking distance of Szeroka Street, which depicted the main square of the ghetto. The courtyard can be accessed from two sides and one of them comes out of the building on Jozefa 12. The opposite entrance is located on Beera Meiselsa street. You can climb to the balconies, which have become legendary thanks to Schindler’s list movie locations. A residential apartment building, as in the days of filming, was only slightly renovated.
STAIRCASE, WHERE MISS DRESNER HID
Schindler’s list movie shows four members of the Drezner family who survived the Holocaust thanks to Schindler. Mother Haya, father Judah, son Jonas, and daughter Danka. During the liquidation of the ghetto, the mother comes to a neighbor and asks her to hide them with her daughter under the floor. The woman agrees to accept the girl, but not the mother. Mrs. Drezner descends the stairs and encounters the boy Adam, a friend of her own son. Risking his life, he hides the woman under the stairs and tells the German soldiers that there is no one here. After that, Danka resorts here, and Adam is taken to attach them to a “good line”.
This staircase is located within the same courtyard, where the scenes of forced eviction of people from crowded apartments were previously shown. Since the shooting of the movie in 1993, a small restoration took place here and today the place looks well-groomed. A construction site is underway near the next wall, but it will not prevent you from making remarkable pictures of a legendary movie location.
LEOPOLD PFEFFERBERG IN THE STREET
After Leopold and his wife, Mila, leave the apartment, he goes down the drain under the ghetto. He miraculously avoids an ambush and then returns home. Leopold does not find a wife and returns to the street and, hearing the tramp of army steps, pretends to be clearing the street from rubbles. Being frightened, Leopold salutes Amon Goeth and his SS soldiers. The commandant does not harm Pfefferberg, laughs at him, and says to join the rest of the Jews.
Both moments, when we see Leopold at the hatch depict the same place. Initially, he goes down the drain and then appears from the same spot. Leopold comes back again and meets the Germans in the same place. The paved road is located at the intersection of Jakuba and Ciemna streets in Kazimierz. You can see the very corner of the house, the place where the hatch is still located, the background of the alley behind the Germans, and the wall that is visible in the film behind Pfefferberg when he salutes.
DEATH IN THE HANDS OF A DOCTOR
Within the midst of the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, the film shows us one long shot. Itzhak Stern walks through the central square of the ghetto and sees a doctor in a white coat that drags a woman. She is bleeding, and the doctor’s coat is all dirty. They are roughly stopped by a German soldier who says that the woman is almost dead, she must be left. The doctor asks for an opportunity to help her and bring it inside the building, but the young SS soldier shoots a Jewish woman in the head and forcefully pushes the doctor into the crowd of others on the ground.
The shooting of this short scene took place within the same Szeroka street, depicting the Plac Zgody square. We see a modern memorial park behind the barricade. The building, right behind, the doctor, the woman, and the German is the Ariel restaurant. Steven Spielberg did live here with his family on the second floor during the filming in Krakow, while the other rooms of this building and the neighboring ones were occupied by the crew. The film crew, including Spielberg himself, actors Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson used to eat here. Today the restaurant occupies several buildings at once.
KILLING A BOY ON THE STREET
We see Stern coming out of his house to Plac Zgody. Schindler’s accountant is trying to find papers in his pocket, with the screams of a German soldier. After that, the focus of the cinematic attention switches to the Jewish family, one among many. While the father of the family is trying to explain something to the soldiers, the teenage boy is trying to escape. When the father is being killed, the child is also dragged by two SS soldiers and shot from a close distance.
When the child is running, we see the old Kazimierz Synagogue in the background, located on the south side of Szeroka street. We had already seen meetings in the square when Stern was looking for workers at the factory in the same location. On the right side of the street, the building, which in the film represents the hospital and where the police station is located today, is out of the frame.
The former territory of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow included several hospitals at once, including one for the treatment of infectious diseases and the elderly Jews. Apparently, the Schindler’s list movie shows the scene of the massacre at the central ghetto hospital, which was actually located at Jozefinska 14. During the liquidation of the ghetto in March 1943, the Germans broke into the building, executed the patients and all the doctors.
The building, which served as a hospital with a »Szpital» sign, is located within the same Szeroka street, on the other side of the restaurant Ariel. Today it houses a police station with a sign: ‘’Komisariat Policji I w Krakowie».
PLASZOW CONCENTRATION CAMP
Although at the time of filming in 1993 the territory of the former Plaszow camp represented a memorial park and was fully accessible, Spielberg decided not to shot his movie at the historical location to honor the memory of tens of thousands of Plaszow victims. It was decided to build a reduced model of the camp, as the real one reached 200 acres. The film crew decided to use the granite quarry called Liban, next to the former Plaszow territory. It is important to understand that the Liban quarry was in fact used by Germans as a matter of the forced labor and thousands of the inmates indeed lost their lives here during the occupation. In this perspective, the place also deserves commemoration of the memory. The historical Plaszow was actually located within the fields and hills, and the location that we saw in the film was surrounded by granite rocks of the quarry.
It is worth paying tribute to the titanic work that was done to recreate the Plaszow on the screen. The film crew rebuilt at least 34 residential barracks and workshop replicas. Construction works have also included a replica of the main gate of the camp, seven observation towers, a road paved with an imitation of Jewish tombstones, the villa of Amon Goeth, and even horse stables. Descent and free access to the quarry is possible only from the Krakus hill, a historic landmark. You need to be careful while walking down a quarry. Now it is no more than a swamp and overgrowth.
- Amon Goeth villa. The remains of the constructed replica building can be still found on a hill above the quarry to represent the historical perspective of the commandant, who used to shot prisoners of the camp out of his balcony as it was depicted in a movie. Ralph Fiennes’ character also shoots Lizek from the same spot. In another scene, Schindler and Goeth share a glass of alcohol and a philosophic conversation on the balcony, discussing what real power is. Imitation of Amon Goeth’s villa was built specifically for the Schindler’s list movie and then razed to the ground after the shooting was finished. Today, you can find the foundation of the building and even the semicircular outline of that very balcony drowned into the grass. The quarry location can be seen here.
- Stables building. The movie presents another building next to the villa of Amon Goeth. Ralph Fiennes emerges from the side door of his estate on the hill and heads to the imposing building to the left. One part of it is occupied by a garage, and we see a truck, and the other part includes a stable, with a boy Lizek who dropped a saddle and caused a rage of the commandant. The ruins of this building can be still distinguished aside from the location where filmmakers recreated the Villa.
- Stairs and towers. Schindler’s list movie clearly shows a metal staircase, which leads to the villa of Amon Goeth on a hill. The two parts of the former staircase can be found in different spots on the hill. The upper one remained in the original place and the second one is a few dozen meters away, apparently due to the efforts of vandals or scrap metal hunters. If you have already paid attention to the constructions to the left of the villa, they were not constructed for the movie and. These are the remnants of the real infrastructure of a Liban quarry since the time of Plaszow’s existence.
- The road with the tombs. Since the real Plaszow camp was not located here and was almost completely demolished in 1944-1945, all the replicas built in Liban are not historical. When you manage to break through the overgrowth below the former location of Villa, you will see the road covered with gravestones. This imitation and all the tombstones were specially created for the shooting of the Schindler’s List. These replicas are still in the same place and you can read the names and even the prayers in Hebrew and Yiddish. The main street of the actual Plaszow camp was indeed lined with tombstones from a nearby Jewish cemetery and was called the »SS-Strasse» (SS-road). The location also preserved remnants of the former Main gate depicted in a movie, as well as dozens of meters of the barbed wire and a number of the wooden poles.
At the time when the «Schindler’s List» movie was being created, a number of documentary projects, as well as several fictional ones, had already depicted the historical territory of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial. Among the feature films are ‘’Aus Einem Deutschen Leben’’, the German biographical drama on Commandant Hess, and the «Triumph of the Spirit«, a sports drama with William Defoe. At the same time, the administration of the memorial did not give permission to Spielberg to shoot and inside the perimeter. However, Spielberg was allowed to shot the camp from the outside perspective and use the bus parking in front of the Main Gate and the building itself.
When women are taken from the unloading platform around the camp to the showers, we see the scenery that was created and filmed within the Liban quarry, the same place where the Plaszow camp was recreated for the film. Thus the footage of the crematorium pipe, the barrage for which Mila Pfefferberg looks in and sees the people who are led to the gas chamber, were not shot in Auschwitz. The four crematoriums in Birkenau were blown up by the Germans and are ruins.