Schindlera Fabryka in Krakowa

Schindler Factory Museum

After the conference in Wroclaw, we traveled to Krakow in southern Poland and met with Monika Bednarek, the director of The Memory Trail, which comprises three branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow dealing with the history of Krakow during World War II: Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera (Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory), Apteka pod Orlem (The Eagle Pharmacy - in the walled off Jewish ghetto) and Ulica Pomorska (Pomorska Street - Provisional government and Gestapo headquarters). Most people are familiar with the story of Schindler's factory from the film Schindler's List, about the former factory owned by German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving some 1,200 Jews from being sent to the concentration camps.

We discussed the making of the museum, which we were surprised to learn is just 5 years old because the factory continued to operate until the late 1990s. Ms. Bednarek was extremely gracious with her time and advice regarding the establishment and operation of memorial sites, and at the end of the visit agreed to review the community proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park.

The Schindler Factory museum's exhibits are extensive, robust in archival and tactile material, theatrical, interactive and utterly consuming. You travel from the 4th floor in a twisting labyrinth of places, events, people from just before Germany's invasion on September 1, 1939 through the end of World War II, the liberation of the concentration camps, and into the period of Soviet control.

 Click here to watch a 1-minute video taken
in the hall depicting the invasion attack.

There are places in the exhibit where you can feel so overwhelmed that you begin to look for ways to escape - and there will suddenly be a real window allowing you to see sky and the tops of buildings. You turn away to realize there's only one way out, to push through the experience until it is over.

At this moment you recognize that resistance, a determination to survive, to take what control you could, would be both psychologically and in fact would be critical to your survival in such conditions, and would ultimately affect the outcome. This is something we raise consistently in discussing the history and legacy of living in slavery in the United States.

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