WWII Exhibit Opens in Krakow

Published: June 15th 2010
in News » World

Oscar Schindler's factory in Krakow, 2006.

A new exhibition telling the story of both Jewish and non-Jewish Poles during World War II opened in southern Poland on Friday, at the factory formerly used by Oskar Schindler.


This is the city’s first permanent exhibit of Nazi-occupied Krakow.


The exhibition, called "Krakow under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945," includes life-size photographs, testimonies, and multi-media presentations, displayed throughout 45 rooms of the factory, and portrays the tribulations of a city under Nazi occupation.


One of the factory’s rooms is tiled in such a way that resembles swastikas, though the company that produced the tiles first received assurance from the government, confirming that the tile design would not be committing a crime, as swastikas are banned in Poland.


One theme carried throughout the exhibit is the role played by Oskar Schindler himself, who employed Jews in his factory so that they could evade being transported to Nazi death camps.


“The world already knows about Schindler,” said Marta Smietana, a museum spokeswoman. “Now we can show what all of Krakow was like when the Jews were working for him.”


Still, the project has had its share of controversy. Some residents expressed concern that out of all the righteous gentiles who saved the lives of Jews during the War, Schindler was the only one being honoured.


“If you focus on one person, what about all the other heroes?” asked Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish community centre in Krakow.  “When you talk about people who saved Jews on Polish soil, he’s not the only one.”


The Emalia Factory, where Schindler manufactured tin ware, was turned into a telecommunications equipment manufacturer by liberating soviet forces after the war. The facility was eventually abandoned and purchased by the city in 2005.


The $4.3 million renovation on the factory took three years to complete.


It is the hope that the museum will serve to preserve the memory of the majority of Poland’s 3.5 million Jews who were killed under German occupation, as well as the country’s non-Jewish citizens, and how their lives unfolded during that time.


Oskar Schindler is perhaps a symbol for the many millions affected by the Holocaust, whose collective memory shall never be forgotten.

Related articles: (Krakow, Holocaust, memorial, WWII, Oskar Schindler)
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