Schindler's List | 1993
Steven Spielberg finally achieved respectability and got his long-delayed Oscar for this story of Oskar Schindler, the wheeler-dealing Gentile businessman who saved over a thousand Jews from the Nazi gas chambers during World War II.
Initial controversy with the custodians of the Auschwitz Memorial, worried by the prospect of Hollywood schmaltz, was resolved by filming only outside the gatehouse of the Birkenau camp, in the Polish town of Oswiecim. Actually, several other Hollywood movies, including 1989's Triumph of the Spirit had already filmed inside the camp.
The movie was made in Krakow, one of the few Polish cities to escape devastation during WWII, and listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s great historic cities. Nothing, though, remains of Plaszów labour camp, which stood on the slope of Krzemionki Hill, to the east of the old town.
The only set built for the movie, a replica of Plaszów, consisting of 34 barracks, seven watchtowers and even the road into the camp – paved with Jewish tombstones – was built, from the original plans, in a disused quarry at the foot of Krakus mound close to the actual site.
The villa of Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) was reproduced above the camp, less than a mile from the original building, which still stands on Jerozolimska Street.
Many of the real locations were used, including Schindler’s own elegant apartment, at 7 Straszewskiego Street, north of Kazimierz district and Wawel Hill.
For the wartime ghetto of ‘Zgoda Square’, which has been extensively redeveloped, the film uses Szeroka Street in the former Jewish district of Kazimierz. Nearby is Ciemna Street, where Poldek Pfefferberg narrowly escapes death after bumping into Amon Goeth by claiming that he had orders to clear the street.
The expulsion of the Jews from the ghetto used the picturesque courtyard at 12 Jozefa Street, linking to Meiselsa Street.
Pilsudski Bridge over the Vistula River , across which they are herded, is at the end of Krakowska Street (the direction of crossing the bridge had to be reversed to avoid modern structures being seen).
Schindler’s factory is the real thing, virtually unchanged, at 4 Lipowa Street. It now produces electrical components. The interiors, though, used the enamel factory in Olkusz, in the Malopolska province.
The church, where the Jews meet clandestinely, is Krakow’s most important church, the brick Gothic 14th century Church of St Mary, alongside the Main Market Square.
The railway station is Krakow Glowny. The ‘Brinnlitz’ scenes used the quaint old town of Niepolomice, about 25 miles east of Krakow.
In the film’s epilogue, real surviving ‘Schindler Jews’, accompanied by the actors portraying them in the film, each lay a stone on the Schindler’s grave to mark their visit, in accordance with Jewish custom. Oskar Schindler is buried in the Lower Level of Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery, on the southern slope of Mount Zion in Jerusalem.