Schindler’s Factory – Fabryka Schindlera in Polish – is a historic factory complex located in the Zablocie area of Krakow. The factory is most well-known for its association with German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who used it to save the lives of over 1,000 Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The site was thrust into the limelight by the publication of a novel in the 1980s, and then the release of a Steven Spielberg movie in the 1990s. They both told the moving and incredible story of the wartime owner of the factory, and highlighted its importance in the tale of the Krakow Jews throughout the wartime occupation of the city.
This guide will run through everything you need to know about visiting Schindler’s Factory. It’s got a brief history of the site, followed by information on how you can visit and what there is to see there.
What’s in this guide to Schindler’s Factory?
Where is Schindler’s Factory?
Schindler’s Factory, now a museum, is located in the district of Zabłocie (pronounced Zab-wo-che). It’s about a 20-minute walk southeast from the historic Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz – one of the best places to stay in the city if you ask us. It’s also relatively close to the Vistula River and a short tram ride away from the Old Town of Krakow.
How to get to Schindler’s Factory?
From the city center or Old Town area, you can take tram number 3, 19, 24, or 50, all of which stop near the museum – mostly on Plac Bohaterów Getta, about five minutes’ walking to the west of the museum and factory site itself.
There’s also now a direct train link from Krakow central station. It goes to the big station at Kraków Zabłocie, but be sure the train you get on stops there because not all of them do.
If you’re staying in the historic Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz, it’s possible to walk to the museum. It’s about a 20-minute walk from Kazimierz. You could also walk through Kazimierz from the Old Town. It takes 30-40 minutes from the main Market Square (Rynek Główny) if you don’t stop.
The best way to arrive, however, is either by grabbing and Uber or opting for an organized tour of the site. The first are abundantly available all over Krakow. The latter cost a little more, but do mean you’ll be dropped right at the entrance of the site and have tickets to the museum sorted before you arrive.
A brief history of Schindler’s Factory
Oskar Schindler took over the factory on the south bank of the Vistula River in 1939, after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. Originally, the factory produced enamelware and other goods. However, in the early years of World War II, it was transformed into a facility for the production of ammunition and military equipment for the German army.
Schindler, who was a member of the Nazi Party, witnessed the horrific treatment of Jews under Nazi rule and decided to use his factory to help. He employed more than 1,000 Jews, saving them from deportation to concentration camps by stating that they were essential to the factory’s production. He often had to bribe Nazi officials to keep his workers safe.
After the war, the factory was nationalized by the Polish government and continued to operate under different companies and industries. However, it eventually fell into disuse and was forgotten for many years.
In 2007, spurred on by the 1982 publication of Schindler’s Ark and the 1993 epic Schindler’s List, a comprehensive renovation project began with the goal of converting the factory into a modern museum. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków (MOCAK) opened in the former administrative building in 2010, while the main factory building became the Schindler’s Factory Museum, officially known as the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków.
The museum at the Oskar Schindler factory
The museum’s exhibits provide a profound exploration of life in Krakow during the Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945. While it includes information about Oskar Schindler and his efforts to save Jewish workers, the museum’s primary focus is on the broader history of Krakow in World War II. Here’s what you can expect to see:
- Detailed Exhibits – The museum houses an extensive array of exhibits that depict the daily life, struggles, and hardships faced by the citizens of Krakow during the war. The displays are arranged chronologically and cover a wide range of topics, including the initial occupation, the establishment of the Krakow Ghetto, and the deportation of Jews.
- Personal stories from the war – Through personal stories, artifacts, and testimonies, the museum brings to life the experiences of people who lived in Krakow during the war. These include not only the Jewish population but also the non-Jewish Poles.
- Schindler’s Office – One of the most significant parts of the museum is a recreation of Oskar Schindler’s office, including the famous list of workers he saved from the concentration camps.
- Multimedia displays – The museum utilizes a variety of multimedia presentations, including photographs, films, and sound recordings, to create a comprehensive and immersive experience.
- Art Installations – The museum also features powerful art installations that underscore the emotional impact of the events during this period.
- Information about the Krakow Ghetto – A part of the exhibition is dedicated to the reality of the Krakow Ghetto, providing a chilling insight into the life of Jewish inhabitants.
MOCAK – the Museum of Contemporary Art
MOCAK, which stands for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, is a significant cultural institution located in the city of Krakow, Poland. It was established in 2010, and is situated near Schindler’s Factory in the Zabłocie district. The museum aims to present and support contemporary art and artists, and to stress the value of art in society.
The architecture of MOCAK is known throughout the city as one of the most striking around. It really channels the spot’s role as a contemporary art museum. The building was designed by Claudio Nardi, an Italian architect, and it incorporates parts of the old Schindler Factory buildings.
MOCAK has a rich and diverse collection of contemporary art, featuring works from Polish and international artists, and often organizes temporary exhibitions with various themes. The museum also provides educational activities and workshops for both children and adults, and it has a library rich in art literature.