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Arunansh B Goswami
An Indo-Israel friendship ambassador.

Schindler’s Factory

Author of this article standing near Museum of Kraków in what used to be Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory in Kraków. Photo Credit: Professor Arkaja Goswami.

In present times, we are noticing an appalling rise of antisemitism around the world; antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise, and conspiracy theories about Jewish attempts for world dominance are being circulated more often than before, through conventional and new-age media alike. In the guise of a hyped boycott movement, Jewish businesses are being targeted, and common Jews are finding it difficult to even venture out in public in western countries that claim to be the bastions of human liberties and democracy.

Museum of Kraków in what used to be Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory. Photo Credit: Arunansh B. Goswami.

It has become even more important now to educate common people about the horrors committed against Jews in the past so that they know that the promotion of anti-Semitism in the past led to the Holocaust. My homeland, India, is a country with no known history of state-sponsored anti-Semitism but rather a history of warm acceptance of Jewish refugees from the days of the Babylonian Exile. I decided to visit the factory of Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving more than 1,000 Jews by putting them to work at his Kraków enamel factory, thus sparing them from deportation and death.

Kazimierz III the Great

Author of this article in the Austeria book store in Kazimierz area, in Kraków. Photo Credit: Professor Arkaja Goswami.

I was recently in Poland, and in this article, I will try to make readers aware of the pain of Polish Jews and the great deeds of a humane German factory owner. In Poland, there were 3.3 million Jews before the Holocaust, the reason being that it was one of the most tolerant places in Europe for Jews. Kraków is considered the cultural heart of Poland. Polish kings were coronated and buried here in the Wawel Royal Cathedral for years.

In the 14th century, when other nations were deporting Jews, King Kazimierz III, the Great King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, actively welcomed them. After his death, he was buried next to his father, King Ladislaus the Short, in the eastern arcade of the aforementioned cathedral. I visited his tomb and also the old Jewish quarter in Kraków, founded by him and named after him as Kazimierz, during my recent visit to this city.

Schindler’s List

Museum of Kraków in what used to be Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory. Photo Credit: Arunansh B. Goswami.

Steven Spielberg’s films have been huge box office successes, he said in a recent interview with THR about Schindler’s List. “It’s the best movie I’ve ever made. I am not going to say it’s the best movie I ever will make. But currently, it’s the work I’m proudest of.” Several scenes in the movie were shot in Kraków and are located within the Kazimierz city district that I visited.

The humane nature of the German factory owner, Oskar Schindler, and the thankfulness of Jews for the same are depicted in several scenes in the movie. An old Jewish man without an arm thanks him for saving his life by employing him in his factory. Schindler tells Amon Göth, an Austrian Nazi officer who was commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp, that the real power is in pardoning. Schindler, who saves the lives of more than 1000 Jews by employing them in his factory, cries when he looks at his car and even a golden pin in the movie because, according to him, they could have been sold to save the lives of a few more Jews.

Museum of Kraków in what used to be Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory. Photo Credit: Arunansh B. Goswami.

Even after doing so much in adverse circumstances to save the Jews, he still feels he did not do enough. The Jews, saved by him as a symbol of gratitude to this humane German, gift him a ring made by the golden teeth of an old Jewish man; on this is inscribed the line from Talmud: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire (Talmud Yerushalemi, Sanhedrin 4:12).” This line is now inscribed on a plaque erected by the Jewish Community Council of Cracow and students and faculty of Albion College (Michigan, USA), outside what used to be Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory and now a branch of the Museum of Kraków in Poland, which I visited.

 

Museum of Krakow

Author in Kraków. Photo Credit: Professor Arkaja Goswami.

Now Kraków is a beautiful tourist destination, bursting with tourists strolling on its cobblestone streets, visiting several monuments, and savouring Polish food, especially pierogi, but not far from it in the past operated German Nazi concentration camps, for instance, Krakow-Plaszow, Auschwitz, and Birkenau. KL Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers. Over 1.1 million men, women, and children were massacred here by the Nazis.

Utensils made by Jews saved by Oskar Schindler. Photo Credit: Arunansh B. Goswami.

In this city is located the factory of Oskar Schindler, which houses a branch of the Museum of Kraków that has a permanent exhibition titled ‘Kraków under Nazi Occupation 1939–1945.’ When I reached the museum, I saw a long line of tourists standing outside, eagerly waiting for their turns to enter, as well as many discussing with each other the life and legacy of Oskar Schindler.

Desk of Oskar Schindler. Photo Credit: Arunansh B. Goswami.

Inside the museum, visitors can see the office of Schindler, his desk, utensils that Jewish workers made in his factory, photographs of those Jews who were massacred by the Nazis, whose names have been written on a wall, and Jewish artefacts plundered by the Nazis. On a wall in the museum are displayed photographs of German soldiers in Kraków with the description, “German soldiers were sightseeing in Kraków, taking pictures, and buying souvenirs. At first, they were rather kind to the Poles. Their ways with the Jews were scandalous. The old were forced to do heavy casual work; the orthodox had their sidelocks and beards cut off with razors. The soldiers were apparently amused.”

Conclusion

Schindler said “Life makes sense as long as you save people.” Niusia (Bronislava) Horowitz-Karakulska stated “ And how many worlds did Oskar Schindler save? If it weren’t for him, there would not be me, and there would not be my family either, nor our descendants – my daughter and my two grandchildren, my brother Rysio’s two sons, my cousin Olek’s children, […] the children and grandchildren of the others saved by Schindler. […]So how many save he really then, when he saved 1,200 people? They are countless.”

Visitors can clearly observe that the team taking care of the Museum of Krakow has efficiently preserved the memory of Oskar Schindler and his efforts to protect the Jews in order to ensure that visitors learn about the importance of tolerance and harmony. It is important for scholars and intellectuals from around the world to increase the intensity of educating people about how anti-Semitism in the past led to the disastrous consequence of the Holocaust and why it is important to defeat hate. I have been educating people about the importance of tolerance and harmony and intend to continue doing the same.

About the Author
Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami is an advocate, historian and popular author based in India. He studied history at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, read law at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi, completed a diploma in International Environmental Law, and later joined the Bar Council of Delhi and Supreme Court Bar Association in India. Mr. Goswami has written around 200 articles for different prestigious publications, newspapers, magazines and journals around the world. He works as a consultant with Union Minister of Steel and Civil Aviation of India, Mr. J. M. Scindia and Mrs. Priyadarshini Raje Scindia titular Queen of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior. Mr. Goswami has studied Israeli and Jewish History deeply and travelled extensively in Israel, and other parts of the world, to explore and research about sites associated with Jews.
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