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July 12, 2012

The layout of the Plaszow camp, compared to the Schindler’s List movie set

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:09 pm

It has come to my attention, after reading a comment on one of my blog posts, that there is a serious misconception, among today’s youth, about how the Plaszow camp actually looked and where the home of Commandant Amon Goeth was located.  Plaszow is the camp that is featured in the movie Schindler’s List.  Since Schindler’s List has been shown in American schools for years, young people think that everything in the film is the gospel truth and that the movie portrays accurate history.

Basically, the movie Shindler’s List is the story of the quintessential evil Nazi (Amon Goeth) and the one good Nazi (Oskar Schindler) who is the hero of the movie. The evil Nazi killed Jews for sport and the one good Nazi made a list of the Jews (Shindler’s List) that he was going to save from the gas chamber. In real life, both Amon Goeth and Oskar Schindler were notorious drunks and both were womanizers. They were the same age, the same height and build, and the same in their beliefs: they were both Nazis.

The Plaszow camp was located 10 kilometers outside the city of Krakow. The photo below shows an old photo of the Plaszow camp.

The Plaszow camp, with the city of Krakow in the background

The movie set was built inside the Liban quarry, where prisoners from the Plaszow camp worked, although there were no barracks inside the quarry, and the prisoners did not live inside the quarry.

The Liban quarry, where Spielberg built the movie set for Schindler’s List

The movie set was built at this end of the Liban quarry

Scene from Schindler’s List shows Amon Goeth shooting at actors on the movie set inside the Liban quarry, which is not where the  Plaszow camp was located

Path built from tombstones was part of the movie set for Schindler’s List

The actual Plaszow camp was built near the site of two Jewish Cemeteries.  According to the fictional movie Schindler’s List, the Nazis used whole tombstones to build a path through the camp.  Spielberg reconstructed this alleged path inside the Liban quarry and it was left there for tourists to see.

Would the Nazis really have made roads or paths from whole tombstones?  I don’t think so.  They would have crushed the tombstones to make crushed granite.  The paths in the main Auschwitz camp are covered with crushed brick and decomposed granite, as shown in the photo below.

Close-up of the crushed brick and decomposed granite which covers the streets of the main Auschwitz camp

In the movie, Schindler’s List, it appears that the house, where Amon Goeth allegedly shot prisoners from the balcony, was only a few feet from the Plaszow camp.  In real life, the house with the balcony was far away from the camp and behind a hill.

When I visited the site of the former Plaszow camp in 1998, my private tour guide drove us up a hill, on a rutted one-lane dirt road, thinly covered with small white granite rocks. This was the site of two Jewish cemeteries before the Nazis built a labor camp.  Amon Goeth’s house, which had a balcony on the rear of the building, was near the site of the two Jewish cemeteries, which are now long gone.

The granite quarry, near where the Plaszow camp was built, was at that time owned by a Jew, but the Nazis confiscated the property, without compensation, for their labor camp. There was a Jewish mortuary chapel near the cemetery, which the Nazis converted into a stable.

The Plaszow camp was formerly located on this spot

Shown in the background of the photo above, up on a high plateau, is the back side of the large Holocaust monument, which faces the city of Krakow. On the right side of the photo, you can see some of the buildings of the city of Krakow in the distance.

It was on this plateau that mass executions took place, according to testimony in the trial of Amon Goeth in a Polish court in 1946. According to survivors of the Plaszow camp, 8,000 bodies were later dug up and burned on pyres in order to destroy the evidence. Goeth, who was charged with responsibility for these 8,000 deaths, was convicted and hanged.

According to my tour guide, some of the barracks of the Plaszow forced labor camp were located on the terraced terrain that you see in the foreground of the photo above; portions of the barrack foundations are still visible.

The construction of the Plaszow camp began in June 1942. A guidebook, which I purchased at the Eagle Pharmacy museum in Podgorze, the former Jewish ghetto in Krakow, says this:

“According to the Heydrich plan the Plaszow camp and its sub camps were meant to constitute a stage in the concentration of the Jews deported to the East. The camp was built on the area of two cemeteries at Jerozolimska and Abrahama street. The location of the camp — near the Plaszow railroad station — made the access to communication tracks relatively easy.”

The “Heydrich plan” was a reference to the conference which SS officer Reinhard Heydrich led on January 20, 1942 at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin. This is where plans were made for the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.”

Today, it is not possible to walk around the former Plaszow camp because the area is now a nature preserve.  The photograph below shows a sign which stands just to the left of where the photo above was taken; the sign says that this is a nature preserve because of the rare plants, native to the area, which are located here. Because this is a protected area, Spielberg could not build a movie set here. Besides, the monument would have shown in the background.

The location of the former Plaszow camp is now a nature preserve

German soldiers picking flowers at the former Plaszow camp

The story of Amon Goeth shooting prisoners at random from his balcony is one of those events that happened, but are not true (as Elie Wiesel famously said).

13 Comments

  1. You could certainly walk around the site of the former Plaszow Camp when I went there.While it’s true that Spielberg’s depiction of Goeth’s house was inaccurate,it wasn’t far from the camp at all.If you stand at the back of Goeth’s house today,it’s true that,with the shrubbery & trees it’s hard to see much looking back towards the camp.Back then there were no such obstructions.First photo is a view of Goeth’s villa from the road (all photos were taken around 1943).Note sapling in background.Second is Goeth on horseback – which,if you look at sapling in background – I’d say is the house neighbouring his villa.Though there’s a hill behind it drops off quite sharply & the camp is visible in the background.Third photo is a composite of photos 1 & 2.I’d say that,in the 40’s,Goeth may well have been able to view the camp from his balcony. http://i67.tinypic.com/dd0406.jpg http://i65.tinypic.com/2wd4l6x.jpg http://i68.tinypic.com/29uvgbo.jpg

    Comment by John Martin Phelan — November 23, 2017 @ 8:24 am

  2. Ten years passed, during which Spielberg alternated between taking on the project and passing it to others. Finally, in 1992, Spielberg believed the time was personally and historically right to begin active production on the film. He made several important and risky artistic decisions: to use black-and-white film, to shoot on location in Europe, to rely heavily on handheld cameras, to select European extras, and to cast nonstars in the key roles (Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant Stern, and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth). In spite of Spielberg’s determination to use authentic locations, some were unavailable: Spielberg had to painstakingly reconstruct the Plaszow camp; and when his request to film inside Auschwitz was denied by the World Jewish Congress, he and production designer Allan Starski built a chillingly convincing replica directly outside the grounds. After principal photography was finished, Michael Kahn edited the film to its three-and-a-half-hour running length, and longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams composed the musical score.

    Comment by gold price — July 17, 2012 @ 3:08 am

    • Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were stars. Ben Kingsley was well known. Spielberg shot the scenes of trains inside Auschwitz from the outside of the camp because the gatehouse looks the same from both sides. The Auschwitz camp was 425 acres in size; he did not build a 425 acre camp directly outside the grounds.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 17, 2012 @ 6:03 am

  3. Nazis did roads from gravestones quite often. In city of Zgierz, Central Poland, they destroyed Jewish graveyard and gravestones were given to Zgierz citizens. Now you can see them placed as a fragments of road around their houses. I bet my city is not the only one with such terrible road.

    Comment by Heydi — July 13, 2012 @ 5:01 am

    • So the Nazis destroyed Jewish graveyards and gave the gravestones to the Polish citizens of Zgierz? Was it actually the Polish citizens who made roads out of the gravestones? Why didn’t the Polish citizens of Zgierz say “No thank you, we don’t want roads built from Jewish gravestones”?

      The photos show whole gravestones beside a road, not an entire road made from whole gravestones, like the one that Spielberg constructed for his movie.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 13, 2012 @ 6:58 am

      • I always wonder about this as well and always criticise why those gravestones are still in local roads.

        Gravestones were on the road as well, really I have seen on my own eyes.

        Comment by Heydi — July 13, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  4. Road with tombstones actually exist but names are not visibke right now, or they were placed back to up http://i.pinger.pl/pgr303/e1dd0f5c00152f2d4fe828ab here are proofs, they are photo taken by me some weeks ago http://i2.pinger.pl/pgr311/20b24bb9000085144fe828ab

    Comment by Heydi — July 13, 2012 @ 4:55 am

    • The first photo looks like an old abandoned cemetery with a foot path through it. The second photo looks like one tombstone with no path or road.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 13, 2012 @ 7:00 am

      • It’s Plaszow Camp ;P Just between quarry and Hujowa Górka

        Comment by Heydi — July 13, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

        • Thank you very much for this information. I had to look up Hujowa Górka and found it on Wikipedia, which says that this is the name of the place where 10,000 bodies were exhumed and burned. (During the trial of Amon Goeth, the claim was made that there were 8,000 bodies exhumed and burned.) One of the photos on my blog post (the one that shows the Holocaust monument in the background) shows the place where the bodies were burned.

          Since the Plaszow camp was built on ground where two Jewish cemeteries had previously been located, it is not surprising that there are some tombstones still there. I don’t think that tombstones were dug up and placed there by the Nazis to make a road.

          Strangely, the Nazis always buried the bodies and then dug them up later to destroy the evidence. This was the plan that was followed at Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, not just at Plaszow. The Nazis claimed that Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec were transit camps. Plaszow was also used as a transit camp for prisoners on their way to Auschwitz. Could that be why there were allegedly so many people killed at Plaszow, yet there is no evidence?

          Comment by furtherglory — July 13, 2012 @ 1:06 pm


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