Schindler's List Filming Locations In and Around Krakow

by JoHarrington

Certain districts of Krakow may seem very familiar, even to those who've never stepped foot in Poland before. Steven Spielberg filmed 'Schindler's List' there.

Over the course of 72 days, beginning on March 1st 1993, Hollywood took over Krakow.

Steven Spielberg took up residence in the Jewish Quarter, along with his wife and a massive production crew. They were there to film an adaptation of Thomas Kenneally's 'Schindler's Ark'. We know it as the award-winning, epic movie, 'Schindler's List'.

This was the city where those real stories had unfolded. Oskar Schindler's factory was just over the river, as was the actual site of the Krakow Ghetto. But this was also Hollywood.

Authentic filming locations were disdained, in favor of those which merely looked the part. Most of them are in Kazimierz.

Onto the Movie Set with the Schindler's List Soundtrack

As a fiction writer, I often use music to artificially produce a certain mood.

I might be feeling bubbly and bright, but my scene requires the mindset of someone dark and down. On goes Mars from Holst's Planet Suite and my sensibilities follow.  While any music is good for this, movie soundtracks are particularly great. They were composed especially to induce the requisite atmosphere.

This might explain why I had the Schindler's List soundtrack on my iPod. I hadn't planned that. But it was a lucky accident that was too opportune to miss.

I stepped outside my hotel's door, in Ulica Szeroka, Kazimierz, and stood with my back to the Old Synagogue. Then I surveyed the length of the square before me, with its cobbled by-ways and the bright buildings enclosing on every side, right down to the Holocaust Memorial at the far end.

In full knowledge that the owners of all that I could see had left in the 1940s and not come home, I pressed play on my iPod. This was Jewish Town, track two on the Schindler's List album. It had been the soundtrack to scenes filmed right here.

Jewish Town

Schindler's List OST

Image: Ulica Szeroka, in Kazimieri, Krakow
Image: Ulica Szeroka, in Kazimieri, Krakow
Photograph by Jo Harrington

Image: Red flowers in KazimierzIt was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I felt the whole world subtly alter around me, until it was no longer altogether real.

I was in the movie. No actors, no extras, but the set standing so solidly around me. I'd previously seen this place on the silver screen, silenced into stunned contemplation as part of the audience watching Schindler's List. I'd seen it since in the comfort of my own home, just as moved, as I viewed the DVD on my television.

Now I was there. Walking through it. Like I'd momentarily become celluloid.

It was not the history that struck me here. This wasn't the place where it had all happened. Nor was it the square itself. I'd been living here for two days. It was beautiful and fascinating, but it wasn't yet a film location in my mind.

Now it was.  Emotionally, physically, uncannily, it was transformed into a movie scene; and it had carried me with it. That was the power of the music.

In my mind's eye the cars all disappeared and crowds of people took their place. I projected so vividly the desperate queues and huddles up by the railings. I saw again a little girl in a red coat. Then I stopped trying. These were artificial things, being forced onto the scene by my rationality.

Instead I felt what was there. I recognized finally that I was in a desert. There was nobody around. In a place which had once been packed with Jews and the occasional gentile, I was alone. This had been the busiest, most thriving Jewish community in the world. Thousands of people living cheek by jowl.

Seventy years ago, I could not have stood there without company, nor the sight of another living being. The very fact that I was alone gave testimony to the artifice that had been filmed here.

Then I looked up and spotted something that I hadn't noticed before. Amidst the dull colors of a building on the left hand side was a splash of red. A window box filled with flowers. I no longer had to project movie images onto this scene. I had goose-bumps and I was there.

The Liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto in Schindler's List

This was filmed on the streets of Kazimierz NOT the Krakow Ghetto. The square shown at 20 seconds is Ulica Szeroka. The railings surround the Holocaust Memorial there.
Schindler's List

Watch the film to refresh your memory while you're there in Krakow. Rent Schindler's List on Amazon Instant Video.

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Schindler's List (DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)

Experience one of the most historically significant films of all time like never before with the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition of Steven Spielberg's cinematic masterpiece, Sc...

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Schindler's List Movie Locations in Ulica Szeroka

This part of Kazimieri is a good place to start in your quest to see where Schindler's List was filmed. It's where Steven Spielberg was based.
Image: Ariel Jewish Restaurant in Kazimierz
Image: Ariel Jewish Restaurant in Kaz...
Photograph by Jo Harrington

Ulica Szeroka, with its history, memorials and synagogues, is a very popular destination with Krakow tourists. 

We were staying in the Hotel Ester, right on the corner of the square, alongside the wide, open space before the Old Synagogue. Around 8.30am, the first tour groups would arrive.

Often several of them huddled just feet from each other, information being delivered in a cacophony of languages.

Then, as one, an entire tour group - sometimes two or three groups at the same time - would turn and stare in my direction. I doubted very much that I was the center of their attention here. I assumed that it was the hotel. Nevertheless it was very disconcerting.

It took a while to establish the source of such interest. It was the restaurant next door.

Ariel, Kawiarnia Restauracja, is a most excellent purveyor of fine Jewish and Israeli cuisine (to which I can personally testify). This is not its main claim to fame.

This was where Steven Spielberg and his wife lived during the making of Schindler's List. Various parts of the building doubled as offices or meeting rooms for all of the different departments involved in movie-making.

You will not spot it in the film itself, but if you could take a time machine back to 1993, you would have spotted the likes of Ben Kingsley enjoying his dinner on that patio. If you'd sneaked inside, you might have heard one of the local historians remonstrating with Steven Spielberg over the fact that he wasn't filming ghetto scenes in the Ghetto.

He'd be arguing back that what was, and what looks like it was, are two totally different things. In film-making, you have to go with what chimes most quickly with the preconceptions of movie goers. Kazimierz looked the part. Therefore it would be the part!

Image: Nissenbaum Holocaust Memorial
Image: Nissenbaum Holocaust Memorial
Photograph by Jo Harrington

Before you dismiss Ulica Szeroka as not actually being in Schindler's List, there is one location here.

The railings and park behind Nissenbaum Holocaust Memorial, at the northern end of the street, can be glimpsed in the ghetto liquidation scenes. That greenery is an old Jewish graveyard.

Then nip behind it into Hamsa Hummus and Happiness. Another wonderful eatery (we dined there twice), the owners also offer proper guided tours around the places used for filming Schindler's List.

Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

Winner of the Man Booker Prize and Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction. This is the thought-provoking book upon which the film was based.

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The Making of Schindler's List: Behind the Scenes of an Epic Film

When the film "Schindler's List" was first released in 1993, it was acclaimed as both a motion picture masterpiece and a reaffirmation of the human spirit. "The Making of Schind...

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Location of the Stairs Where Mrs Dresner Hid

This is one of the most instantly recognizable film locations from Schindler's List. If you can only pick one to visit, go here.

Secreted between two Kazimierz streets there is a courtyard. Anyone can wander down there. It's a public right of way.  If you wish to linger, there's even a bar halfway down, with outside patio seats.

My friend and I sat there one night, in the midst of one of the most famous film sets in movie history. We sipped red wine, while a disco thumped rhythmically and groups of people congregated for cigarettes and loud conversation.

Even then, it was easy to recall how this courtyard looked in the movie. A feat helped enormously by the film set photographs framed on the walls.

Image: Mrs Dresner Stairs Scene from 'Schindler's List'
Image: Mrs Dresner Stairs Scene from 'Schindler's List'

Leading west off Plac Nowy is Beera Meiselsa.  Keep to the left-hand side of the road and stroll past the large building containing the Kazimierz Roof Garden.

You will pass by three small, railed archways, then one large one, signposted Stajnia pub and restaurant, plus Pokoje Rooms. Wander down there with your camera at the ready.

This courtyard featured prominently during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto scenes in Schindler's List. Nazi guards lined the balconies above chasing recusant Jews downstairs, and hurling suitcases over the edge onto the cobbles below.

Even more memorably, this is where Mrs Dresner ran, after she'd hidden her daughter under some floorboards. She was spotted by a young, uniformed friend of her son's, who should have whistled the alarm to the nearby troops. 

Instead, he concealed her beneath the stairs and told an inquiring guard that this area was empty. Having saved her life, he watched as Mrs Dresner was reunited with her daughter, then escorted them to the 'good' queue.

The Map That I Used to Explore These Streets

Amongst the secondary maps inside, there's one for Kazimierz which was very useful!

Most Pilsudkiego (Bridge)

When the Krakow Ghetto was really being created, most families crossed the River Vistula on the Most Powstańców Śląskich.

That's the bridge which modern day visitors to the ghetto and Schindler Factory still take.

However, it wasn't the one used as a filming location. That's two bridges to the west - Most Pilsudkiego. Presumably the real thing didn't look authentic enough.

Once you're over there, you're now on the outskirts of the real Krakow Ghetto. 

I strongly recommend heading east, whereupon you'll be walking through the streets where the events in Schindler's List actually happened.

You will also be heading in the direction of one of the more obvious (and underused) Schindler's List film locations - the Oskar Schindler factory.

Bridge in 'Schindler's List'
Bridge in 'Schindler's List'

The List is Life Scene from Schindler's List

That typewriter can be found at Oskar Schindler's Factory. However very little of the movie was actually filmed there.

Oskar Schindler's Factory

This is the real place. Go there for the history rather than the movie location.

On the south side of the River Vistula, in the Płaszów area of Krakow, is Oskar Schindler's Factory.

It's one of the best museums that I have ever visited, compelling, interactive, thought-provoking and informative. Focusing upon Poland during the Second World War, it drags you into the history as if you're actually there.

However, if you're visiting in the expectation of seeing that iconic factory floor and maybe Schindler's movie office, then you will be disappointed.  Back in 1993, half of the building and its sub-camp were in ruins. The other part was still being used as offices over a small industrial concern.

Steven Spielberg naturally turned to a sound stage for most of those scenes. Which isn't to say that there's nothing at all to interest the intrepid film location hunter. Particularly if they are also interested in Schindler's List movie memorabilia.

Image: Typewriter and other props from 'Schindler's List'
Image: Typewriter and other props from 'Schindler's List'
Photograph by Jo Harrington

There were very few rooms in this vast museum with a permanent curator in situ. They weren't needed. The fabulous exhibits and information boards were in Polish and English. Nothing needed elaboration.

However, this gentleman was firmly positioned beside the open doorway here. He had two rooms with important film props to watch over.

I think he was largely there to stop them being vandalized or pocketed. He didn't blink when I stood behind the smaller desk with my fingers positioned on the typewriter's keys. I'm not going to pretend that wasn't a thrill.

Before anyone screams 'historical artifact' at me, it really wasn't. It couldn't be. Schindler's lists - the documents (plural) not the movie - weren't compiled as shown in the film. Spielberg's genius lies in emotive story-telling and presenting the essence of things. Historical accuracy is for historians.

Image: Desk and props from 'Schindler's List'
Image: Desk and props from 'Schindler's List'
Photograph by Jo Harrington

At the very least, there are the exterior shots in front of the premises.  Those were filmed at Ulica Lipowa 4.

It didn't disrupt the contemporary business too much to return the factory frontage to its state fifty years previously. That was pretty much just changing a sign and watching what was placed on the windowsills.

There's also a famous stairwell inside. In the movie, a young Jewish woman arrives at the factory to beseech Oskar Schindler to take her parents. Schindler appeared at the top of those stairs, peering down at her. It didn't take a genius to work out that he was assessing whether she was attractive enough to be worth an audience.

I stumbled upon it, as I made my way through the museum. Apologies for the dodgy photography.

Image: Staircase at Oskar Schindler's Factory
Image: Staircase at Oskar Schindler's Factory
Photograph by Jo Harrington

Finally there's the Film Cafe downstairs. It's a place for snacks and coffee, but there are stills from Schindler's List on the walls there.

In addition, the table-tops display interviews and newspaper reports, regarding the making of the movie, safely protected by perspex. You can read while you munch and sip.  Very informative they are too!

The old enamelware factory has a venerable history. Its story retold in the movie 'Schindler's List', this real world location is now an amazing museum.

True Histories That Inspired Schindler's List

Read these true accounts to discover precisely what moved Thomas Keneally and Steven Spielberg to dramatize the story of Oskar Schindler.

Filming Locations of the Concentration Camps from Schindler's List

Those sites may look like Auschwitz-Birkenau and Płaszów Labor Camp, but they weren't. That would have been highly inappropriate.

Image: Schindler's List Amon GoethTwo major camps feature in the movie, but neither are the real thing. They are very cleverly rendered reproductions, filmed close to the actual locations.

Płaszów Labor Camp was destroyed during the Nazi retreat from Krakow. It couldn't have been used anyway.

Nor did Steven Spielberg even attempt to reproduce it on the site. That would be the height of disrespectful.

Płaszów was recreated as a film set in the nearby Liban Quarry instead.

Various fixtures still remain from that time, including a replica of the pavement made from Jewish headstones. However, care should be taken if attempting to visit it.

Liban Quarry is not open to the public. Not only is the environment full of rusting constructs and crumbling chalk, it's also a nature reserve. Some quite rare lizards live undisturbed amidst the reclaimed wetlands.

The safe option is to view the quarry from above. Krakus Mound is just to the north-east and its summit provides a perfect vantage point from which to peer into the quarry.  Alternatively, check out Jamie Stoke's article and photographs in The Polandian from the comfort of your armchair.

The filming location for Auschwitz in Schindler's List is not in Krakow. It's thirty miles down the road in, well, Auschwitz II. But not - I hasten to add, recalling the furor at the time the movie was being made - inside the death camp museum itself!

Take a long, hard look at this picture. Note the infamous 'Gates of Death'.  Now ask yourself what the truck, the train and all those people in the background are covering up.

Image: 'Schindler's List' scene from Auschwitz-Birkenau
Image: 'Schindler's List' scene from Auschwitz-Birkenau

As I was only there three weeks ago, I can tell you.  It's a bus stop, a bench, some bollards, the gift shop, the toilets and the entrance up to the tower.  The front entrance.

Schindler's List was more or less filmed in the car-park of Birkenau (Auschwitz II), but only for the long shots. Some angles show the brick building of the Women's Camp in the background. Those are real enough, but no camera crew traipsed through them for this movie.

The close quarter barracks and shower room scenes were all shot back in Liban Quarry, at another part of the set built there.

Please don't visit Auschwitz-Birkenau with a view to seeing a Schindler's List film set - on so many different levels, don't do that! - because there's nothing left there from the movie. All that was built to enhance contextualization was light, flimsy and completely removed afterwards.

Though naturally those iconic buildings in the background do remain. They ARE Auschwitz II.

Scene Filmed Outside Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Image: Auschwitz II front gate and the car park where 'Schindler's List' was filmed
Image: Auschwitz II front gate and the car park where 'Schindler's List' was filmed
Photograph by Jo Harrington

Remember to Watch the Film Before You Go!

You'll get far more from visiting the movie locations, if you've refreshed your mind on the scenes filmed there.
Schindler's List Collector's Gift Set

Gift Set includes widescreen DVD, Schindler's List: Images of the Steven Spielberg Film book, CD Soundtrack, senitype, and certificate of authenticity enclosed in an limited edition oversized plexiglas case.

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Schindler's List (Widescreen Edition)

Schindler's List, a Steven Spielberg film, is a cinematic masterpiece that has become one of the most honored films of all time. Winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best P...

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Schindler's List (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)

Experience one of the most historically significant films of all time like never before with the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition of Steven Spielberg's cinematic masterpiece, Sc...

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Schindler's List (Ltd Definitive Edition) (Blu-Ray+Dvd+E-Copy+Libro 16 Pagine+3 Cartoline+Poster)

cracovia, 1939. l'industriale tedesco oskar schindler, bella presenza e temperamento avventuroso, manovrando i vertici nazisti tenta di rilevare un fabbrica per produrre pignatt...

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Updated: 12/15/2013, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 10/28/2013

Thank you very much. :)

Jo_Murphy on 10/27/2013

Wow you've done a lot of work in one year! Congratulations, Jo

JoHarrington on 10/26/2013

I used to live with a Film Studies student. It was fascinating what she and her friends could tease out of a movie. I love stuff like that.

cmoneyspinner on 10/26/2013

Do you know what is really interesting about a good movie or tv show? Learning all the background and preparation work and research that went into making the film possible for viewers.

JoHarrington on 10/26/2013

That was a very powerful scene, wasn't it? Filmed in Liban Quarry. :)

You're welcome. Thank you for reading it.

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