The site of Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory is now one of Kraków’s must-see museums, an immersive exhibition about life under Nazi occupation. Here is our complete walk-through, with practical information for visitors.
Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory
German industrial Oskar Schindler and his factory are now famous, largely thanks to the film Schindler’s List and Thomas Keneally’s novel Schindler’s Ark, which Steven Spielberg based it on. By employing over a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees, Schindler almost certainly saved them from the death camps.
Although based in that enamel factory building, the main exhibition is actually called Kraków under Nazi Occupation 1939–1945 and Schindler’s story only appears late in the museum. Instead, the museum is about the experience of Kraków citizens, especially its Jewish population, immediately before, during, and after the German invasion of Poland. It is an imaginative and immersive experience, which – for me, at least – brought home the speed and brutality of the Nazi occupation in a way I hadn’t previously grasped.
Opened in 2010, the museum is a dense collage of objects, films, photographs, and full-scale recreations that visitors can walk through. From the reasonably serene life depicted in pre-war Kraków, the story of the exhibition rapidly descends into the tense uncertainty of 1939, with all the drama of a film. From here, the sense of horror and catastrophe is palpable, built into the sometimes claustrophobic passageways and spaces. In places, even the floor is unstable to represent the turmoil of such precarious living. I don’t think I’ve been to another museum like it.
The exhibition conveys a lot of information and the museum is full of details that are easy to miss on your first visit. Booking a tour through Get Your Guide is recommended to help you navigate the experience.
Read on for a full walk-through of the Schindler Factory Museum, followed by practical information for a visit.
What To See In The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum
Portraits of the Schindler factory employees
The exhibition’s 45 rooms are designed to be visited sequentially and the cumulative effect is what stays with you, rather than individual sections. However, I recommend you notices how certains rooms make you feel, as the claustrophobia and disorientation add so much context to the factual information on display. The museum is often cramped and crowded in places. But this too has a psychological effect that matches what you see.
Some of the rooms have a rich metaphorical aspect, such as the train station waiting room, as the Polish summer holiday comes to an end and the country anticipates invasion.
Also, pay attention to the floor beneath your feet, as this often has something to say as well. See below for examples.
Everyday life under Nazi occupation
What To Expect In The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum
You first enter the Schinder Factory Museum through a door on Lipowa, which brings you directly to the box office. The toilets are just to the right. There is a small reception space with a cloakroom and lockers and doors leading to the cafe / gift shop and the temporary exhibition room. There are limited seats where you can wait to have your ticket scanned before entering the main exhibition. There is a flight of stairs – or lift – to the first floor where the first rooms are.
The museum contains 45 rooms, spread across three floors, although the exhibition is designed to be followed sequentially and you will quickly become immersed in the experience without a clear idea of where you are in the building. The narrative begins in the 1930s and moves chronologically through time, focusing on different themes in different sections of the museum.
The story begins with recreations of life in Jewish Kraków before the outbreak of the Second World War. Poland regained independence with the founding of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and Kraków was flourishing as a major academic and cultural centre. Something like 25% of the population was Jewish. This is represented in photographs showing aspects of daily life and storefronts, film posters and a large public stereoscope, which people would’ve used to stay up to date with events, a kind of visual newspaper.
Notice there are also maps and information on the ceiling of the gallery.
Colourful posters give a lively sense of pre-war Kraków but also warn of coming trouble:
Posters of Kraków events
As news of the German annexation of Austria reached Poland, there were preparations for potential war, with lotteries to raise money and military mobilisation. The speed of change and sense of urgency is conveyed in ceiling-to-floor collages with chaotic perspectives.
The build-up to war
There’s a moment of pause in the metaphorical waiting room of the train station, which invites you to sit and reflect. The effect is of time temporarily suspended. The invasion of Poland coincided with the last day of the summer holidays, when people would be travelling home. So this moment looks back at the freedoms which have effectively already disappeared. The train, of course, also offers a grim pre-sentiment of the death camps.
The waiting room
The outbreak of war was swift and brutal and the Poles were unprepared for the German Blitzkrieg. This part of the exhibition is marked by an atmospheric darkened room with slashes of light, as well as military strongholds and equipment.
Withstanding the Blitzkrieg
The shocking and rapid occupation of Kraków is also conveyed effectively in the next few rooms. From the Wehrmacht flag flying on Wawel Hill to the Germanification of place names across the city, the rights of residents were drastically curtailed. Jews were all-but ostracised from normal daily life and punished brutally for breaking rules.
The monotone posters (in German) contrast with the colourful designs of the previous rooms:
The Germanification of Polish life
But if you look down, this room takes a small revenge. The swastika tiling allows us to show our disrespect by walking over the Nazi legacy.
Nazi floor tiles
In fact, the museum highlights many little acts of defiance. When the Nazis destroyed the statue of Adam Mickiewicz in the Main Square, many Poles continued to walk around the space, as if the monument were still there. As Poles were publicly decried by posters for crimes against the state, underground educational programmes and blackmarket commerce were pockets of resistance.
Nazi cells and posters naming Polish ’criminals’
There’s a chance to sit and watch a film in the interior of a vintage tram:
Blackmarket vodka used as a bribe
At this point, the exhibition continues on the second floor. This staircase can be seen in a memorable scene in the film Schindler’s List.
Within a year of occupation, Jews were being expelled from their homes and by March 1941, the Kraków Ghetto was established. The streets are here recreated and have a crematorium type quality, giving the sense of being buried alive.
Recreation of the Jewish Ghetto
The Nazis looted as much Jewish wealth as possible, whereas multiple families were forced to live in small rooms together, their privacy shielded by makeshift curtains.
At this point, Oskar Schindler enters the story and we, as viewers, have a much deeper context for the stakes involved for Kraków Jews. Much of the office is a recreation but elements like the map are original.
The room contains a dramatic photograph of Schindler with his employees and a “Survivors’ Ark”, which forms a symbolic, protective wall around the lives of the saved. The interior lists their names.
Exterior of the Survivor’s Ark
Running parallel to Schinder’s efforts is a room about the Polish underground movement.
However, from mid-1942, Nazis began systematic deportations to neighbouring concentration camps like Płaszów, often for hard labour in quarries. Those deemed unfit for work were sent to Auschwitz or simply shot in the ghetto.
Recreation of the work camps
Some of the final images of resistance are the most memorable.
A cellar hiding space
These carefully carved wooden puppets depict the Nazis as figures of death:
As the war moves into its endgame, the final dark and chaotic rooms show ravaged buildings and military hardware.
The final battles
For Poles, however, the end of one brutal regime signals the start of another. In these rooms of uncertainty, the flooring becomes unstable and more difficult to walk on.
The Schindler Factory Museum closes with the “Hall of Choices”, reminding us that there can be no judgement for the behaviour of individuals by those who were not there.
The Hall of Choices
The exhibition exits on the ground floor with a small tribute to Oskar Schindler and the individuals who were saved, just to the left of the box office.
How To Visit The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum
Oskar Schindler Factory building and entrance
Oskar Schindler Factory Museum address: Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
Tickets for this hugely-popular museum are given a strict time slot for entry in order to keep the flow of visitors down to a manageable number. You can spend as long as you like inside, but if you miss your slot, you may not be allowed to enter. There is always a queue for tickets at the box office, so you are strongly advised to book in advance.
Alternatively, a tour guide will book and collect the tickets for you.
Entry times are as follows:
- Mon: 10am-2pm
- Tue-Sun: 9am-7pm
- Note: The museum is closed every first Tuesday of the month
Last entry is 90 minutes before closing.
If you plan to visit the Schindler Factory on a public holiday, check ahead. Many attractions will be closed on January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday.
Entry tickets cost 32zł (28zł for concessions). You can also buy family and group tickets. Tickets are available to buy online.
Entry is free on Mondays.
Information is subject to change, so check the official site for the latest information.
Look for the MOCAK building
The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum is located on Lipowa in the Podgórze district, and can be a little tricky to find.
- By Train: There are regular 3-minute train services from the main Kraków Główny station to Kraków Zabłocie, followed by a 5-minute walk to reach the museum. Leave Zabłocie on the left (in the direction the train arrived) and immediately turn right. The path has a fence and bushes on your left and the train station to the right. Follow the route for a few minutes and you should see a roundabout directly ahead of you. Take the second road, directly ahead of you, and soon you’ll see the MOCAK building on the left-hand side. The Schindler Museum is just beyond it.
- By Tram: You can get a number of trams from the Old Town, including the 3, 20, 24, and 50. The journey takes about 9 minutes with an additional 9-minute walk to reach the museum. However, these arrive at either the Zabłocie or plac Bohaterów Getta tram stop, depending which route you pick. The simplest solution is the public transport route planner Jakdojade. You can manually add a start point or let it use your smartphone’s current location. Pick “Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera” as the end point and the service will work out the best route for you, including walking directions when you arrive.
- By Taxi: Perhaps the simplest route is to get a taxi to drop you off directly outside the museum. Get your hotel to organise the pick-up for you or go to the taxi rank in the bus station behind Kraków Główny train station.
- On Foot: Alternatively, you could take the 30-minute walk from Kazimierz to the museum and get to see a bit of Podgórze district on the way. Starting at the Ethnographic Museum in plac Wolnica, walk down to the river and cross at the Father Bernatek Footbridge. Turn left and follow the riverside road past the incredible Cricoteka building. There are cafes you can stop off at along here. Turn right into Targowa until you reach plac Bohaterów Getta – the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes – and the small Pharmacy Under the Eagle exhibition. Then cross over the busy main road via the subway and turn into the street named Kącik on the other side. There are signs pointing to the museum but these are very easy to miss. Follow Kącik until the end – you will see Zabłocie train station to your left – and go through the underpass. You’ll see a roundabout. Cross over into Lipowa. The MOCAK building is directly ahead on the left, with the Schindler museum a little further on the same side.
The museum is often quite crowded!
Tips For Visiting The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum
- Tickets have strict entry times, so make sure you turn up early to use the lockers and toilets before entering. The box office is serving people without tickets as well as those who have pre-booked. If you are collecting a ticket and are worried about missing your time slot, talk to a member of staff who will make sure you get your ticket
- There is a lot to see. Expect to spend a minimum of 1.5 hours in the museum. Give over a whole morning or afternoon if you can. The exhibition is quite cramped in places and can get congested. The best approach is to take your time and wait for others to pass through the space. It’s definitely a museum that rewards a second visit
- Entry to the Schindler Museum is included with the KrakowCard Museum and Travel Pass. See our guide to the KrakowCard for more details
- There aren’t many places to sit down in the museum – and these can be fiercely contested over! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. There is a toilet part way through the exhibition though
- You can take small bags into the exhibition, but backpacks and larger luggage should be left in the cloakroom or the free lockers near the cafe, to the left of the box office
- Photography is allowed, but no tripod or flash
- Due to the horrific nature of events portrayed, this museum will not be suitable for all children. And a few of the images and descriptions require content warnings
- Accessibility is poor to impossible for anyone with mobility issues, as there are narrow corridors, (purposefully) uneven surfaces, and at least one staircase without a lift. However, there is provision for visually and hearing impaired visitors, with text and sound transcriptions (including sign language). Ask at reception.
- You cannot bring food and drink into the museum, but there’s a limited cafe on the ground floor, which you can use without buying a ticket to the museum, and a small shop, mainly focused on history books. The toilets are also on the ground floor
- There is also a temporary exhibition space on the ground floor, which changes over time
- You can pay for everything in the museum with a card
Where Is This Place Located?Find this location on the Visit Kraków Google map:
- Open the Visit Kraków map
- Click on a marker and it will give you the name of the landmark, with a brief description and links for more information and directions. You can pan, scroll, and zoom around the map, or use the + or – buttons in the bottom left of the map to zoom in and out
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side, sorted by category. Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Each category is on a different layer, which can be switched on and off. So you can just see the Hotel or Restaurant pins, for example
- If you are using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location
Map pins are color coded:
- YELLOW: Kraków Sightseeing
- GREEN: Kraków Transportation
- DARK RED: Restaurants in Kraków
- ORANGE: Michelin Restaurants in Kraków
- LIGHT RED: Kraków Bars / Clubs / Music Venues
- BLUE: Kraków Hotels
- PURPLE: Shopping In Kraków