Schindler's Kraków -- The tragic story of Poland's Jews and of life in the Nazi wartime ghettos has inspired no fewer than two Oscar-winning movies: Roman Polanski'sThe Pianist (2002), set in Warsaw's wartime ghetto, and the possibly even bigger Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film was based on the novel Schindler's List (Simon & Schuster), by Thomas Keneally, and recounts the true story of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who comes to Kraków at the start of World War II to make his fortune selling war goods to the German army. Though Schindler is a member of the Nazi party, he slowly comes to recognize the evil nature of the destruction of the Jewish community. By arguing to the Nazi hierarchy that he needs his Jewish workers to continue output for the German war effort, Schindler eventually manages to save some 1,100 Jewish people from certain death at Auschwitz. Much of the filming was done on location at various points around Kazimierz and Schindler's former enamel factory in Podgórze across the river, as well as at the former Paszów labor camp and Auschwitz itself. If you've recently watched the movie, you'll recognize several shots as you walk through Kazimierz. The best-known location is the still highly evocative courtyard running between Józefa and Meiselsa streets (now home to several cafes and restaurants). Most travel agencies offer full-length tours of "Schindler's Kraków". The movie was not without criticisms, chief among them that Spielberg managed to diminish the inherently evil nature of Nazism by portraying Nazis merely as crazies and lunatics. Others said he commercialized the atrocities or had managed somehow to exaggerate Schindler's goodness. Be that as it may, the movie continues to rise in the eyes of film critics. The American Film Institute ranked it 8th on its list of 100 Best American Films.
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