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February 19, 2014 1:04 pm

Oskar Schindler’s Czech Factory for Sale; Could Become Holocaust Museum

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Oskar Schindler. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Oskar Schindler’s famous factory is for sale, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

The factory, in Brnenec — population 1,300 — in eastern Czech Republic, 120 miles from Prague, once belonged to the “Czech-German industrialist, spy and a member of the Nazi party who sheltered about 1,200 Jews there in the final months of the Second World War,” Bloomberg wrote. Schindler was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s Academy award-winning 1993 film ‘Schindler’s List.’

Blahoslav Kaspar, the city’s mayor, told Bloomberg that the dilapidated complex “has real potential,” though “it looks like Dresden after the bombing,” and he suggested that it could be a good spot for a Holocaust museum.

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Bloomberg quoted Monika Bednarek, curator of the Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow, who said Brnenec “is the right place to remember. The most important part of the story happened there, not here in Krakow.”

Tomas Kraus, director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, said a museum would be a “fantastic idea,” according to Bloomberg.

“The memorial should have been made right after the movie was released,” he told Bloomberg. “This is our last chance before it falls apart.”

The factory, which went bankrupt ten years ago, has been the subject of nearly 100 civil and criminal lawsuits, which are close to being resolved, and the city is willing to sell it for a symbolic sum.

Bloomberg wrote:

Schindler, who ran a cookware factory in Krakow that had been converted to arms production, moved the plant and its Jewish workers to Brnenec in 1944 as the Soviet Red Army approached Poland. Originally a textile plant owned by a Jewish family, the Brnenec site was given to Schindler thanks to his ties to the Abwehr, or Nazi secret service. He managed to keep many of his employees out of Auschwitz by telling the German government they were skilled laborers.

After the war, Schindler fled Czechoslovakia, where he was wanted as a war criminal because of his membership in the Abwehr. He went first to Germany and then South America, where he ran a string of unsuccessful businesses and ended up being supported by Jewish groups. In 1962, a tree was planted in his honor at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

The Brnenec factory was nationalized after the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948. The textile company, called Vitka, remained the region’s main employer until the mid-1990s, when it stumbled on the Czech Republic’s road to capitalism. The once-prosperous supplier of non-flammable seat covers to automaker Skoda and Czech Airlines changed owners several times in quick succession and went bankrupt in 2004.

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