All this gives a distinctly somber perspective to the guided tour of Krakow that Palowski offers. One sees a plaque on the wall of a pharmacy that records that 2,000 Jews were shot on the spot in a square over a two-day period. Then, near a quarry, there's the reconstruction of the infamous Plaskow labor camp, with 34 huge barracks, seven watchtowers and a replica of Amon Goeth's villa on a bluff above.
A quarter of a mile away, Palowski points out the real Plaskow camp, where between 40,000 and 80,000 Jews died. It was built near the site of a Jewish cemetery leveled by the Nazis who used its gravestones to pave a road. Only one stone remains in this chilling place, leaning at a crazy angle: a memorial to a Krakow Jew named Chaim Jakob Abrahamer, who mercifully died in 1932, before the Nazi horror began. Amon Goeth's villa still stands; from the back, he could indeed see the whole camp below him, and pick his prisoners off at random. (The replica was built for the movie so it overlooks the reconstructed labor camp, as Goeth's villa perched above the actual camp.)
In the huge square where Jews line up for a \o7 blauschein\f7 , production designer Alan Starsky has turned the clock back 50 years, hiding TV aerials and modern street lamps, while converting storefronts to their wartime look. For this scene they bear the name of Jewish owners: Adolf Blumenfeld, Natan Gotlieb, Chaim Roth, Leon Salz. Each store has a yellow poster with a Star of David, proclaiming \o7 Judisches Geschaft: sklep zydowski\f7 . It means "Jewish shop" in German and Polish.
If the extras playing the waiting Jews look more authentic than normal in period films, it may because most of their costumes are originals dating from the 1940s. Costume designer Ann Sheppard said: "We advertised that we would buy old period clothing, and a lot of people came out to offer us what they had.
"It was sad. Old men in old coats took them off on a cold January day and gave them to us because they needed the money. One woman brought two pairs of gloves, still wrapped in tissue paper, and told us they were part of her wedding outfit. She was selling them because she had no money. We gave her the equivalent of $20 for a lifetime's memories, and she walked away. I was almost in tears. I ran down the street after her, gave her the gloves back and said keep the money."
Just off the square can be seen artful reproductions of the old ghetto wall, temporarily rebuilt for the duration of shooting. Then a glimpse of real life--in a tiny synagogue, about 100 Jews, mostly elderly men, are celebrating Passover. In a city of some 700,000, this is the size to which the observant Jewish population has been reduced.
If Poldek Pfefferberg wants to tell you his story, then his story gets told. He is a persistent man, and with good reason--as one of the 1,100 Jews on Oskar Schindler's list who survived the war, he vowed to Schindler (who died in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1974 at the age of 66) that he would see his memory honored in some permanent way. "I have been trying to get people to write Schindler's story since 1950," he says.
Pfefferberg and his wife, Mila, moved to the United States in 1947; he opened a thriving wholesale leather goods business on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, where he was better known as Leopold Page. Now 80, he has been invited by Spielberg to visit the Krakow set along with his wife.
It was Pfefferberg who persuaded Thomas Keneally to write "Schindler's List." The author walked into the cool of Poldek's store one Saturday afternoon in October, 1980; outside it was 100 degrees. Keneally bought a briefcase and said he was a novelist; he had been signing copies of his book "Confederates" in Brentano's bookstore nearby.
"It took a long time for the American Express authorization to clear," Pfefferberg remembers. "While we were waiting, I told him Schindler's story. Keneally said he was the wrong person to write it--he was only 3 when World War II broke out, as a Catholic he knew little about the Holocaust, and he didn't know much about Jewish suffering. I got angry and said those were three reasons he should write the book."
His persuasive powers worked. Keneally agreed to postpone a flight home to his native Australia that evening, and instead spent the night at Pfefferberg's house, poring over documents and pictures of Schindler. Within three weeks he decided to write the story.
Walking on to the set was an emotional moment for Poldek and Mila. "When I saw 400 people in the square, I closed my eyes and thought I was back in the ghetto," Pfefferberg says. "I'm a strong personality, but when the actor playing Amon Goeth came up to me, I got goose pimples."
Mila had the same problem. "Steven said, 'Mila, this is Amon Goeth.' And everything inside me froze. I thought, 'Should I shake hands with him or not?' Then (Fiennes) smiled, and turned out to be charming."