The former concentration camp at Plaszow in a suburb of Krakow is an interesting study in memorialisation. The camp itself has not been preserved, although there are two monuments (more of those in another post). Destroyed by the Nazis as they retreated, it has since been allowed to fall into ruin. Walking around the site, heavily overgrown and predominantly used by locals for dog walking, I realise that I am walking on top of the rubble of the barracks.
Clambering through a fence at the edge of the site, I find my way into the Liban quarry, a place where camp inmates were put to work.
In 1993 the Plaszow camp was re-created inside this quarry as a film set for Schindler’s List. A fairly realistic recreation, even down to casting replicas of the Jewish tombstones used as paths throughout the camp. Now overgrown itself, the quarry-set has an eerie feel to it. Much of Spielberg’s infrastructure has been left, and like the camp it replicates, has fallen into picturesque ruin. So, for visitors it is easy to conflate the two as there is no delineation between the ‘real’ and the ‘constructed’ ruins. In fact some visitors – perhaps those who are not even aware of the existence of the Spielberg set – mistake his replica tombstone path for the real thing (the original headstones were removed after the war and are now in the New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow). I wonder if anyone cares about what is real and what is not, if the necessary ‘eeriness’ is achieved? The Liban quarry has become a popular dark tourism site in its own right and is now a destination on some Schindler’s List themed tours. I am imagining a time in the not too distant future when fact and fiction have run together, when document and drama have converged and when we no longer have any living witnesses to say ‘no, this was not the place’. Then perhaps the unremarkable site of the actual camp will be usurped by Spielberg’s recreation in its far more appropriately dramatic and sublime setting.
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