Max Friedman managed to track down his mother’s address in Krakow, Poland, as part of research he was conducting in preparation for a book about his family’s history before the Holocaust. He arrived at his mother’s home only to discover it had been turned into a tourist attraction.
When Max arrived at 12 Jozefa Street in Krakow, he found that the house, and especially its beautiful courtyard, had been used as a set for director Steven Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s List.”
“I finally found something that will tangibly symbolize for me my family’s past in the Holocaust,” Max shared his experience with a World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) social media campaign that was launched on International Holocaust Day. Behind every stolen property and home, there is a story. This is a link and a connection to the history of Jewish families and communities that were torn apart during the Holocaust.
The courtyard of the house at 12 Jozefa was called, “the most beautiful courtyard in Kazimierz,” Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter. In Spielberg’s film, the building served as the central location in the Krakow ghetto where many Jewish families lived. In the film, the Germans push people out of their apartments and throw their belongings from the balconies, when a young man from the Jewish police force hides a child and her mother in a niche under the stairs.
The initiative calls on Holocaust survivors and their families to share stories about the homes they lived in before the war, and how in one moment the life they knew ended. The campaign, under the hashtag #MyPropertyStory, is aimed at increasing awareness of private and communal Jewish property that was looted in the Holocaust, and the urgent attempts to restore it to its rightful Jewish owners before it is too late.
“So far, many Holocaust survivors and their families have shared their stories,” said Mark Weitzman, Chief Operating Officer of WJRO.
The building in Kazimierz was built in 1802 as a two-story inn with an interior courtyard. Max Friedman’s mother and her family moved into the building in 1919. His mother and sister were sent to Auschwitz in the second half of 1944 and later to Bergen-Belsen.
“When we visited the building, I learned that following the film the house became a necessary stop on tours related to the history of the Holocaust in and around Krakow. I couldn’t hold back, I sat on the steps of the house and watched ‘Schindler’s List’ again on my laptop, and it was a very moving moment for me,” Max said.
“When we went about researching my family’s history in Poland, the only place I could recognize that remained intact and somehow represented my past was in the building at 12 Josefa Street. I finally found something that was a tangible symbol for me of my family’s past during the Holocaust. My mother’s stories of Josef Mengele and the ramp in Auschwitz profoundly influenced me. This is the only house my mother knew in her childhood and it became, in a very strange way, a place I could call home.”