History of Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik
Oskar Schindler's Emalia Factory belongs to one of the branches of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków and is located in the administrative building of the former factory of enamelware in Zabłocie. The factory was known as the Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik (DEF) and belonged to Oskar Schindler.
Before DEF, the First Factory of Enamelled Dishes and Tin Products called “Rekord“ Spółka z o.o. operated in this facility. The company was established in March 1937 by three Jewish entrepreneurs: Michał Gutman from Będzin, Izrael Kohn from Kraków and Wolf Luzer Glajtman form Olkusz. In June 1939, the company filed a bankruptcy petition and was officially announced bankrupt by the Regional Court in Kraków.
Soon after the outbreak of World War II and the entrance of German troops into Kraków on 6 September, Oskar Schindler, a member of the NSDAP and agent for the Abwehr coming from the Sudetes, arrived in the city. On the basis of the occupational law passed by the German authorities, he took over as the so-called trustee (German: Treuhander) of a Jewish shop with kitchenware on Krakowska Street. In November 1939, on the basis of the decision issued by the Trustee Office (Treuhandstelle), he took over the bankrupt company, Rekord Spółka z o.o. in Zabłocie. On 15 January 1940, on the basis of the contract with the receiver, Schindler leased factory facilities on 4 Lipowa Street and 9 Romanowicza Street. He also purchased the already-manufactured products and semi-finished goods. His next step was to buy a lot on Lipowa Street. This is when he renamed the factory to Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik, “DEF“ for short. Schindler soon embarked on an extension of the factory according to the plans prepared by the former shareholders of the Rekord company. In 1942 the stamping room was expanded, thus creating, from the side of Lipowa Street, a three-storey building housing a pattern room, warehouses, as well as social and administrative facilities where the owner's office and his flat was located. The entrance to the courtyard of the factory was accentuated with two columns and closed with an openwork gate.
The factory manufactured enamelware according to the same technology which had been applied before the war. Nonetheless, in order to keep the business prosperous, a department of armaments producing mess tins for the Wehrmacht, cartridges and fuses for artillery shells and air-missiles was established. Poles were among the initial workers, but over time the number of Jews recruited by the labour office in the ghetto (March 1941–March 1943) started to grow. Poles remained chiefly at administrative positions. The number of Jewish workers grew from over 100 in 1940 to about 1100 in 1944 (this was the number of those employed in the three local facilities, accommodated in the sub-camp at DEF).
People worked every day and did not have any days off. In the times of the existence of the ghetto in Podgórze, the Jewish workers were escorted to the factory by the industrial security workers (Werkschutz) or the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. After the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943, those Jews who managed to escape death during this campaign were transported to the labour camp in Płaszów. This was when Schindler obtained a permit to create a sub-camp on the lot he had purchased, adjacent to DEF. In May 1943 the barracks in Zabłocie were designed for the workers of DEF and three other neighbouring companies which produced equipment for the needs of the German army: the Kurt Hoderman's Cooler and Aircraft Part Factory (NKF), Józef Chmielewski's Barracks Factory, and Ernst Kühnpast's Box Factory. The area was surrounded by barbed wire, three watchtowers were erected and between the barracks the roll call ground was marked out. The camp had its own medical service; medicine was provided by the Jewish Social Self-Help Organisation (JUS). The food was much better than in the camp at Płaszów, mainly due to the possibility of cooperation with the Poles who had contact with the city. Although the factory and the camp were subjected to inspections—frequently by Amon Göth, the infamous commandant of the camp in Płaszów— it was thanks to Schindler's efforts that they were not particularly oppressive for the workers.
In the autumn 1944, the liquidation campaign of the Płaszów camp had begun. Therefore, Oskar Schindler evacuated the armament factory, together with its staff to Brünnlitz in the Protectorate of Bohemia, a branch of the concentration camp in Gross-Rosen. About one thousand two hundred employees worked there until the liberation by the Red Army on 8 May 1945.
In the wake of the shift of production to Brünnlitz, the production at the factory on 4 Lipowa Street was stopped. Two years after the end of the war, the factory facilities were nationalised. In the period 1948-2002, the facility was occupied by “Telpod“, a company manufacturing telecommunications sub-assemblies (Zakłady Wytwórcze Podzespołów Telekomunikacyjnych „Telpod"), later operating under the name, Telpod SA. The plant was partly reconstructed at the time. However, some elements of the facilities remained unchanged; these included the memorable entrance gate, the façade of the building on 4 Lipowa Street and the gable roofs of the factory halls.
Elaborated by Monika Bednarek (The Historical Museum of the City of Kraków), © all rights reserved