Sunday, 31 January 2016

Liban Quarry

The Liban quarry 
The Liban quarry featured prominently in Speilberg's film "Schindler's List". This pre-war limestone quarry was used for the set depicting Płaszów concentration camp. So, to clear up any confusion, this quarry was NOT in real life part of Płaszów. It WAS however a penal camp where 800 young poles were incarcerated from 1942 - 1944, and who suffered at the hands of their cruel Nazi captors. Beatings and death were dealt out liberally. In fact, a small monument,  which is extremely difficult to find, exists at the ul. Za Torem side of the quarry to 21 inmates executed when the camp was liberated. Speilberg used the quarry as he did not want to film on the site of the neighbouring Płaszów out of respect for the camp's victims. To read the full story of the Liban Quarry - visit the Liban Quarry Page.
The quarry, limekilns and double "concentration camp" fence
Limekilns
Old quarry machinery
The Liban quarry itself actually dates back to 1873, and was established by two well known Jewish families from Podgórze for limestone for the production of quicklime. What remains today is an overgrown tangle of remnants of all these activities - working quarry, penal camp and film set! It certainly becomes very confusing when trying to decipher what remnant dates to what activity! What is evident though, is the creepy air that lies trapped within the vertical limestone walls of this ex-camp, a mere walk from the centre of Kraków.
The main way to acceess the quarry is from the Krakus mound. Stroll along the rim of the cliffs, following the fence until you come to a large cemetery. Proceed through a gap between the fences a short way. You will shorty come to a point where the dirt path veers to the right. Follow it and you will immediately find a path following a long angled ramp down to the floor of the quarry. After this, it is a case of foraging your way through the thick tangle of undergrowth to the various remnants that lie hidden within. The most obvious remnants are the large, tall, rusting limekilns which really do date back to the war. If you scramble up to these, lurking in the trees close by, are the remains of the fake camp commandant's house that Speilberg constructed on a terraced perch overlooking the rest of the quarry.
Limeworks
Don't miss the central road running through the floor of the quarry, which appears to be made of smashed up Jewish gravestones. Once again, this is a remnant from the film set mimicking the road of gravestones that really did exist leading into the real Płaszów camp. I am led to believe however, that the road made for the film set was made from casts of real gravestones. That said, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find it, as the quarry is gradually being swallowed up by nature. I have even heard the site is becoming a haven for wild flowers, rare lizards and birds who forage amongst the gallows, barbed wire and wooden fences posts with electric insulators.
Road made from smashed Jewish gravestones lurking under the snow
Speilberg's concentration camp fence

Electric insulators still on Speilberg's fence
What a visit to the quarry undoubtedly gives the visitor, is a chance to wander independently, sometimes filled with apprehension, visiting the darkest recesses of Kraków's history. Since it is such an overgrown forage into confusing aspects of the worst cruelty man can deal out to fellow human beings, a visit to here, and the neighbouring Płaszów camp, can provoke ponderous soul searching which can be more poignant than a trip to Auschwitz.
Message plastered on one of the quarry's ruined buildings - a message for us all!

11 comments:

  1. Are the massive four lime kilns rebuild by Spielberg or relics from the Nazi- or postwar-time?
    You can see them in Spielbergs film only three or four times in the background, nobody ever climbs on them and they are not shown in work. So you can ask yourself, why build such enormous massive iron construction only for these short moments.

    Thanks
    akashaworld


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    1. Hi akashaworld. Thanks for your excellent question. I have tried to find out more about these structures but there is not much available. They did for sure exist in the quarry before Speilberg used it as a set, so they really are genuine and not props. When they date to is the issue. They could well remain from the time of the war. I also have found some information that the quarry kept on working after the war. I will keep searching for information and keep you posted. 🙂

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  2. Thank you, I also asked the Krakau National Archives and other historians and will inform you.

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  3. How do you know, that the rusted towers existed before the Spielberg film?

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    1. I have found several sites that all state these are original industrial lime furnaces. Also, when you see them close up when you visit, it is clear that they are solid, original structures. They are also surrounded by old brick industrial buildings that are falling into ruin. The only thing that is not clear is when they date to. Are they from the war or from a later date as there are mixed views on this. Some say the quarry stopped functioning in the 1960s, other say 70s or even 80s.
      I have an old DVD on the making of Schindler's List which I will dig out and watch again for any clues.

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  4. Visiting them, I also had the strong impression, that they are so massive and solid, that it would have cost incredible much money and work, to build them only for the few scenes in the film. In the film they also seem to be dirty and rusted, but of course that also could have been the work of the production designer. But for the film it would have been enough to built them in a lighter and cheaper material and paint them "old". So I think, maybe Spielberg only created towers, fences and barracks, but not those iron structures. Can you give me a site, that expresses the same opinion?

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    1. I agree totally with your assessment. So does this person https://polandian.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/schindlers-list-death-camp-krakow-off-the-beaten-track/

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  5. Yes, he also thinks so. Thanks.

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  6. A member of the Schindler-Museum in Krakau now told me, that the massive and rusted iron structures on Liban Quarry come from the pre- and postwar-time and were not reconstructed by Spielberg. He only build barracks, fences and the road from tomb-stones.

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    1. Hi there. That's brilliant, and just the information we were looking for. It confirms what we thought. Thanks for this. Very helpful. 😊

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