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This scene in Schindler's List depicts ash falling in a city near a concentration camp. Are there written accounts or reports of this happening in Nazi cities?

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    In the 40’s it was not unusual for smoke stacks of any kind to spew all kinds of stuff. So, not limited to near concentration camps.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 3, 2022 at 16:04
  • Please supply a source, as part of your previous research, that would lead you to believe that a heavely censored press (under the direct control of the Ministry of Propaganda) would allow such reports/accounts to be published. Dec 4, 2022 at 3:14
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    But individuals can record their recollections at a later time. (Not about ashfall observed in a nearby city, but perhaps tangentially related.)
    – justCal
    Dec 4, 2022 at 4:55
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    I first encountered the picture of human ash raining down in Elie Wiesel's memoir Night from 1958: "Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky." Hence I always thought Spielberg had developed the idea from there. I do not have the book at hand. If anyone else can look it up, I think posting the full relevant quote as an answer would be appropriate.
    – ccprog
    Dec 7, 2022 at 20:40

2 Answers 2

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This scene in Schindler's List depicts ash falling in a city near a concentration camp.

The city itself is Cracow (Kraków) in Poland and the concentration camp was situated south east of the city center.

1944-07 2022
  • lower right area: Hujowa Górka and Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp
    • area above the text of Wola Duchacka-L
    • Arial view: green area
  • upper left: Kraków city center

The coarse ashes shown in the film would have been caused by the manner that the bodies were incinerated (open bonfire).

With strong winds to the north west, these ashes could have crossed the river into the city center.

This could have very well be noticed by many people, who would have known that it wasn't coal soot/ashes (that would be common in winter, but not in April). By word of mouth, many would have learned what the cause was.

It would be realistic to be believe that Steven Spielberg based the scene on the remembered event.

Are there written accounts or reports of this happening in Nazi cities?

During the war in the German press: no.


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    This answer explains well how the scenario from the movie is plausible. I have tried to find a primary source describing the event, without success so far (unfortunately I don't know Polish). Obvious places to look: (1) Collected documents of Goeth's trial: Proces ludobojcy Amona Leopolda Goetha przed Najwyzszym Trybunalem Narodowym, CZKH, Warsaw 1947, 510 pp. (2) Published recollections of camp inhabitants, for example: Stella Müller-Madej, Oczami Dziecka, Krakow 1991, 155 pp. (Polish title: Through the Eyes of a Child. Title of English translation: A Girl From Schindler’s List) [cont.]
    – njuffa
    Dec 5, 2022 at 3:57
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    ... (3) Recorded oral history interviews of eyewitnesses of the Płaszów camp, e.g. at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn510761
    – njuffa
    Dec 5, 2022 at 3:59
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Are there written accounts or reports of this happening in Nazi cities?

Keep in mind that the label 'concentration camp' described different things in different times and places.

There were extermination camps like Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau where killing people was the main purpose, there were late-era concentration camps like Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, or Mauthausen, where people were worked to death, extracting labor in the process of killing, there were POW camps where Soviet soldiers were starved to death, and there were early concentration camps, which were improvised holding camps for the domestic German opposition because there were not enough prisons (e.g. the Columbia-Haus in Berlin).

The majority of the murders took place in the East, relatively late in the Nazi era. I suggest you read Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder for an explanation how many Western conceptions about the holocaust were driven by the Western victims and survivors, not by the far greater number of Eastern victims. So while I cannot exclude ashes raining on German cities, the numbers just do not compare.

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  • This brings valuable context but doesn't really try to answer the question. Also, the question mentions a city near a concentration camp, not specifically a German city, so I'm not sure what the point of your last paragraph is...
    – Evargalo
    May 4, 2023 at 7:59

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