I was the girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List… and it ruined my life: Trauma of girl who became holocaust icon
- Oliwia Dabrowska, 24, played iconic role in 1993 film Schindler’s List
- Playing ‘the girl in red coat’ left her ‘ashamed’ and traumatised for years
- Oliwia’s character’s coat is the only colour in the black-and-white film
A little girl in a red coat becomes the catalyst which saves the lives of more than 1,000 Jews destined for the concentration camps in Steven Spielberg’s celebrated film Schindler’s List.
But for the now 24-year-old woman who played the role in 1993, the iconic appearance left her traumatised for years.
Oliwia Dabrowska was three years old when she starred as the girl in the red coat – the only flash of colour in the otherwise black-and-white film.
Traumatised: Oliwia Dabrowska, 24, played a little girl in red coat in film Schindler’s List and says it ruined years of her life
‘I was ashamed of being in the movie and angry with my mother and father when they told anyone about the part,’ the university student told The Times.
She added that starring in the film led to much unwanted attention and harassment from well-meaning adults and school friends.
‘People said: “It must be so important to you, you must know so much about the Holocaust” I was frustrated by it all.’
Oliwia, from Krakow, said she was ‘horrified’ when watching the film for the first time at the age of 11, breaking her promise to director Steven Spielberg to wait until she was 18.
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She told the newspaper: ‘I kept it secret for a long, long time, though at high school people got to know on the internet.
‘People said: “It must be so important to you, you must know so much about the Holocaust.” I was frustrated by it all.’
One of the most disturbing scenes is one showing the SS officer Amon Goeth, played by Ralph Fiennes, who arbitrarily shoots women and children from his window.
Oliwia told The Times: ‘It was too horrible. I could not understand much, but I was sure that I didn’t want to watch ever again in my life.’
In the film, Ms Dabrowska plays a ‘little girl in the red coat’ spotted by Nazi industrialist Oskar Schindler during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto in 1943.
Nazi businessman and factory owner Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, sees her wander through the crowds, her coat standing out among the sea of grey, and later spots her on a cart carrying dead bodies.
It is after this harrowing experience that Schindler decides to draw up a list of Jewish workers in order to spare as many lives as he can.
The film is based on the real life actions of Oskar Schindler, who was credited with saving more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.
Ms Dabrowska says that although she now feels honoured to have played the role, it took her years to come to terms with it.
She now regrets having watched it at such an early age, and although she swore never to watch it again, she gave it another go at the age of 18 – just as she had promised the Oscar winning director.
‘I realised I had been part of something I could be proud of. Spielberg was right: I had to grow up to watch the film.’
Ms Dabrowska continues to act in her spare time and is currently in her third year of a Library Science degree and hopes to go into publishing.
Schindler’s List, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, seven BAFTAs and three Golden Globes, and is often ranked among the best films ever made.
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