'Schindler's List' escape room in Greece offers visitors WWII experience

"How does a pastime that reduces the Holocaust to a game exist — and thrive — for almost two years and without any repercussions?"

January 12, 2019 21:34
2 minute read.
Schindler's List original

A siutcase belonging to Oskar Schindler with the original copy of a list of over 1,200 Polish Jews known as Schindler's List is shown in Stuttgart, Germany. (photo credit: MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)


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A "Schindler's List" escape room, based on Steven Spielberg's 1993 epic historical Holocaust movie, welcomes visitors in Thessaloniki, Greece to find a list of "innocents" to be saved in the background of World War II.

The writer Margarita Gokun Silver traveled to what was advertised as "one of the most exciting escape rooms" in Thessaloniki, whose description was based on Schindler's List's script.

"There was the year (1939), the location (Krakow, Poland), and the storyline (a German businessman comes to “earn money from the war” but ends up “saving as many innocents as possible from the SS”)," Silver published this week on Medium.

"How does a pastime that reduces the Holocaust to a game exist — and thrive — for almost two years and without any repercussions?" Silver added.

A physical adventure game, escape room players solve riddles using clues to unveil a secret plot. Groups of players are given a set time limit to solve the mystery and find their way out.

The escape room is located in the heart of the former Jewish community of Thessaloniki, a block away from the Jewish Museum and the Jewish Community Center. For centuries, Thessaloniki was a vibrant center of Jewish culture since the expulsion from Spain.

When the German Nazi occupied the city in 1941, more than a third of the city's population was Jewish. By the end of WWII, 96 percent of its Jewish population perished in concentration camps.

“To take an experience like the Holocaust that was dehumanizing for the victims and to turn that into a game trivializes not just the event, but it trivializes their suffering,” Victoria Barnett, director of Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum told Medium.

Participants in the game are given one hour to search for clues in the room furnished in the style of 1930s Europe. The main goal is to find "the list of innocents," with no explicit mention made of Jews of the Holocaust.

The owners, according to Silver, didn't think of the "theme" as insensitive or offensive, but educational.

"If there was any takeaway, it was that the horrors of the Holocaust are too complex and too severe to be addressed during an hour-long activity focused on searching for clues and guessing lock combinations," concluded Silver. 

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