‘Red coat girl’ in ‘Schindler’s List’ was traumatized by role in Holocaust film

Dylan Stableford
The Sideshow

Oliwia Dabrowska, the Polish actress better known as the girl in the red coat in Steven Spielberg's otherwise monochromatic Holocaust film "Schindler's List," says she was so traumatized when she first saw it at age 11 that she kept her role a secret for years.

Dabrowska—who was 3 when "Schindler's List" was released in 1993—admitted she had broken a promise to Spielberg to wait until she was 18 to watch the film, which depicted horrors such as SS officers shooting women and children. The 193-minute epic, starring Liam Neeson as Nazi industrialist Oskar Schindler, left Dabrowska equal parts upset and confused, as people assumed that even at her age she was something of a Holocaust expert.

"I was ashamed of being in the movie and really angry with my mother and father when they told anyone about my part," Dabrowska told The Times of London in an article marking the 20th anniversary of the film. "I kept it secret for a long, long time, though at high school people got to know [about it from] the Internet." People, she added, would say to her, "'You must know so much about the Holocaust.' I was frustrated by it all."

She added that viewing it at 11 was "too horrible. I could not understand much, but I was sure that I didn't want to watch ever again in my life."

But Dabrowska, now 23, said she watched it again when she turned 18, and her feelings about the film changed. "I realized I had been part of something I could be proud of," she said. "Spielberg was right: I had to grow up into the film."

[Related: Spielberg debuts IWitness, a Holocaust testimonial project]

Dabrowska joins a long list of child actors—Linda Blair ("The Exorcist"), Jodie Foster ("Taxi Driver"), Brooke Shields ("Pretty Baby")—who have appeared in movies with heavy subjects.

She also told The Times that while she considers acting a "nice hobby," she hopes "to go into publishing."