In Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, a little girl in a red coat plays the catalyst which saves the lives of more than 1,000 Jews headed to concentration camps.
But the girl who played her, now 24 years old, said she was traumatized for years after being cast in the role in 1993.
Oliwia Dabrowska was three when she was in the film, wearing a red coat that was the only color in the film.
Spielberg told her not to watch the movie until she was 18, but she ended up breaking her promise and watched it earlier.
“I was ashamed of being in the movie and angry with my mother and father when they told anyone about the part,” she said.
Being in the movie led her to garner unwanted attention and harassment.
“People said: ‘It must be so important to you, you must know so much about the Holocaust,’ I was frustrated by it all,” she explained. “I kept it secret for a long, long time, though at high school people got to know on the Internet.”
She watched it when she was just 11 years old, and was horrified by what she saw. The most disturbing scene for her was one where SS officer Amon Goeth, played by Ralph Fiennes, shoots women and children from his window.
“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,” she said.
In the film, Nazi businessman and factory owner Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, sees her character walking through a crowd, her coat the only item of color in the scene. He also sees her on a cart carrying dead bodies.
After Schindler sees this, he decides to create a list of Jewish workers in order to spare as many lives as possible.
The movie is based on the real life story of Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,200 during the Holocaust.
Though Dabrowska now feels honored for being cast in the role, it took her some time to accept it.
She said it would have been better if she watched it when she was 18.
While she swore at 11 years old to never watch it again, she decided to give it another go when she reached adulthood.
“I realized I had been part of something I could be proud of. Spielberg was right: I had to grow up to watch the film,” she said.
This year marks Schindler’s List’s 20th anniversary. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.