The persecution of the Jews of Krakow began immediately when after the city was occupied by the Germans on 6 September 1939. Since Krakow was to be the seat of the occupation authorities, the Germans wanted the city to be cleansed of its Jews. Consequently they began to expel the Jews from Krakow, and by 1941, only 18,000 of the pre-war 60,000 community remained. They were put in a ghetto in a poor district. Factories were established in the overcrowded ghetto to take advantage of the Jewish manpower.
The deportations from Krakow began in May 1942. Hundreds of Jews were shot in the ghetto while the others were dragged out of their homes and put on trains to Belzec and Auschwitz-Birkenau. In March 1943 the ghetto was liquidated: the remaining 2,000 Jewish workers were taken to nearby Plaszow forced labor camp, and all the others were deported to Auschwitz.
The camp of Plaszow was established under the authority of the SS as a forced labor camp in a suburb of Krakow in 1942 .The site of the camp included two Jewish cemeteries. The camp was gradually expanded, until in 1944, when it became a concentration camp, it held over 20,000 inmates. Amon Goeth, who was the camp commander from March 1943 until September 1944, established an extremely brutal reign of terror, working the prisoners to death, conducting selections, and arbitrarily shooting inmates. It is from these horrors that Schindler protected the workers of his factory.