Płaszów was established in 1942 as a forced labor camp for Jews from the Krakow, Poland region. In 1944, the camp held about 20,000 inmates, including Roma and both Jewish and non-Jewish Poles. It was divided into sections for camp personnel and work facilities, and there were separate barracks for men and women, Jews and non-Jews. Food was limited, and a food trading system developed between prisoners. Poor diet and sanitation caused a massive death toll.
The camp’s SS commander, Amon Göth, was notorious for his cruel and unpredictable treatment of prisoners, including random shootings and harsh beatings. Some 8,000 prisoners were murdered in the camp.
The prisoners were forced to work in the local industries and stone quarries. The German industrialist Oskar Schindler established an enamelware factory, Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik, adjacent to Płaszów. Around 900 Jewish prisoners worked in his factory. Schindler made efforts to protect his workers from abuse by the guards and from deportation by building a separate camp for his workers closer to the factory and out of Göth’s sight. When the Jews working in his factory were forced to return to Płaszów in October 1944, Schindler sought permission to move his factory to Brūnnlitz in the Sudetenland, ultimately saving more than 1,000 Jews.
As the Soviet Army moved toward Krakow, the camp guards prepared to dismantle Płaszów and remove evidence of the crimes that had been committed there. By January 1945, the last prisoners in the camp were moved to Auschwitz and other camps with the plan to send them further west.
The following summary derived information from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.