Łódź, a manufacturing center, was the second largest city in Poland at the beginning of the Second World War. Its Jewish citizens accounted for approximately one-third of its population of more than 650,000. The leader of the ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, is one of the most controversial figures of the Holocaust. His strategy of cooperating with the Nazis and his reputation for self-aggrandizement led many to condemn him, despite that fact that tens of thousands of Jews were spared until mid-1944 to work as slave-laborers. The ghetto was sealed in May 1940. Deportations to the Chełmno killing center—which included thousands of Roma, as well as Jews—were conducted in 1942. The September action, focused on children and the elderly, was especially savage. The final liquidation of the camp occurred in the summer of 1944, when approximately 7000 Jews were sent to Chełmno and nearly ten times that number, including Rumkowski, were deported to Auschwitz.

Łódź was also the location of the Radogoszcz transit camp and police prison, which was established in the buildings of a former factory. Several thousand people were incarcerated here, and hundreds were executed after so-called “trials.”