The historical background of the Holocaust drives Schindler's List. The Holocaust is where one sees the lack of humanity and the gracing presence of it. Schindler is able to make the amount of money he does because of the war and being able to hire Jewish workers which fundamentally "cost less" than other workers. At the same time, the background of the Holocaust and what the Nazis were doing to Jewish people fuels the need for workers to take sanctuary in Schindler's factory. Historical reality causes both narratives to converge. When Schindler awakens to the power he has in stopping the destruction of human life, it helps to fuel his transformation.
The historical background is essential to the work. The themes of compassion and transformation are so relevant because they are present in a historical time period when they were, for the most part, absent. The presence of the Holocaust and the terror that was intrinsic to the Nazis is what makes the work compelling in its characterizations and in its thematic development.