Schulz was born in 1892 in Drohobycz (now Drogobych, Ukraine), a small town in Galicia. Schulz studied architecture at Lvov University and fine arts in Vienna, specializing in lithography and drawing. After returning to his native town, he worked from 1924 to 1939 as an art teacher in the local gymnasium.
In the 1930s, Schulz's reviews appeared in literary magazines. In 1938 Schulz was awarded the Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature. Between 1939 and 1941 Schulz lived in the Soviet-occupied territory, but when Germany attacked the U.S.S.R. Drohobycz was occupied by the Nazis. Like many other Jews, Schulz was deported to the ghetto.
In the ghetto, Schulz's paintings caught the eye of a Gestapo officer named Felix Landau who arranged for Schulz to paint frescoes in his house. But Landau had killed a Jewish dentist who was under the protection of another Gestapo officer, Karl Günther. Thus, on November 19, 1942, Günther saw Schulz walking in the "Aaryan Quarter" of town and shot him in retaliation for the dentist's death.
Schulz's reputation came years after his death, when his stories began to appear in English. To many literary critics, Schulz is one of Poland's greatest short story writers, often referred to as "the Polish Kafka."