HOME

TheInfoList




From 1933 to 1945,
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was t ...

Nazi Germany
operated more than a thousand
concentration camps Internment is the imprisonment of people, commonly in large groups, without charges or intent to file charges. The term is especially used for the confinement "of enemy citizens in war War is an intense armed conflict between states ...
, (officially) or (more commonly). The Nazi concentration camps are distinguished from other types of Nazi camps such as forced-labor camps, as well as concentration camps operated by Germany's allies. on its own territory and in parts of
German-occupied Europe German-occupied Europe refers to the sovereign countries of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to sev ...

German-occupied Europe
. The first camps were established in March 1933 immediately after
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A di ...

Adolf Hitler
became
Chancellor of Germany The chancellor of Germany, officially the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (german: Bundeskanzler(in) der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is the head of the federal government of Germany The Federal Cabinet or Federal Governm ...
. Following the Night of Long Knives in 1934, the concentration camps were run exclusively by the
SS
SS
via the
Concentration Camps Inspectorate The Concentration Camps Inspectorate (CCI) or in German, IKL (''Inspektion der Konzentrationslager''; ) was the central SS administrative and managerial authority for the concentration camps of the Third Reich. Created by Theodor Eicke, it was ...
and later the
SS Main Economic and Administrative Office The SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (german: SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt; SS-WVHA) was a Nazi Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of bel ...
. Initially, most prisoners were members of the
Communist Party of Germany The Communist Party of Germany (german: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, ; german: KPD, ) was a major political party in the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1933, an underground resistance movement A resistance movement is an organized eff ...

Communist Party of Germany
, but as time went on different groups were arrested, including "habitual criminals", "asocials", and Jews. After the beginning of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
, people from
German-occupied Europe German-occupied Europe refers to the sovereign countries of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to sev ...

German-occupied Europe
were imprisoned in the concentration camps. Following Allied military victories, the camps were gradually liberated in 1944 and 1945, although hundreds of thousands of prisoners died in the
death marches A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees in which individuals are left to die along the way. It is distinguished in this way from simple prisoner transport via foot march. Article 19 of the Geneva Conventi ...
. More than 1,000 concentration camps (including subcamps) were established during the history of Nazi Germany and around 1.65 million people were registered prisoners in the camps at one point. Around a million died during their imprisonment. Many of the former camps have been turned into museums commemorating the victims of the Nazi regime.


Background

The first modern
concentration camps Internment is the imprisonment of people, commonly in large groups, without charges or intent to file charges. The term is especially used for the confinement "of enemy citizens in war War is an intense armed conflict between states ...

concentration camps
were created by the
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...
in 1896 as "reconcentrados" to house
Cubans Cubans ( es, Cubanos) are people born in Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba ...

Cubans
suspected of supporting insurgents during the
Cuban War of Independence The Cuban War of Independence (, 1895–1898) was the last of three liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain , * gl, Reino de España, * oc, Reiaume d'Espanha, , , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = E ...
, and the
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
during the
Second Boer War The Second Boer War ( af, Tweede Vryheidsoorlog, lit. "Second Freedom War", 11 October 189931 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, the Anglo–Boer War, or the South African War, was a conflict fought between the British Empire The Br ...
to house
Boer Boers () ( af , Boere) refers to the descendants of the proto-Afrikaans-speaking colonist A settler is a person who has migrated to an area and established a permanent residence there, often to colonize the area. A settler who migra ...

Boer
s to prevent them from supporting the forces of the
South African Republic The South African Republic ( nl, Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek; the ZAR; also known as the Transvaal Republic, af, Suid-Afrikaanse Republiek) was an independent republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the ...
and the
Orange Free State The Orange Free State ( nl, Oranje Vrijstaat, af, Oranje-Vrystaat, abbreviated as OVS) was an independent Boer Boers () ( af , Boere) refers to the descendants of the proto-Afrikaans-speaking colonists of the eastern Cape frontier in ...
. However, early examples of what could be termed "concentration camps" were utilized by the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
during their forced removal of Native Americans to temporarily house Indian tribesmen while it was decided where they would be forced to migrate to. According to historian Dan Stone, concentration camps were "the logical extension of phenomena that had long characterized colonial rule". Although the word "concentration camp" has acquired the connotation of the murder of those detained due to the Nazi concentration camps, the Spanish, British and American camps did not involve systematic murder of those in them. The
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
also established concentration camps (german: Konzentrationslager), such as the one of Shark Island during the
Herero and Namaqua genocide The Herero and Namaqua genocide or the Herero and Nama genocide was the first genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social syste ...
(1904–1907) in
German South West Africa German South West Africa (german: Deutsch-Südwestafrika) was a colony of the German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biogr ...
. The death rate of those sent to these camps was 45%, twice that of the British camps. Over time, concentration camps became more severe. The nineteenth-century professionalization of European armies led to "a doctrine of
military necessity Military necessity, along with distinction, and proportionality, are three important principles of international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (po ...
as justifying extreme violence", including against civilians considered a threat. During the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...

First World War
, eight to nine million
prisoners of war A prisoner of war (POW) is a non-combatant—whether a military member, an irregular military fighter, or a civilian—who is held captive by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict War is an intense arm ...
were held in
prisoner-of-war camp A prisoner-of-war A prisoner of war (POW) is a non-combatant—whether a military member, an Irregular military, irregular military fighter, or a civilian—who is held Captivity, captive by a belligerent power during or immediately after a ...
s, some of them at locations which were later the sites of Nazi camps, such as
Theresienstadt Theresienstadt () was a hybrid Nazi concentration camps, concentration camp and Nazi ghettos, ghetto established by the Schutzstaffel, SS during World War II in the fortress town Terezín, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (a Ge ...

Theresienstadt
and
Mauthausen Mauthausen was a Nazi concentration camp on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen, Upper Austria, Mauthausen (roughly east of Linz), Upper Austria. It was the main camp of a group with List of subcamps of Mauthausen, nearly 100 further S ...
. Many prisoners held by Germany died as a result of intentional withholding of food and dangerous working conditions in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention. In countries such as
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Western Europe and Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Ame ...
,
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on cont ...

Belgium
,
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Alps and List of islands of Italy, several islands surrounding it, whose ...
,
Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a and in between 1867 and 1918. It was formed with the and was dissolved following its defeat in the . At its core was the which was a between th ...

Austria-Hungary
, and Germany, civilians deemed to be of "enemy origin" were denaturalized. Hundreds of thousands were interned and subject to forced labor in harsh conditions. During the
Armenian genocide The Armenian Genocide (Terminology of the Armenian Genocide, other names) was the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of around 1 million ethnic Armenians from Asia Minor and adjoining regions by the Ottoman Empire and its ruling ...

Armenian genocide
, internment proved deadly to Armenians who were held in temporary camps by the
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ', ; or '; )info page on bookat Martin Luther University) // CITED: p. 36 (PDF p. 38/338). was an empire that controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, Northern Africa between the 14th ...
prior to their deportation into the
Syrian Desert The Syrian Desert ( ar, بادية الشام, ''Bādiyah Ash-Shām''), also known as the Syrian steppe, the Jordanian steppe, or the Badia, is a region of desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarte ...

Syrian Desert
. In the postwar
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
, the Prussian Ministry of the Interior incarcerated Eastern European Jewish refugees at Cottbus-Sielow and
Stargard Stargard (german: Stargard in Pommern; csb, Stôrgard; la, Stargardia) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The S ...
as "unwanted foreigners".


History


Early camps (1933–1934)

The 1929 economic crash destabilized the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
and the last elected government fell in March 1930. A sequence of chancellors appointed by President
Paul von Hindenburg Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (; abbreviated ; 2 October 1847 – 2 August 1934) was a German general and statesman who led the during and later became from 1925 until his death in 1934. During his presidency, h ...

Paul von Hindenburg
governed by
rule by decree Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political or personal control by someone with authority or power * Business rule, a rule pertaining to the structure or behavior internal to a business * School rule, a rule that i ...
according to Article 48 of the
Weimar Constitution The Constitution of the German Reich (german: Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs), usually known as the Weimar Constitution (''Weimarer Verfassung''), was the constitution that governed Germany during the Weimar Republic era (1919–1933). The c ...

Weimar Constitution
. On 30 January 1933,
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A di ...

Adolf Hitler
became chancellor after striking a backroom deal with the previous chancellor,
Franz von Papen Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen, Erbsälzer zu Werl und Neuwerk (; 29 October 18792 May 1969) was a German conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals wit ...
. According to historian
Nikolaus Wachsmann Nikolaus Daniel Wachsmann (born 1971) is a professor of modern European history in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London The University of London (abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londi ...
, the Nazis had no plan for concentration camps prior to their seizure of power. The concentration camp system arose in the following months due to the desire to suppress tens of thousands of Nazi opponents in Germany. The
Reichstag fire The Reichstag fire (german: Reichstagsbrand, ) was an arson attack on the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament in Berlin, on Monday 27 February 1933, precisely four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hit ...
in February 1933 was the pretext for mass arrests; the
Reichstag Fire Decree 250px, '' Das Andere Deutschlands final issue, announcing its own prohibition (''Verbot'') by the police authorities on the basis of the Reichstag fire decree The Reichstag Fire Decree (german: Reichstagsbrandverordnung) is the common name of th ...
eliminated the right to personal freedom enshrined in the Weimar Constitution. The first camp was Nohra, established in Nohra,
Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free State of Thuringia ( ), is a states of Germany, state of Germany. Located in central Germany, it covers , being the sixth smallest of the sixteen German States (including City States). It ...
on 3 March 1933 in a school. The arrests increased after the election of 5 March. The legal basis for the arrests was the previous practice of "
protective custody Protective custody (PC) is a type of imprisonment (or care) to protect a person from harm, either from outside sources or other prisoners. Many prison administrators believe the level of violence, or the underlying threat of violence within prison ...
", which meant either to restrict a person's liberty for their own protection, or "taking seditious elements into custody during emergencies", including some
Communist Party of Germany The Communist Party of Germany (german: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, ; german: KPD, ) was a major political party in the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1933, an underground resistance movement A resistance movement is an organized eff ...

Communist Party of Germany
(KPD) members in the Weimar Republic. Protective custody meant that imprisonment could continue after a person was
acquitted In common law jurisdictions, an acquittal certifies that the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as the criminal law is concerned. The finality of an acquittal is dependent on the jurisdiction. In some countries, such as the ...
or had completed their sentence. Newspapers at that time reported on the concentration camps in considerable detail and demonized the prisoners as dangerous leftist elements. Eighty percent of prisoners were Communists and ten percent
Social DemocratsSocial Democrats is a name used by a number of political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about ...
; the remaining ten percent were affiliated with a different party, were trade union activists, or had no connection to a political party. By the end of the year, 241 former
Reichstag is a German word generally meaning parliament, more directly translated as ''Diet (assembly), Diet of the Realm'' or ''National diet'', or more loosely as ''Imperial Diet''. It may refer to: Buildings and places is the god specific German word ...
deputies under Weimar had been arrested. Many prisoners were released in late 1933, and after the well-publicized Christmas amnesty, there were only a few dozen camps left. The number of prisoners in 1933–1934 is difficult to determine;
Jane Caplan
Jane Caplan
estimated it at 50,000, with arrests perhaps exceeding 100,000, while Wachsmann estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 people were subjected to detention without trial in 1933. About 70 camps were established in 1933, in any convenient structure that could hold prisoners, including vacant factories, prisons, country estates, schools,
workhouses In Britain, a workhouse () was a total institution where those unable to support themselves financially were offered accommodation and employment. (In Scotland, they were usually known as poorhouses.) The earliest known use of the term ''workhou ...
, and castles. Many sites were reused as Nazi detention facilities later on. There was no national system; camps were operated by local police, SS, and SA,
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
interior ministries, or a combination of the above. The early camps in 1933–1934 were heterogenous and unlike those created in and after 1936, in fundamental aspects such as organization, conditions, and the groups imprisoned. Therefore, researchers have begun to call them "early camps" rather than "concentration camps". Although the camps were not sites of routine killings, their unprecedented violence marked the end of the Weimar Republic.


Institutionalization (1934–1937)

On 26 June 1933, Himmler appointed
Theodor Eicke Theodor Eicke (17 October 1892 – 26 February 1943) was a German SS functionary during the Nazi era Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology and practices associated with Adolf Hitler ...
the second commandant of
Dachau , , commandant = #Commandants, List of commandants , known for = , location = Upper Bavaria, Southern Germany , built by = Nazi Germany, Germany , operated by = ''Schutzstaffel'' (SS) , original use = Political ...

Dachau
, which became the model followed by other camps. Eicke drafted the Disciplinary and Penal Code, a manual which specified draconian punishments for disobedient prisoners, including
corporal punishment A corporal punishment or a physical punishment is a punishment which is intended to cause physical pain to a person. When it is inflicted on Minor (law), minors, especially in home and school settings, its methods may include spanking or Padd ...
. He also created a system of
prisoner functionaries A prisoner functionary (german: Funktionshäftling) was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who was assigned by the Schutzstaffel, SS guards to supervise Forced labor in Germany during World War II, forced labor or carry out administrative task ...
, which later developed into the camp elders, block elders, and kapo of later camps. In May 1934, Lichtenburg camp was taken over by the SS from the Prussian bureaucracy, marking the beginning of a transition set in motion by
Heinrich Himmler Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (; 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was of the (Protection Squadron; SS), and a leading member of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationa ...
, then chief of the
Gestapo The (), abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for ...

Gestapo
(
secret police Secret police (or political police) are Intelligence agency, intelligence, Security agency, security or police agencies that engage in covert operations against a government's political opponents and dissidents. Secret police organizations are cha ...
). Following the Night of Long Knives purge of the SA on 30 June 1934, during which Eicke took a leading role and was promoted for his actions, the remaining SA-run camps were taken over by the SS. In December 1934, Eicke was appointed the first inspector of the
Concentration Camps Inspectorate The Concentration Camps Inspectorate (CCI) or in German, IKL (''Inspektion der Konzentrationslager''; ) was the central SS administrative and managerial authority for the concentration camps of the Third Reich. Created by Theodor Eicke, it was ...
(IKL); only camps managed by the IKL were designated "concentration camps". Eicke managed the details of the concentration camps based on Himmler's will. Wachsmann writes that the "Nazi concentration camp system was forged between 1934 and 1937". In early 1934, the number of prisoners was still falling and the future of concentration camps was not obvious. By mid-1935, there were only five camps, holding 4,000 prisoners, and 13 employees at the central IKL office. At the same time, 100,000 people were imprisoned in German jails, a quarter of those for political offenses. Himmler considered the release of the 1933 prisoners "one of the most serious political mistakes the National Socialist state could have committed". Believing Nazi Germany to be imperiled by internal enemies, he called for a war against the "organized elements of sub-humanity", including Communists, Socialists, Jews,
Freemasons Freemasonry or Masonry refers to fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local guilds of stonemasons Stonemasonry or stonecraft is the creation of building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls ...
, and criminals. Himmler won Hitler's backing and was appointed Chief of German Police on 17 June 1936. Although the Nazi dictator never set foot on a concentration camp, he played a key role in events in 1935, pardoning several guards convicted of the murder of prisoners and backing Himmler's opposition to prisoner releases. Of the six SS camps operational as of mid-1936, only two (Dachau and Lichtenburg) still existed by 1938. In the place of the camps that closed down, Eicke opened new camps at Sachsenhausen (September 1936) and
Buchenwald Buchenwald (; literally 'beech forest Beech Forest is a town in Victoria (Australia), Victoria, Australia. The area of Beech Forest is largely used for potato farming. The town was named after the many Nothofagus cunninghamii, myrtle beech ...

Buchenwald
(July 1937). Unlike earlier camps, the newly opened camps were purpose-built, in Wachsmann's words "planned as small cities of terror". They were designed with barracks, guard towers, and barbed wire. Even Dachau, the model camp, was completely rebuilt in 1937/1938. The new camps were isolated from the population and the
rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal of the , published by (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a compreh ...

rule of law
, enabling the SS to exert absolute power. Prisoners, who previously wore civilian clothes, were forced to wear uniforms with
Nazi concentration camp badges Nazi concentration camp badges, primarily triangles, were part of the system of identification in German camps. They were used in the concentration camps Internment is the imprisonment of people, commonly in large groups, without charges or ...
. The guards for the camps were camp SS or "death's head" SS, young men specifically recruited for the task. The number of prisoners began to rise again, from 4,761 on 1 November 1936 to 7,750 by the end of 1937.


Rapid expansion (1937–1939)

By the end of June 1938, the prisoner population had expanded threefold in the previous six months, to 24,000 prisoners. The increase was fueled by arrests of those considered " habitual criminals" or " asocials". According to SS chief
Heinrich Himmler Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (; 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was of the (Protection Squadron; SS), and a leading member of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationa ...
, the "criminal" prisoners at concentration camps needed to be isolated from society because they had committed offenses of a sexual or violent nature. In fact, most of the criminal prisoners were working-class men who had resorted to petty theft to support their families. The asocial category was for people who did not "fit into the mythical national community", in Wachsmann's words. Nazi raids, such as the Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich of June 1938, in which 10,000 were arrested, targeted homeless people and the mentally ill, as well as the unemployed. Although the Nazis had previously targeted social outsiders, the influx of new prisoners meant that political prisoners became a minority. To house the new prisoners, three new camps were established: Flossenbürg (May 1938) near the Czechoslovak border,
Mauthausen Mauthausen was a Nazi concentration camp on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen, Upper Austria, Mauthausen (roughly east of Linz), Upper Austria. It was the main camp of a group with List of subcamps of Mauthausen, nearly 100 further S ...
(August 1938) in territory
annexed from Austria
annexed from Austria
, and Ravensbrück (May 1939) the first purpose-built camp for female prisoners. The mass arrests were partly motivated by economic factors. Recovery from the
Great Depression The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression An economic depression is a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity in one or more economies. It is a more severe economic downturn than a economic recession, recess ...
lowered the
unemployment Unemployment, according to the OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Économiques, OCDE) is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 38&nbs ...
rate, so " work-shy" elements would be arrested to keep others working harder. At the same time, Himmler was also focusing on exploiting prisoners' labor within the camp system. Hitler's architect,
Albert Speer Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer (; ; March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) served as the Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for ...
, had grand plans for creating monumental
Nazi architecture Nazi architecture is the architecture promoted by Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 2 ...
. The SS company German Earth and Stone Works (DEST) was set up with funds from Speer's agency for exploiting prisoner labour to extract building materials. Flossenbürg and Mauthausen had been built adjacent to quarries, and DEST also set up brickworks at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.
Political prisoners A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment. The term is used by persons or groups challenging the legitimacy of the internment, detention of a prisoner. S ...
were also arrested in larger numbers, including
Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian Millenarianism (also millenarism), from Latin ''mīllēnārius'' "containing a thousand", is the belief by a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious ...
and German émigrés who returned home. Czech and Austrian anti-Nazis were also targeted after the annexation of their countries in 1938 and 1939. Jews were also increasingly targeted, with 2,000 Viennese Jews arrested after the Nazi annexation. After
Kristallnacht ''Kristallnacht'' () or the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November Pogrom(s) (german: Novemberpogrome, ), was a pogrom A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or expulsion of an ethnic or religious group, particularly on ...

Kristallnacht
pogrom, 26,000 Jewish men were deported to concentration camps following mass arrests, becoming a majority of prisoners. These prisoners were subject to unprecedented abuse, including systematic theft of valuables, "deprivation, torture, suicide and murder" leading to hundreds of deaths—more people died at Dachau in the four months after
Kristallnacht ''Kristallnacht'' () or the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November Pogrom(s) (german: Novemberpogrome, ), was a pogrom A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or expulsion of an ethnic or religious group, particularly on ...

Kristallnacht
than in the previous five years. However, the goal at the time was not mass murder of Jews, but to goad them into emigration. Most of the Jewish prisoners were soon released.


World War II

At the end of August 1939, prisoners of Flossenbürg, Sachsenhausen, and other concentration camps were transported to the
Polish border The Borders of Poland are 3511 or 3582 kilometers long.Informacje o Polsce - informacje ogól ...
, dressed in
Polish Armed Forces The Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland ( pl, Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, abbreviated ''SZ RP''; popularly called ''Wojsko Polskie'' in Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in . It is ...
uniforms, and murdered as part of the Hochlinden incident, one of the false flag attacks staged by Germany to justify the invasion of Poland. During the war, the camps became increasingly brutal and lethal due to the plans of the Nazi leadership: most victims died in the second half of the war. Five new camps were opened between the start of the war and the end of 1941: Neuengamme concentration camp, Neuengamme (early 1940), outside of Hamburg; Auschwitz (June 1940), which initially operated as a concentration camp for Polish resistance movement in World War II, Polish resistance activists; Gross-Rosen (May 1941) in Silesia; and Natzweiler concentration camp, Natzweiler (May 1941) in Gau Baden–Alsace, territory annexed from France. Satellite camps were also established. This expansion was driven by the demand for Forced labour under German rule during World War II, forced labor and later the Operation Barbarossa, invasion of the Soviet Union; new camps were sent up near quarries (Natzweiler and Gross-Rosen) or brickworks (Neuengamme). In early 1941, the high command of the SS ordered the deliberate mass murder of ill and exhausted prisoners who could no longer work (especially those deemed racially inferior), in an operation codenamed Action 14f13. Victims were selected by camp personnel and traveling "euthanasia doctors" and were removed from the camps to be murdered in euthanasia centers. By spring 1942, when the operation finished, at least 6,000 people had been killed. A related operation, Action 14f14, began in August 1941 and involved the German atrocities committed against Soviet prisoners of war, killing of selected Soviet prisoners of war within the concentration camps, usually within a few days of their arrival. By mid-1942, when the operation finished, 38,000 Soviet prisoners had been murdered. At Auschwitz, the SS used Zyklon B to kill Soviet prisoners in improvised gas chambers. From July 1944 to May 1945 the concentration camps were gradually taken over and the remaining prisoners freed, mostly by Soviet or US forces (see The Holocaust#Liberation).


Organization

In November 1940, the replacement of Eicke by Richard Glücks as leader of the IKL led to a bureaucratic shuffle with little practical consequences: the IKL came under the control of the SS Main Command Office and the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) took on the responsibility of detaining and releasing concentration camp prisoners. In 1942, the IKL became ''Amt D'' (Office D) of the
SS Main Economic and Administrative Office The SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (german: SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt; SS-WVHA) was a Nazi Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of bel ...
(SS-WVHA) under Pohl.


Prisoners

Before World War II, most prisoners in the concentration camps were Germans. After the expansion of Nazi Germany, people from countries occupied by the Wehrmacht were targeted and detained in concentration camps, especially Czechs from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Republican faction (Spanish Civil War), Republican veterans of the Spanish Civil War, and Poles. In Western Europe, arrests focused on resistance fighters and saboteurs, but in Eastern Europe arrests included mass roundups aimed at the implementation of Nazi population policy and the forced recruitment of workers. This led to a predominance of Eastern Europeans, especially Poles, who made up the majority of the population of some camps. By the end of the war, only 5 to 10 percent of the camp population was "Reich Germans" from Germany or Austria. In late 1941, many German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners of war, Soviet prisoners of war were transferred to special annexes of the concentration camps. Intended as a labor reserve, they were deliberately subject to mass starvation. Most Jews who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust were never prisoners in concentration camps, instead being detained at Nazi ghettos or forced-labor camps. However, those who entered the system faced specific harassment (often fatal). Significant numbers of Jews were imprisoned beginning in November 1938 because of ''
Kristallnacht ''Kristallnacht'' () or the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November Pogrom(s) (german: Novemberpogrome, ), was a pogrom A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or expulsion of an ethnic or religious group, particularly on ...

Kristallnacht
'', after which they were always overrepresented as prisoners. After the start of the war, some Jews who had been released after Kristallnacht were arrested again if they had not managed to emigrate. Jews, Slavic prisoners, and Spanish Republicans were targeted for especially harsh treatment which led to a high mortality rate during the first half of the war. In contrast, Reich Germans enjoyed favorable treatment compared to other nationalities. A minority of prisoners obtained substantially better treatment than the rest because they were
prisoner functionaries A prisoner functionary (german: Funktionshäftling) was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who was assigned by the Schutzstaffel, SS guards to supervise Forced labor in Germany during World War II, forced labor or carry out administrative task ...
(mostly Germans) or skilled laborers. Prisoner functionaries served at the whim of the SS and could be dismissed for insufficient strictness. As a result, sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky emphasizes that "They took over the role of the SS in order to prevent SS encroachment" and other prisoners remembered them for their brutality.


Conditions


Forced labor

After 1942, many small subcamps were set up near factories to provide forced labor. IG Farben established a synthetic rubber plant in 1942 at Monowitz concentration camp, Monowitz concentration camp (Auschwitz III); other camps were set up next to airplane factories, coal mining, coal mines and rocket propellant plants. Conditions were brutal and prisoners were often sent to the gas chambers or killed on site if they did not work quickly enough.


Public perception

There is something of a myth that German people were terrorized into compliance by Nazi totalitarianism. Instead, Robert Gellately argues, "the Germans generally turned out to be proud and pleased that Hitler and his henchmen were putting away certain kinds of people who did not fit in, or who were regarded as 'outsiders', 'asocials', 'useless eaters', or 'criminals'." Karola Fings writes that demand for SS construction brigades, concentration camp prisoners who worked in bombed German cities, "points to general acceptance of the concentration camps".


Statistics

There were 27 main camps and, according to Nikolaus Wachsmann's estimate, more than 1,100 satellite camps. (This is a cumulative figure that counts all the subcamps that existed at one point; Orth estimates the number of subcamps to have been 186 at the end of 1943, 341 or more in June 1944, and at least 662 in January 1945). Around 1.65 million people were registered prisoners in the camps, of whom, according to Wagner, nearly a million died during their imprisonment. Historian Adam Tooze counts the number of survivors at no more than 475,000, calculating that at least 1.1 million of the registered prisoners must have died. According to his estimate, at least 800,000 of the murdered prisoners were not Jewish. In addition to the registered prisoners who died, a million Jews were gassed upon arriving in Auschwitz concentration camp; including these victims, the total death toll is estimated at 1.8 to more than two million. Most of the fatalities occurred during the second half of World War II, including at least a third of the 700,000 prisoners who were registered as of January 1945. In proportional terms, the death rate was highest in 1942 and fell again in 1943 before rising again during the last year of the war; however the increase in the number of prisoners meant that in absolute terms the number of deaths continued to rise. Extermination camps such as Kulmhof, Belzec extermination camp, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka were not part of the concentration camp system, and were operationally separate. These camps maintained only a minimal prisoner population.


Death marches and liberation

Death march, Major evacuations of the camps occurred in mid-1944 from the Baltics and eastern Poland, January 1945 from western Poland and Silesia, and in March 1945 from concentration camps in Germany. Both Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners died in large numbers as a consequence of these
death marches A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees in which individuals are left to die along the way. It is distinguished in this way from simple prisoner transport via foot march. Article 19 of the Geneva Conventi ...
. The camps were liberated by the Allies of World War II, Allied Powers between 1944 and 1945. The first major camp, Majdanek concentration camp, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviet Red Army on 23 July 1944. Liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet 322nd Rifle Division on 27 January 1945; Buchenwald concentration camp, Buchenwald by the United States Army, U.S. Army on April 11; Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen by the British Army on 15 April;
Dachau , , commandant = #Commandants, List of commandants , known for = , location = Upper Bavaria, Southern Germany , built by = Nazi Germany, Germany , operated by = ''Schutzstaffel'' (SS) , original use = Political ...

Dachau
by the Americans on 29 April; Ravensbrück concentration camp, Ravensbrück by the Soviets on the same day; and Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, Mauthausen by the Americans on 5 May. In most of the camps discovered by the Soviets, almost all the prisoners had already been removed, leaving only a few thousand alive—7,000 inmates were found in Auschwitz, including 180 children who had been experimented on by List of Nazi doctors, doctors. Some 60,000 prisoners were discovered at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen by the 11th Armoured Division (United Kingdom), British 11th Armoured Division, 13,000 corpses lay unburied around the camp, and another 13,000 inmates, too weak to recover, died after the camp was liberated. The British forced the remaining SS guards to gather up the corpses and place them in mass graves. After the camp was cleared of both inmates and SS personnel, the British burned down the camp to prevent the spread of typhus. Many prisoners died after liberation due to their poor physical condition.


Aftermath

Since their liberation, the Nazi concentration camp system has come to symbolize violence and terror in the modern world. Under the West German policy of (), some survivors of concentration camps received compensation for their imprisonment. A few perpetrators were put on trial after the war. Many survivors testified about their experiences or wrote memoirs after the war. Some of these accounts have become internationally famous, such as Primo Levi's 1947 book, ''If This is a Man''. The concentration camps have been the subject of historical writings since Eugen Kogon's 1946 study, ' ("The SS State"). However, substantial research did not begin until the 1980s. Scholarship has focused on the fate of groups of prisoners, the organization of the camp system, and aspects such as forced labor. Two comprehensive scholarly encyclopedias of the concentration camps have been published: the German-language Der Ort des Terrors and Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. According to Caplan and Wachsmann, "more books have been published on the Nazi camps than any other site of detention and terror in history". Dan Stone argues that the Nazi concentration camp system inspired similar atrocities by other regimes, including the National Reorganization Process, Argentine military junta during the Dirty War, the Pinochet regime in Chile, and Pitești Prison in the Romanian People's Republic.


Sources


Notes


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * * *


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Nazi Concentration Camps Nazi concentration camps, Holocaust locations, Concentration SS Main Economic and Administrative Office Total institutions