2022 Cond Nast. It had become exceptionally overcrowded after the arrival of survivors of the death marches. The process could go on for hours, Wachsmann writes, during which the S.S. guards were constantly on the move, punishing infractions such as poor posture and dirty shoes., The K.L.
Surprised by the rapid Soviet advance from the east, the Germans attempted to hide the evidence of mass murder by demolishing much of the camp, but parts- including the gas chambers- were left standing. It is a crime that has been repeated too many times, in too many places, for us to dismiss it with the simple promise of never again. The failure of the factory, as Wachsmann describes it, was indicative of the incompetence of the S.S. and the inconsistency of its vision for the camps. This debacle did not discourage Himmler and Pohl. But in the camps the Nazis fought against helpless enemies. The very names of the campsDachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Auschwitzhave the sound of a malevolent incantation. If the K.L. Thousands of unburied bodies lay strewn around the camp, while in the barracks some 60,000 starving and mortally ill people were packed together without food or water. ThoughtCo. The Nazis were famously good record keepers, but they managed to destroy the records of some camps before the Allies liberated them. But the ideological momentum of the camps made this inconceivable. At Ravensbrck, the Siemens corporation established a factory where six hundred women worked twelve-hour shifts building electrical components. The prisoners were originally housed in an old munitions factory, but soon Himmler constructed a model camp, the architecture and organization of which provided the pattern for most of the later K.L. And for that purpose it is necessary not to think of the camps simply as a hellscape. There were 20 main concentration camps, many of which had many subcamps, according to Geoffrey Megargee, the editor of the U.S. The West condemns Russias aggression as barbaric and horrific, as Biden warns that conflict could drag on for weeks or months. Although the Nazi party had lots of popular support it gained almost 44 per cent of the vote in the last multiparty elections in March 1933 millions of Germans still rejected it. And as economic institutions they were utterly counterproductive, wasting huge numbers of lives even as the need for workers in Germany became more and more acute. From Political Prisons to Concentration Camps. Particularly hated was the roll call, or Appell, which forced inmates to wake before dawn and stand outside, in all weather, to be counted and recounted. Everything was done with an appearance of medical rigor. Our editors will review what youve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Fifty years later, Auschwitz and the terrible relics it holds are disintegrating, and historians and survivors are now faced with unprecedented questions about how to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. But there was more to the history of the camps and the Holocaust than Auschwitz. Wachsmann finds Hitler threatening to put Jews in camps as early as 1921. She was in charge of the infirmary, where, Helm writes, she would lash out at the sick with the whip or her fists. After the war, she was one of the defendants tried for crimes at Ravensbrck, along with S.S. leaders and doctors. Omissions? Deaths were still rare, however, and most prisoners were released after a few weeks or months.
The first people to be gassed there, in September, 1941, were invalids and Soviet prisoners of war. Labor was seen as a punishment and a weapon, which meant that it had to be extorted under the worst possible circumstances. Auschwitz, the largest and most lethal of the camps, used Zyklon-B. The mayor of Munich at the time described the camp as a place to detain political opponents of the Nazi policy. Most of the six million European Jews murdered by the Nazis died outside concentration camps, shot or gassed on the killing fields of eastern Europe. This night. But liberation came too late for many concentration camp inmates. Himmler declared, No other service is more devastating and strenuous for the troops than just that of guarding villains and criminals. The ideology of combat had been part of the DNA of Nazism from its origin, as a movement of First World War veterans, through the years of street battles against Communists, which established the Partys reputation for violence. A great-grandmother, Auschwitz, and the arc of justice. The standing commando forced prisoners to stand absolutely still for eight hours at a time; any movement or noise was punished by beatings. A Warner Bros. appreciated. 6:00 AM EDT, Wed April 15, 2015. The two missions were connected: the work-shy and other unproductive elements were seen as useless mouths, and forced labor was a way of making them contribute to the community. But Adolf Hitler wanted to keep the camps: he saw the benefits of lawless terror, without courts and judges. All rights reserved. A few weeks later, on February 27th, he seized on the burning of the Reichstagby Communists, he allegedto launch a full-scale crackdown on his political opponents. Among themareAuschwitz in Poland, Westerbork in the Netherlands, Mauthausen in Austria, andJanowska inUkraine. And such sights raise the question of why, exactly, we read about the camps. Army photographers and cameramen, along with leading war correspondents, recorded the aftermath of Bergen-Belsen's liberation. Chelmno, the first of the extermination camps, where gassing began on December 8, 1941, employed gas vans whose carbon-monoxide exhaust asphyxiated passengers. In 1942, three more death camps were built (Treblinka,Sobibor, and Belzec) and used solely for mass murder. Fear of the camps helped to break the anti-Nazi resistance. The name, along with the skull-and-crossbones insignia, was meant to reinforce the idea that the men who bore it were not mere prison guards but front-line soldiers in the Nazi war against enemies of the people. Nazi concentration and death camps in Eastern Europe. There have been many atrocities committed before and since, yet to this day, thanks to those images, the Nazi concentration camp stands as the ultimate symbol of evil. And, certainly, both his book and Helms are full of the kind of details that ordinarily appear only in Dantesque visions. The major camps were in German-occupied Poland and included Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka. began a transformation from a site of punishment to a site of production. The concentration camps make sense only if they are understood as products not of reason but of ideology, which is to say, of fantasy. Helm devotes a chapter to Ravensbrcks Kinderzimmer, or childrens room, where inmates who came to the camp pregnant were forced to abandon their babies; the newborns were left to die of starvation or be eaten alive by rats. Mory was sentenced to death but managed to commit suicide first. Sign up for the Books & Fiction newsletter. This game of hide-and-seek with the rules, this combination of hyper-regimentation and anarchy, is what makes Kafkas The Trial seem to foretell the Nazi regime. At its peak, the Auschwitz complex, the most notorious of the sites, housed 100,000 persons at its death camp (Auschwitz II, or Birkenau). This system of working towards the Fuhrer, as it was called by Hitlers biographer Ian Kershaw, was clearly in evidence when it came to the concentration camps. This photograph was taken by Sergeant Harry Oakes of the Army Film and Photographic Unit. The names of some Nazi concentration camps live in infamy: Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died. The result was desperate black marketing and theft. https://www.thoughtco.com/concentration-and-death-camps-map-1779690 (accessed July 22, 2022). As a result, fewer opponents ended up inside, and by October 1934 only 2,400 prisoners were left in concentration camps. In Ravensbrck, the most feared Blockova was the Swiss ex-spy Carmen Mory, who was known as the Black Angel. The work was brutally demanding, especially for women who were sick, starved, and exhausted. During the following months, teams of S.S. doctors visited the major camps in turn, inspecting prisoners in order to select the infirm for gassing. The Muselmnner, the living dead of the camps, stripped of any capacity to think or feel, were the true product of the K.L., the ultimate expression of the Nazi world view. It shows prisoners sitting by a wire fence which divided two sections of the camp. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/concentration-and-death-camps-map-1779690. It is estimated that the Nazis used these camps to kill approximately 11 million people. Prisoners were made to build the factory in the depths of winter, with no coats or gloves, and no tools. The infamous Lublin-Majdanek camp, which like Auschwitz had elements of both concentration camp and extermination camp, was one where records were destroyed. Their hands, too, were full of excrement and they screamed and rubbed their dirty hands across their faces.. Many concentration camp prisoners died from horrible living conditions or from being literally worked to death. Updated Auschwitz, set up in 1940 to crush the Polish resistance, was the first of many new camps. Those selected were taken to an undisclosed location for gassing; their fate became clear to the remaining Ravensbrck prisoners when the dead womens clothes and personal effects arrived back at the camp by truck. Strangely, however, it was possible, in the prewar years, at least, for a guard to be prosecuted for such a killing. Many more were executed or died during horrific medical experiments. The Belsen Trial gave the world its first real glimpse of the fathomless horror of the Holocaust. Whathappened to Holocaust survivors after the Second World War? Dachau, the first concentration camp, was established near Munich in March 1933, two months after Hitler's appointment as chancellor of Germany. with excrement running out of their trousers. . Rosenberg, Jennifer. Like many Nazi institutions, the K.L. Numbers in the circles show how many camps were in each area. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/concentration-and-death-camps-map-1779690. extermination camp, German Vernichtungslager, Nazi German concentration camp that specialized in the mass annihilation (Vernichtung) of unwanted persons in the Third Reich and conquered territories. Prisoners who were deemed able-bodied were initially used in forced-labour battalions or in the tasks of genocide until they were virtually worked to death and then exterminated. . Political prisoners favored fellow-activists over criminals and asocialsa category that included the homeless, the mentally ill, and prostituteswhom they regarded as practically subhuman. Some observers thought the camps would disappear completely. document.write(new Date().getFullYear()) Birkbeck, University of London, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Yad Vashem (Public Domain), United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Joseph Mendelsohn, executed or died during horrific medical experiments. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Cond Nast. Some prisoners were taken from the camps by train, but most were force-marched hundreds of miles, often in freezing weather and without proper clothing or shoes. were indeed a battlefront, as the Deaths-Head S.S. liked to believe, the deaths, in the course of twelve years, roughly equalled the casualties sustained by the Axis during the Battle of Stalingrad, among the deadliest actual engagements of the war. Even the city of Berlin itself held prisoners of the German secret state police (the Gestapo) at the Columbia Haus facility. When guards at Rikers Island beat a prisoner to death, or when workers in China making iPhones begin to commit suicide out of despair, we regard these as intolerable evils that must be cured. Jan Imich was nine years old when the Second World War broke out. Now the killing of weak and sick prisoners was carried out by guards or camp doctors, sometimes in gas chambers built on site. Those who were still able to work were increasingly auctioned off to private industry for use as slave labor, in the many subcamps that began to spring up around the main K.L. The Nazis created hundreds of concentration camps across Europe during their 12 years in power. The true extent of Nazi barbarity became known to the world in part through the documentary films made by Allied forces after the liberation of other German camps. By clicking Accept All Cookies, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. system, during its twelve years of existence, included twenty-seven main camps and more than a thousand subcamps. In Auschwitz and other concentration camps, prisoner numbers grew fast during the second half of the war. But most of them quickly got used to the abuse of prisoners and upheld SS terror to the end. system. At first, these concentration camps were meant to hold political prisoners; but by the beginning of World War II, these concentration camps had transformed and expanded to house vast numbers of non-political prisoners whom the Nazis exploited through forced labor. Jennifer Rosenberg is a historian and writer who specializes in 20th-century history.
(2021, July 31). About 80,000 to 110,000 people died in the main camp, but its impossible to know how many prisoners it held in its time. This was one of many lies about the camps. Only the major ones are noted on the map above. Still, the single most lethal site of the Holocaust was a concentration camp: Auschwitz. To turn prisoners into effective laborers would have required giving them adequate food and rest, not to mention training and equipment. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). The resulting overcrowding in these camps hastened the spread of disease and caused many more deaths. At the bottom of the K.L. They are eating their first meal after the liberation of the camp.
This rapid expansion and military success resulted in an influx of forced laborers as the Nazi army captured prisoners of war and more opponents of the Nazi policy. There was no typical concentration camp. Did you encounter any technical issues? Between January and May 1945 (when Germany capitulated), an estimated 300,000 prisoners died. https://www.britannica.com/topic/extermination-camp, The History Learning Site - The Death Camps. The figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of Jews gassed on arrival at Auschwitz. Everybody threatens everybody with Dachau. As this suggests, it was already clear that the most notorious and frightening destination for political detainees was the concentration camp built by Himmler at Dachau, in Bavaria. It would have meant treating them like employees rather than like enemies. Survivors who were moved from camps close to the front were sent to Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Terezn (Theresienstadt) and Ravensbrck, or one of their many sub-camps. The creation of these death camps represented a shift in Nazi policy. They suffered from injuries and haunting memories, while most perpetrators got away unpunished. In 1937, Paul Zeidler was among a group of guards who strangled a prisoner who had been a prominent churchman and judge; when the case attracted publicity, the S.S. allowed Zeidler to be charged and convicted. In this map of concentration and death camps, you can see how far the Nazi Reich expanded over Eastern Europe and get an idea of how many lives were affected by their presence. The idea of the extermination camp was to reverse the process and have mobile victimstransported by rail to the campsand stationary killing centres where large numbers of victims could be murdered by a greatly reduced number of personnel. Yet Hitler plays almost no role in Wachsmanns book, and Wachsmann writes that Hitler was never seen to visit a camp. Industry and Agriculture History in Europe, B.A., History, University of California at Davis. IWM BU 6955 A sign erected by British Forces at the entrance to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Germany, 29 May 1945. Its place was taken by the Nazi dictatorship, led by Adolf Hitler. At the same time, they were governed by an extensive set of regulations, which covered everything from their layout (including decorative flower beds) to the whipping of prisoners, which in theory had to be approved on a case-by-case basis by Himmler personally. The enormous expansion of the camps resulted in an exponential increase in the misery of the prisoners. Only those picked as capable of slave labor lived long enough to see Auschwitz from the inside. Now, in the years before actual war came, the K.L. Only three months later, the organization of administration and guard duties, as well as the pattern of ill-treatment of prisoners, had already been implemented. Killing at each of the centres was by poison gas. The Nazis murdered between 1.1 million and 1.3 million people at Auschwitz, 750,000900,000 at Treblinka, and at least 500,000 at Belzec during its 10 months of operation. Rosenberg, Jennifer. Under this extermination program, known to S.S. bureaucrats by the code Action 14f13, some sixty-five hundred prisoners were killed in the course of a year. But the exact numbers of dead will probably never be known, nor will the total number of people held prisoner in Nazi camps. But most fundamental was the impulse to dehumanize the enemy, which ended up confounding and overriding all the others. Majdanek and Auschwitz were also slave-labour centres, whereas Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor were devoted solely to killing. In 1943, Himmler agreed to allow the Red Cross to deliver food parcels to some prisoners in the camps. The history of the camps begins in 1933, seven years before Auschwitz was even set up.
At the same time, the need to keep control of so many prisoners made the S.S. even more brutal, and sadistic new punishments were invented. They had almost no inmates, since the Jews sent there seldom lived longer than a few hours. (Euphemism, too, was to be a durable feature of the K.L. In fact, as Wachsmann writes, as late as 1942 Jews made up fewer than five thousand of the eighty thousand KL inmates. There had been a temporary spike in the Jewish inmate population in November, 1938, after Kristallnacht, when the Nazis rounded up tens of thousands of Jewish men. On January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference at a lakeside villa in Berlin to organize the final solution to Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. During the Second World War, concentration camps spread through much of Nazi-occupied Europe. In some cases, Kapos became almost as privileged, as violent, and as hated as the S.S. officers. These camps did not all operate at the same time, however. For the survivors of the Nazi camps, the road to recovery would be long and painful. Prisoners break up clay for the brickworks at Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, in 1939. The impulse to separate some groups of people from the category of the human is, however, a universal one. The SS operated over 25 concentration camps during the Nazi dictatorship (193345), and over 1,100 attached satellite camps. The K.L. It is when a society decides that some people deserve to be treated this waythat it is not just inevitable but right to deprive whole categories of people of their humanitythat a crime on the scale of the K.L. It enforced brutal rules and rigid schedules. As the Allies advanced across Europe at the end of theSecond World War, they came across concentration camps filled with sick and starving prisoners. Most of the surviving prisoners had been taken away on death marches. To revisit this article, select My Account, thenView saved stories, To revisit this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories, One night in the autumn of 1944, two FrenchwomenLoulou Le Porz, a doctor, and Violette Lecoq, a nursewatched as a truck drove in through the main gates of Ravensbrck, the Nazi concentration camp for women. To send a parcel, however, the Red Cross had to mark it with the name, number, and camp location of the recipient; requests for these details were always refused, so that there was no way to get desperately needed supplies into the camps.
In all, about 6 million Jews and millions of others died in the Holocaust. A Map of Concentration and Death Camps in WWII. Germany officially declared war and began taking over territories outside its own in September of 1939. But there were no detailed plans for building such camps when Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany, in January, 1933. The end came in the first months of 1945, when Allied troops conquered what was left of the Third Reich. Here, behind barbed wire, were the traitors, Bolsheviks, parasites, and Jews who were intent on destroying the Fatherland. Helm writes that Siemens women suffered severely from boils, swollen legs, diarrhea and TB, and also from an epidemic of nervous twitching. And the camps left a bitter legacy for survivors. In the late thirties, driven largely by Himmlers ambition to make the S.S. an independent economic and military power within the state, the K.L. But, for most of the camps first decade, Jewish prisoners had usually been sent there not for their religion, per se, but for specific offenses, such as political dissent or illicit sexual relations with an Aryan. On the eve of the war, the entire K.L. After liberation, the dead of Dora are buried by German civilians from Nordhausen (April 1945). Wachsmann quotes a prisoner at Dachau who saw a transport of men afflicted by dysentery arrive at the camp: We saw dozens. The systematic extermination of Jews, however, took place largely outside the concentration camps.
Between 1933 and 1945, Jews were targeted for discrimination, segregation and extermination. Ad Choices. Talking, decades later, to the historian and journalist Sarah Helm, whose new book, Ravensbrck: Life and Death in Hitlers Concentration Camp for Women (Doubleday), recounts the stories of dozens of the camps inmates, Le Porz says that her reaction was simple disbelief. Considered as prisons, too, the K.L. Long before the Nazis took power, concentration camps had featured in their imagination. Alternatively, search more than 1 million objects from It became the central site for the deportation and murder of European Jews in 1943, after other camps closed. The vast majority of Jews brought to Auschwitz never experienced the camp as prisoners; more than eight hundred thousand of them were gassed upon arrival, in the vast extension of the original camp known as Birkenau.