holocaust, jewish, extermination, concentration camp, shoah, auschwitz, belzec, treblinka, monowitz, birkenau, night of the long knives,
deportations, judenrat, majdanek, westerbork, chelmno, vught, wannsee, theresienstadt, roma, sinti, night of the broken glass, extermination camps, nazi´s,
hitler, jews, diaspora, jewish council, judenrat, transportation, birkenau, ghetto, hans vanderwerff, sion soeters, aktion reinhard, terezin, himmler, david irving
holocaust denial, holocaust lest we forget, jews, synagogue, oswald pohl, odilo globocnik, deportations, judenrat, majdanek, westerbork, chelmno, vught,
wannsee, theresienstadt, roma, sinti, night of the broken glass, extermination camps, nazi´s, hitler, jews, diaspora, jewish council, judenrat, transportation,
birkenau, ghetto, hans vanderwerff, sion soeters, aktion reinhard, terezin, himmler, david irving, holocaust denial, holocaust lest we forget, jews, synagogue,
oswald pohl, siegfried seidl, protectorate, bohemia, moravia, murmelstein, karl rahm, anton burger, karl hermann frank,
- labour camps
The history of national socialist camps can be divided into different periods, during which the camps had different functions. However the principle aim during the time between 1933 to 1945, was to take political opponents and those, who were, according to the national socialistic ideology "inferior", into custody and to destroy them in an industrial way. The treatment of the prisoners during this period changed dramatically and therefore also the camp system. The first concentration camps were built shortly after the Nazis came to power. The party leaders took advantage of an incident which was apparantly threatening to Germany's interior security, to take action against their opponents using extreme violence.
In the night of February 27th, only one month after the Nazis had gained control of Germany and a few days before the Reichtag elections - the Reichstag in Berlin burned down. Until now, the question who set fire to the Reichstag has not been solved. NS propaganda announced that communists had set fire to the Reichstag. The Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested and illegally executed. The death penalty was later legalised (with the so-called "Lex van der Lubbe-act"). Until this day it is believed that the Nazis themselves set fire to the Reichstag. Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler persuaded Paul von Hindenburg, the German president, to sign an emergency decree on the "Protection of people and country". This decree had long since been prepared. This "Reichstagsbrandverordnung" - Reichstag fire ordinance - was valid until 1945. According to this, important democratic and fundamental rights were annulled, e.g.:
- people's freedom of movement Rinus van der Lubbe.
Rinus van der Lubbe.
In the time between 1933 and 1936 the concentration camps served the purpose of asserting the dictatorship and stabalizing it. At the same time, ideological and political opponents as well as resistance fighters were taken into custody in order to eliminate the opponents of the NS system, or at least to intimidate them permanently. Apart from that, the first organised assaults against the Jews took place in the early camps. Jews, who were committed as "political prisoners", soon made up 10 per cent of the total prison population, although they were less than one per cent of the German population. Right from the beginning of the national socialist reign the Jews were in great danger and often, it was not necessary to find a "reason" to arrest a them, it was simply enough to be one.
In July 1933 there were approximately 27,000 people in the concentration camp. According to official statements, in 1935 the number dropped to approximately 7,000 and 9,000. This was after the closure of different so-called "Schutzlager" - protection camps. In the summer of 1934, 75% of inmates were being held because of political reasons.The national socialist party (NSDAP) in Germany had become much stronger. On the one hand, fear for the national socialist and on the other hand, conformity to the policies of the party were the reasons leading up to this. Previously organised political groups had turned into individuals or small resistance groups after the first phase of persecution. That is why the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior considered a complete dissolving of the camp system between the years 1935 and 1936. These thoughts were encouraged by the consolidation of the national socialist system as well as the great number of Jews who fled Germany. Another reason were the 1936 Olympic Games, the nazi's wanted to keep up their friendly image an asure the world of their good intentions. Hiltler put an end to the discussion by openly backing up the supporters of concentration camps as a long-term control and exploitation system.
In the spring of 1934, when Heinrich Himmler had already taken over the control of the concentration camps, the SS received full control over the camps on 4 July 1934 after the elimination of the SA (Night of the long knifes). Himmler made Theodor Eicke, commanding officer of the Concentration Camp in Dachau, established on 20 March 1933. He was promoted to "Inspekteur der Konzentrationslager" - IKL Inspector of the concentrations camps - and the "SS-Wachverbande". Eicke drew up his own camp rules which anulled any criminal laws. All camps which were still in existence were organised according to the example of concentration camp Dachau. The situation worstened once again in 1936. Groups of Himmler's prisoners included:
In addition to that, large numbers of male inhabitants from occupied European countries were deported to Germany as forced labourers and were systematically exploited to boost the German war machine. Many forced labourers and concentration camp prisoners died of hunger, disease, maltreatment or exhaustion, or were simply killed, because the were to weak to work and were of no use to the German war industry. Exploiting and killing forced labourers and concentration campprisoners became common practice. The number of German inmates was reduced to between five and ten per cent.
From 1940 on, several new, big camps were established. In April 1940, after the concentration and extermination camps I and II in Auschwitz had been built, the use of the concentration camps reached a new dimension. Murder specifically aimed at the above mentioned groups, but Jews in particular, had become an objective of war. Murdering people became a new industry. This objective became first clear during the "Russland-Feldzug", the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), when the Einsatzgruppen with help from some units of the "Wehrmacht" killed hundredthousands of people, mainly Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia.
In March 1942, the IKL (lnspekteur der Konzentrationslager und SSWach-verbande) was put under the control of the newly created trade and administration headquarters of the SS (WVHA - Wirtschaftsverwaltungshaupt-amt), under Oswald Pohl, who answered to Himmler. The WVHA was responsible for all economic operations of the SS, including those were camp prisoners were exploited. At the end of the year 1941 an extermination camp was established in Chelmno where the first mass gassings took place. The gassings were "tried out" on Jews and Soviet prisoners of war.
In the autumn of 1944 the camps in East Europe were closed one after the other due to the military situation, the advance of the Red Army and the subsequent German retreat from the occupied countries in Eastern Europe. The prisoners were either killed or transfered to other camps on German or Austrian territory. Due to the fact that the weak and maltreated people had to cover at least a part of the way on foot, the expression "death marches" is commonly used for these deportations. A notorious example of a death march is the march from KZ Gross Rosen to KZ Mauthausen, in which many prisoners died because of exhaustion, disease or because they were killed and left on the side of the road. Because of these "death marches" there were still more that 700,000 people in the camps inside Germany's prewar boundaries (Germany and Austria) at the end of the war in May 1945, despite the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945. Approximately two thirds of all the people, who were deported to the camps between 1933 and 1945, did not survive. More than four million people were murdered in concentration and extermination camps, including those who were murdered immediately after their arrival in the camps. The nazi victims killed by the Einsatzgruppen and other German army units are not even included in these numbers.
Source: Dr. Susanne Urban-Fahr