Facts about Concentration Camps
Concentration camps were an integral part of Nazi Germany between the years 1933 and 1945. Without them, Nazi Germany would not have been the threat it had become. Concentration camps were a "camp" where people were imprisoned for being born into a certain family, such as Jewish, Austrian, etc. The conditions in these "camps" were harsh, much rougher than most prisons. People imprisoned were often forced to work, as well as abused. Those who were not forced to work, were put to death.
The first concentration camp was built as soon as Adolph Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Hitler claimed at the beginning that it was for those who opposed the Nazi policy, but it was not long before others were imprisoned beyond their political beliefs. Eventually these "prisons" were built throughout all of Germany, Poland, and other parts of Europe. By 1941, they began to use the concentration camps to kill those who were not the ideal blond haired, blue eyed Christian. He began with those of Jewish descent.
Prisoners of Chelmno
What Is the German Holocaust?
The German Holocaust was a time when 6 million Jews were killed throughout all of the German concentration camps. This began due to Hitler's belief that Caucasian blond hair, blue-eyed Germans were superior to all other races. Jews, in his mind, were a very tainted race, which caused him to target this group more than any other. Hitler hoped by exterminating the Jews, only the "supreme" race would be left.
Jews were not the only targets during the German Holocaust. Disabled people, Roma or Gypsies, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and others were also deemed unworthy races, although Jews were by far the most targeted. In 1933, Europe had over 9 million people who considered themselves Jews. Less than 3 million survived by the end of the Holocaust. Many lived in countries that Hitler's Nazi regime overtook during World War II. Many of those who survived had escaped and moved to the United States or other countries.
Along with people of Jewish descent, 200,000 people with disabilities were murdered, during a "euthanasia program" that was enacted. Most of these institutions were within Germany, although some laid outside of the boundary, where Nazi regime had authority.
Gravesite at Chelmno of Prisoners
Jews in Concentration Camp
Concentration camps were used for several purposes, although all were run by those trained by Theodore Eiche's school.
Theodore Eiche created the concentration camp system, and even ran a school where he trained people towards leading them. Most belonged to the Dead Head's Unit referred to as the SS's Totenkopfverbände. Many of the guards were chosen since they also attended the school. These men were trained on several different ways to run the concentration camps, although all were trained on killing innocent human beings, even those who ran labor camps were taught to kill those who had lost their usefulness.
Here are the different types of concentration camps:
Labor Camps: Within these camps, they would sort people based upon ability. Those who were sick or disabled were immediately killed, due to their inability to work. Those who were capable of manual labor would work sunrise to sundown with very little food and water. Once a person showed signs of illness, they would be murdered either execution style or however those in charge felt was fit. Eventually, those who were brought into a labor camp would either contract a disease from those around them or die due to the extraneous labor with little nourishment.
Gassing: Many concentration camps had gas chambers where they would bring a line of unsuspecting people into a room. They would then seal the room off and fill the room with poisonous gasses. Auschwitz, one of the most famous concentration camps, was set up specifically for this purpose. The gas room was actually right underneath the crematorium. Once they gassed the people, they would send the bodies in an elevator straight up towards the crematorium where the bodies would be burned. Chelmno, the first concentration camp, used this method. Most places, in order to gas the people, would use the exhaust from a truck.
Mass Shooting: Another form that SS soldiers chose to do mass killings was by shooting Jews and other groups. One notorious camp who used this method was Majdanek. On November 3rd and 4th, 17-18 thousand people died in one day through this method. It was so notorious that they even named the mass shooting, 'harvest feast,' or the German name Erntefest. Erntefest also included other mass shootings in the Lublin area. The total body count was believed to be around 40 thousand. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, and this form was used in other concentration camps as well.
Medical Testing Extermination: Some felt they were taking a nobler way of exterminating what they felt were inferior races. These facilities would do medical testing experiments. In order to test these medical experiments, they would give those who lived in the camps a disease, then try a cure to see if it worked. Obviously, they knew many of these supposed cures would fail, and were not disheartened by the loss of people when these cures did not work. A vast majority of the people within camps like this died of the diseases they were infected with. Throughout all of these medical testings, there were no cures found for any known disease.
Photos of AuschwitzClick thumbnail to view full-size
World War II Concentration Camps
The stories of both camps are extremely disturbing and heartbreaking. Before you read the stories below, remember you cannot unlearn anything. As I was studying this, my heart literally ached. Yet, I know this history is important to know. The stories are unbelievable. So read with caution:
Chelmno become an operational killing factory on December 8,1941. At Chelmno they had three trucks that were specifically designed for mass murders. The large trucks had tightly sealed areas where large loads would be able to be carried, but unlike a semi that carries large loads of items, these large loads were of people, specifically those who were Jewish. They then redirected the exhaust of these trucks to enter the enclosed area; therefore, the people would die once the vehicle was turned on.
The first victims, on December 8, 1941, were Jews that lived in the Kolo ghetto. They were asked to line up near the local synagogue in front of the Jewish Counsel. They were told that they could bring one handbag only, and they were going to be taken somewhere where they would be building railroads and working in the fields. This was not the case. The men kept up appearance of good faith, asking the "workers" to place down their handbags once they arrived in Chelmno. The leaders within the camp, then numbered their bags and wrote down their names in a book. They then were told they were going into bathhouses, and asked them to undress. Instead of leading them to bathhouses, all 800 were brutally forced into the deadly vans. All 800 men, women, and children died that day. This was only the first mass murdering to take place, many more were to follow to total a death count of around 350,000 innocent people. This was just one death camp, and not even the worst.
Auschwitz was the largest and most notorious concentration camp. It was made up of three concentration camps within Poland. They chose a variety of means of death from gassing to experimental testing. This one concentration camp took the life of 1 1/4 million people during World War II. Auschwitz's first killing was earlier than that of Chelmno in September 1941, when 850 people lost their lives, because they were too malnourished and weak to work in labor camps.
437,402 Hungarian Jews were killed between May 14th and July 8th, 1944. This all occurred in less than two months, killing more than Chelmno did in its entire working history. This was the largest single deportation of any concentration camp known to mankind.
The treatment of children is even more appalling. Most children upon arrival to Auschwitz would be immediately killed. There was a camp doctor who did choose select children to be tested on. What he was testing is unknown since his main forms of testing were castrating them, freezing them, placing in pressure chambers, and testing with drugs. In later years, before the camp closed, they chose to "save money," by changing their procedures. Instead of killing children then cremating the body, they skipped the step of killing these children and sent them straight to the crematory alive.
The stories of the German Holocaust, the concentration camps, and all the brutality is unbelievable. It will never be understood how such atrocious acts could be acted upon other human beings. The idea that these acts were organized makes it that much more unbelievable. How could so many men gather together, and make decisions on the death of thousands? How could a man go home after a day at work at a concentration camp? How could they not see that what they were doing is wrong, beyond wrong, evil?!? These questions will never be answered.
Questions & Answers
Were there any kids in the concentration camps?
Unfortunately, yes. Even worse, children were thought to be useless, so it was common practice to kill them along with the sickly since they could not do heavy work. Those that were above 13 years of age had a better chance of survival since they could be used for forced labor.
It is estimated that 1.5 million children were killed during the Holocaust. The children that were not killed were often used, especially if they were a twin, for medical experiments that often would lead to their death.Helpful 52
What did prisoners in concentration camps eat?
According to Auschwitz.org, prisoners were given three (measly) meals a day. For breakfast, they had a half liter of what they called coffee but was actually just water with a grain-based coffee substitute. Of course, it was not sweetened. For lunch, they would get a liter of soup that contained potatoes, rutabagas, groats, rye flour, and/or Avo food extract. This was usually so unappetizing that newly arrived prisoners struggled to eat it due to disgust. For supper, they received 300 grams of black bread, 25 grams of sausage, marmalade or margarine. Due to the lack of full nutrition or sufficient calories, they would lose a lot of fat, muscle, and even their organs began to suffer.Helpful 44
Were prisoners in concentration camps allowed to bathe?
I am sure the answer to this would vary by concentration camp. Some camps used the guise of a shower room to gas a large group of people. For ones who were provided a shower, I am sure it was seldom and most likely cold. There are records that some would be given a shower when they first arrived after they shaved their heads to delouse them. That shower may have been their only shower while there. In general, the prisoners were treated as if they were animals not humans, and showers would have been rare if at all provided.Helpful 33
What other concentration camp names were there?
Auschwitz and Chelmno are two of the most well-known concentration camps, but really there were hundreds. Auschwitz, Belzec, Janowska, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sajmište. Sobibór, Syrets, Treblinka, and Warsaw were all extermination camps, which means they focused on killing rather than using them for labor or imprisonment. Most others were considered concentration camps, which focused on using people for labor, experiments, or plain imprisonment or they were just holding centers until a person's fate was decided. There are still many many more.Helpful 28
How common was it for people to escape concentration camps?
Unfortunately not very common. Most escapes were done from worksites outside of the camps, which few prisoners would go on. Even if they were to escape, it was much reliant on those in the area that they escaped. Many would turn them back in, while others would help them escape. Unfortunately the latter was few since there was such a high risk of helping a prisoner.
To give you an idea of how hard it was, at Auschwitz there were 928 attempted escapes, and only 196 succeeded. Half of those who escaped were killed, others were reimprisoned, and there are some that were not documented about their fate.Helpful 3
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz