Concentration camps are prison camps in which members of minority groups, political enemies or people of physical irregularity are kept. In most cases it is a permanent imprisonment. The concentration camps of Hitlers era and of the Nazi regime are normally associated with mass death, torture and gruesome scientific experimentation. In reference to the Holocaust, about three fourths of the prisoners were killed never seeing freedom again. The first concentration camps were set up in 1933. In the early days of Hitler, concentration camps were places that held people in protective custody.
Victims for protective custody included those who were both physically and mentally ill, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Jews and anyone against the Nazi regime. Gypsies were classified as people with at least two gypsy great grandparents. By the end of 1933, there were at least fifty concentration camps through out occupied Europe (Israel 152). At first, the camps were controlled by the Gestapo (police), but by 1934 the S.
S. (Hitler's personal security force) were ordered by Hitler to control the camps (Prince 518). Camps were set up for different purposes. Some for forced labor, others for medical experimentation.
Later on, some became death/ extermination facilities. Transition camps were set up as holding places for death camps. Henrik Himmler, chief of the German police, thought that the camps would provide an economic base for the soldiers. This did not happen. The work force was poorly organized and working conditions were inhumane (Williams-Internet). Therefore, productivity was minimal.
Camps were set up along railroad lines so that the prisoners would be conveniently close to their deportation destination As they were being transported, the soldiers kept telling the Jews to have hope. On the trains, Jews were starved for days. Many people did not survive the ride to the camp. When the camps were finally opened, most of the families who were shipped out together ended up being separated; males in one camp and females in another.
Jews were forced to obey the guard's orders from the moment they arrived at the camps. If they didn't, they would be beaten, put into solitary confinement or shot. The prisoners usually had marks on their clothes or numbers on their arms to identify them. Gold fillings, wedding bands, jewelry, shoes and clothing were taken from the prisoners when they first entered the camps and were sold. The sanitary conditions of the camps were horrible. There was only one bathroom for four hundred people.
They had to stand for hours in snow, rain, heat, or cold. Within the first few days of being at the camps, thousands of people died of hunger, starvation and disease. Other people died from the cruel punishments of the guards; beatings and torture (Alder 43). Typhus, a disease caused by germs carried by flies, was the main disease that spread throughout the camps. Even when people were sick, they still continued working because they knew that sickness meant death. When someone escaped from the camp, all the prisoners in that group were shot.
Joseph Menge le, one of the most notorious of the Nazi doctors. Hummed when selecting among the new arrivals for the gas chamber or for medical experiments (Wiesenthal 182). Some inmates were frozen to determine the best way to revive frozen German soldiers. He also I well know for his work on twins, using them to test different chemicals. Once the camps became too full, they would invent new ways to dispose of the prisoners. Women were sent to one side to have their hair shaven and the men to the other.
They were all sent to the showers, naked with a bar of soap, so as to confuse them into believing that they were truly going into a shower. Most people smelled the burning bodies and knew the truth. There were several death camps; Chelmno, Treblinka, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Sobibor, Maid anek, and Belzec are some. These camps used gas from the shower heads to murder their victims.
Auschwitz, located in Poland, was ultimately Nazi Germany's largest concentration camp. It was established by order of Himmler on April 27, 1940. At first, it was a small work camp for Polish and Soviet prisoners of war. It became a death camp in 1941.
Auschwitz was divided into three areas: Auschwitz 1 was the camp commander's headquarters and administrative offices. Auschwitz 2 was called Birkenau and it was the death camp with forty gas chambers. Auschwitz 3 was a slave labor camp (Gilbert 15). On the gate of Auschwitz was a sign in German which read, 'Arbeit macht frei', which means work makes you free.
Auschwitz included camp sites a few miles away from the main complex. At these sites, slave labor was used to kill the people. The working conditions were so poor that death was a sure result. Until March 26, 1942, Auschwitz took women prisoners, but after August 16, 1942 the women were housed in Birkenau to make it easier for their destruction (they were not as strong).
When the Jews arrived at Auschwitz, they were met with threats and promises. If they didn't do exactly as they were told, they would be beaten, deprived of food, or shot. From time to time, they would be assured that things would get better. The daily meals in Auschwitz consisted of watery soup, distributed once a day, with a small piece of (moldy) bread.
In addition, they got extra an allowance consisting of 3/4 ounce of margarine, a little piece of cheese or a spoonful of watered jam. Everyone in the camp was so malnourished that if a drop of soup spilled prisoners would rush from all sides to see if they could get some of the soup. Because of the bad sanitary conditions, the inadequate diet, the hard labor and other torturous conditions in Auschwitz, most people died within a few months of their arrival. The few people who managed to stay alive for longer were the ones who were assigned better jobs. The prisoners slept on three shelves of wooden slabs with six of these units to each tier.
They had to stand for hours in the wet and mud during role call, which was twice a day. Some people thought the reason hundreds of people died daily was because when it rained they lay with wet clothes in their bunks. In place of toilets, there were wooden boards with round holes and underneath them concrete troughs. Two or three hundred people could sit onthe m at once. While they were on these troughs, they were watched in order to assure that they did not stay too long. There was no toilet paper, so the prisoners used linings of jackets.
If they didn't have, they might steal from someone else. The smells were horrible because there wasn't enough water to clean the latrine. The stench of burning flesh filed the air in the concentration camps as well as the area surrounding them. When people were loaded onto trains to be taken to these gas chambers, they were told that they were being "resettled" in labor camps. This was one of the many lies told. It was impossible for the Jews to make out which building was the gas chambers because they looked presentable from the outside, just like any other building.
Over the gas chambers were well kept lawns with flowers bordering them. Jews were killed in the chambers by Lykon B (Williams- Internet), hydrogen cyanide which was poured through the ceiling of the gas chambers and turned into gas. The S. S. commanders of Auschwitz preferred Lykon B. because it worked fast.
Jews tried to escape from Auschwitz. Some succeeded. Of course they wanted to inform the world of what was going on. Those who escaped wrote descriptions of the horrors they suffered. Information spread to many countries, yet no countries seemed to do anything to help the situation.
In fact, as the war progressed, the number of prisoners increased. (In total, between 1. 5 and 3. 5 million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz between the years 1940 and 1945 (Braham 294).
) Throughout history billions of people have been killed by cruel techniques and torture, but never has there been such carnage at one time except for during the Holocaust. Millions walked into the concentration camps but only a few walked out. As for the rest, death was the final result. Braham L. , Randolph. The Psychological Perspectives of the Holocaust and of its aftermath.
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