Concentration camps are a place where selected groups of people are confined usually under inhumane conditions. There have been many kinds of facilities that have served as concentration camps, they usually consist of barracks, huts, or tents, surrounded by watchtowers and barbed wire. When people think of concentration camps they normally think about the Holocaust, Nazi, Germany. During the Holocaust, Nazi, Germany targeted communists, socialist, religious dissenters, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies, homosexuals, prostitutes, physically and mentally disabled people, people who have been condemned in a court of law, and those who were denounced by making critical remarks about the Nazis. However the majority of them were Jews. Adolf Hitler, the ruler of Germany during the Holocaust, believed only true Germans should exist in this society.
Hitler and the Nazi party encouraged prejudice against Jews and any others not of the Aryan race. The Nazis developed "The Final Solution", a plan to get rid of all the Jews. They decided the best way of doing this was to set up camps to exterminate them so they could not pass on their genes and disrupt the Nazis' quest for the perfect race. Therefore he issued the order to kill all men women and children of Polish descent without pity or mercy. These orders were carried out by the Schutzstaffel (SS). The SS ran these concentration camps with brutal military force.
On Wednesday, March 22, 1933 the first concentration camp at Dachau was opened. It was designed to accommodate 5, 000 people. By the end of 1942 there were never less than 12, 000 prisoners in the camp. At the front gates of Dachau is an inscription, "ARBEIT MACHT FREI", which translates "work makes you free." Many prisoners thought that if they worked hard they would be set free.
The irony of it! A more fitting title would have been "Forget what you were! Now you are slaves." , and / or "Give up all hope, you who enter here." Once prisoners set foot in the camps their life expectancy dropped from 70 years to 6 months. When prisoners arrived at the camps they were selected to be either immediately killed or allowed to be put into forced labor. Many prisoners were worked to death in industries such as I. G. Farben chemical company and the V-2 rocket factories.
Many others worked in other factories that are still well known today, such as BMW and Mercedes Benz. Many of the companies that are still in existence today have been sued by Jewish leaders and have paid monetary retributions. Those that were not fit to work were sent to the gas chambers, and then their bodies were burned in crematories. Escape was highly impossible, as barbed wire and search lights were positioned around the perimeter of the camps. In Auschwitz there was a saying that "You enter through the gates, and leave through the chimneys." Upon arriving, prisoners were stripped of their cloths and belongings, tattooed with numbers, and their hair shaven. Food was rationed ranging from a bowl of soup and a crust of bread to an old rotten potato peeling.
In the barracks, there were wooden bunks that served as beds, and often were crammed with 5 prisoners to a bunk. Disease was very common due to no disinfectant and crowded conditions. Bathing and washing was prohibited and toilets were extremely limited. Prisoners had been used as laboratory animals, without the humane restrictions placed on vivisection. Hannah Arendt suggested that "the camp was itself a vast laboratory in which the Nazis proved that there is no limit to human depravity." German scientist experimented on prisoners to determine the length of time the human might survive under reduced air pressure or in frozen water. Various experiments were conducted to find vaccines for lethal contagious diseases.
Experiments with twins were done by the SS doctor, Josef Menge le, to find ways of increasing the German population by breeding families that would produce twins. In the beginning of the systematic mass murder of Jews, Nazis used mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen consisted of four units between 500 and 900 men each which followed the invading German troops executing the Jew. By the time Himmler ordered a halt to the shooting in the fall of 1942 they had murdered 1, 500, 000 Jews.
In September, 1941, the Nazi's began gassing prisoners in mobile gas vans using Carbon Monoxide. The vans were used until the completion of the first death camp which began operation in late 1941. To facilitate the "Final Solution" the Nazis opened extermination camps. Gas chambers were built to increase the killing efficiency and to make the process more impersonal.
Prisoners were tricked into thinking they were going to the showers when they were really going to be gassed. Pellets containing the gas would be dropped into the rooms through holes in the ceilings, and usually one third of the prisoners died immediately. Starting in the early 1942, the Jewish genocide went into full operation. Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau), Treblinka, Belzec, and Sorbibor began operations as death camps. There was no selection process; Jews were destroyed upon arrival.
Of the millions that died, over 1. 5 million were children. The Nazis would kill the innocent children if they were too young to work or had nothing to offer. Many children died because of lack of food.
Babies would have to drink coffee or water because they had no milk. After the prisoners were dead, their bodies were burned after their hair, gold teeth and other items were removed from their bodies. The bodies were taken to the crematoria's that the Germans had built. They had 5 of them in all which could burn thousands of bodies in a day. This was the only way they could deal with the huge number of dead bodies. By the end of 1943 the Germans closed down the extermination camps and by 1944 the Allies had Germany circled.
The Nazis began dismantling the camps and marching the prisoners to other camps. These marches were known as "Death Marches" because thousands more died during their movement because of the cold weather and lack of food. The largest death march took place in the winter of 1944-1945. They marched 60, 000 prisoners to a city 35 miles away. About one out of every four died on the way. The total estimated figure of the Jewish genocide is between 5.
2 and 5. 8 million, which was half of the Jewish population. About 5 million others died at the hands of Nazi Germany as well. It is impossible to try to imagine what the Jewish population went through during these times.
What many people don't know or think about is that America also had concentration camps. The Defense department had convinced the President that the Japanese Americans could not be trusted. During World War Two the U. S.
Army forced approximately 120, 000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds were American citizens, from their primarily West Coast homes to ten concentration camps, many in the interior of the country. The government referred to these prison-like camps as relocation centers. The prisoners were forced to stay until the end of the war. Hopefully, world leaders will use our history to insure concentration camps are not used the way they were in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. I believe they will, the U. S.
makes every effort to treat our prisoners the best they can. We even treated the Afg an prisoners being held in the Cuba camps much more humane than other countries might have. With the U. S.
and its Allies being aware of world events, the Holocaust should never repeat itself.