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The Nazis set up their first concentration camp, Dachau, in the wake of Hitlers

takeover of power in 1933. By the end of the war, 22 main concentration camps
were established, together with around 1,200 affiliate camps, Aussen Kommandos,
and thousands of smaller camps. In 1945, when Allied forces liberated the
concentration camps at Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen,
Auschwitz and elsewhere, the world was shocked at the sight of images of dead
bodies alongside half-dead people in these camps. This was the remains of the
Nazis horrible crime, to imprison people in camps because of their otherness or
in order to use them for forced labour. A concentration camp was not the same as
an extermination camp camps constructed with the specific purpose of mass
murdering Jews and other victim groups. Despite this fact, the concentration camps
claimed many thousands of victims. Imprisonment in a concentration camp meant
inhuman forced labour, brutal mistreatment, hunger, disease, and random
executions. It is certain that several hundred thousand died in the concentration
camps. In comparison, more than three million Jews were murdered in the
extermination camps. At the beginning, the first inmates in concentration camps
were political opponents of the Nazi regime. But different people such as Jews,
gypsies, and criminals were caught and placed in concentration camps all in the
name of the Nazis racial and regimentation ideology.It was the Reichstag Fire
Decree of 28 February 1933 that provided the Nazis with the authority to detain
people in protective custody (Schutzhaft). This was the stepping stone to an
organised and centrally directed camp system, which was placed under the
direction of Heinrich Himmler as head of the SS and the police.The camps could
be divided into different categories according to their purpose and function: forced
labour camps, work- and reformatory camps, POW camps, transit camps, police
camps, women camps and ghetto camps. The extermination camps had a special
position within the Nazi camp system. A typical concentration camp consisted of
barracks that were secured from escape by barbed wire, watchtowers and guards.
The inmates usually lived in overcrowded barracks and slept in bunk beds. In the
forced labour camps, for instance, the inmates usually worked 12 hours a day with
hard physical work, clothed in rags, eating too little and always living under the
risk of corporal punishment.The sick, the old and those who could not keep up
with the work temp were selected and then killed with gas, injections or shot.
Others were chosen for terrible pseudo-scientific experiments most often losing
their life. To this was added the horrible destiny that hit those prisoners who ended
up as Muselmnner. This was the name for an inmate so undernourished that he or
she was a living dead a living, round-shouldered skeleton. The Muselmnner
were either killed or died before they were executed.Forced labour played an
important role in the Nazi regimes Jewish policy as well as for the economy of the
concentration camps. Forced labour became particularly important following the

outbreak of World War II, when the Nazi war economy demanded an enormous
effort. In connection with the Final Solution, the Jews role as workers
diminished as the extermination process was escalated. This was particularly
apparent as far as the Polish Jews were concerned. A morbid form of forced labour
was instituted in 1941, according to which Jews should be worked to death.In
Auschwitz and Majdanek, which had the role of both being a working and an
extermination camp, Jews were divided upon arrival into those capable of working
ands those not. The last group was sent directly to the gas chambers, whereas those
able to work had to work themselves to death in SSs industries or they were
executed when they worn down. In Auschwitz, the Jews worked in the so-called
Monowitz working camp (Auschwitz III) in factories, or they were hired out to
private businesses such as the chemical corporation I.G. Farben or the SSs own
factories.Jews, especially German, Western European and Russian, also worked as
slave labour in work camps in Germany. The Kraft durch Freude Volkswagen
works in Wolfsburg, for example, used the cheap Jewish slave labourers. A tile
work in Sachsenhausen, owned and operated by the SS, used Jews and other slave
labourers. In the Harz, near the concentration camp Dora-Mittelbau, Jews worked
in an underground weapons factory.
The victims:It is impossible to estimate the exact number of victims for the
concentration camp system and of those who fell victim to the death marches.The
most current reliable figures from scholars are at least 500,000 and perhaps as
many as over three-quarters of a million died as a result of the inhuman slave
labour, hunger and disease in concentration camps.
Most people are familiar with the names of the major concentration camps Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Treblinka, for example - but few realize
that these were not the only places where Jews and other prisoners were held by
the Nazis. Each of the 23 main camps had subcamps, nearly 900 of them in total.
These included camps with euphemistic names, such as care facilities for foreign
children, were pregnant prisoners were sent for forced abortions.Most people are
familiar with the names of the major concentration camps - Auschwitz,
Buchenwald, Dachau, and Treblinka, for example - but few realize that these
were not the only places where Jews and other prisoners were held by the Nazis.
Each of the 23 main camps had subcamps, nearly 900 of them in total. These
included camps with euphemistic names, such as care facilities for foreign
children, where pregnant prisoners were sent for forced abortions.When the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum first began to document all of the camps, the belief
was that the list would total approximately 7,000. However, researchers found

that the Nazis had actually established about20,000 camps between 1933 and
1945.These 20,000 camps were used for a range of purposes including: forcedlabor camps, transit camps which served as temporary way stations, and
extermination camps, built primarily or exclusively for mass murder. From its
rise to power in 1933, the Nazi regime built a series of detention facilities to
imprison and eliminate so-called "enemies of the state." Most prisoners in the
early concentration camps were German Communists, Socialists, Social
Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons
accused of "asocial" or socially deviant behavior. These facilities were called
concentration camps because those imprisoned there were physically
concentrated in one location.Millions of people were imprisoned, abused and
systematically murdered in the various types of Nazi camps. Under SS
management, the Germans and their collaborators murdered more than three
million Jews in the killing centers alone. Only a small fraction of those
imprisoned in Nazi camps survived.
On March 9, 1933, several weeks after Hitler assumed power, the first organized
attacks on German opponents of the regime and on Jews broke out across
Germany. Less than two weeks later, Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp,
was opened. Situated near Munich, Dachau became a place of internment for
German Jews, Communists, Socialists, and liberals anyone whom the Reich
considered its enemy. It became the model for the network of concentration camps
that would be established later by the Nazis. Nazi Germany exploited the labor of
the occupied peoples from the onset of the occupation. More than 14 million
people and 2.5 million prisoners of war were transported to Germany for labor.
Jews were enslaved and interned in a far-reaching network of forced-labor camps
across Europe, in the Reich itself, in the west and, foremost, in the east. The SS
Central Office for Administration and Economy defined the new goal: labor
exploitation of concentration camp prisoners, who would be taken to hundreds of
labor camps for service on behalf of the German war machine.Employing the Jews
in forced labor did not signify a change in the overall plan of extermination.
Economic needs and the prolonging of the war established the need to utilize the
Jews as a labor force. However, this was only a temporary setback in the
extermination process extermination by means of merciless forced labor.
Extermination by labor as this compromise was called between those who
called for immediate extermination and those who sought to exploit Jewish labor
until their very end. Despite the Germans military reversals and the imminence of
the Allied victory, the network of camps continued to operate until the final

downfall of the Third Reich and the end of the war. At this stage the last Jews in
Europe apart from a few who were living in hiding under false identities, in the
forests and in hideouts, or in the Soviet interior were incarcerated in
concentration and labor camps.