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History of the Americas HL - Internal Assessment Lindsey Henson Candidate Number: 000-630-032 Word Count: 1633 To what extent

did German leadership step up concentration camp deaths near the end of World War II?

A. Plan of the Investigation

This investigation will analyzing the question to what extent did German leadership step up concentration camp deaths near the end of World War II? In order to investigate the concentration camp deaths, various records and information regarding different concentration camps were analyzed. A book on concentration camps, a book on the genocide during World War II, a website about the Nazi Death Camps, and the United States Holocaust Museum website will be used to investigate this question. By examining the causes of death, numbers of deaths, and survivors of different concentration camps, the amount of death caused by German leadership can be noted. Two sources that will be used in the essay include Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany the New Histories, a book by Jane Caplan analyzing changes in concentration camps throughout World War II in Nazi Germany, and The Nazi Death Camps, a website, maintained by Ben S. Austin, the Professor of Sociology at Middle Tennessee State University, which describes the different concentration camps in Nazi Germany during World War II. These two sources will be evaluated for their origin, value, purpose, and limitation.

B. Summary of Evidence Concentration camps are camps where people are confined under harsh conditions without regard to legal norms of imprisonment in other democracies. During World War II, concentration camps were fundamental features of the Nazi regime (Introduction to the Holocaust). Throughout the war, Germany established many concentration and death camps where people against the regime were held prisoner. The degree of harsh treatment of the prisoners varied in each camp, but during the last year of the war camps overall all

3 changed decisively (Caplan 17). Death dominated during the final months of World War II. Caplan writes that likely between one-third and half of the over 700,000 prisoners alive in early 1945 perished before the end of the war, (35). Historians believe that the increase in death can be due to the leadership decisions of the Nazi SS guards, but also because of the conditions of the concentration camps. When SS guards heard that Allied troops were arriving at concentration camps they began liquidating the camps. Prisoners were killed on sight or sent on death marches to be shot in other locations or satellite camps. The evacuations were death marches where many roads were littered with corpses that had been shot, frozen, or starved to death (Caplan 33). In 1944, Hitler had ordered any surviving prisoners to be murdered (Caplan 33). Mass murder continued at Hitlers orders and even throughout the end of the war, Nazis continued to open new labor camps. Even though Germany began to realize they were going to lose the war, their murders did not cease (Bergen 205). Doris Bergen writes that none of the killings halted the disintegration of German power, but it ensured the defeat of Nazism was accompanied by the maximum amount of carnage, (205-206). In the concentration camp of Chelmno in 1944, there were plans to shut down the camp, but Soviet soldiers arrived before the camp shut down could be completed and the SS guards liquidated the remaining prisoners just before the arrival of the Soviets (Austin 5). In 1945 in Auschwitz, when the SS realized that the end of the war was near, they attempted to remove all evidence of the atrocities committed there when the Soviets marched into Auschwitz 580,000 prisoners had already been evacuated by the Nazis and sent on a final death march, (7). These deaths were caused by the Nazi decision to try to cover up the

4 atrocities committed in the concentration camps, but also to lose the war with the greatest amount of murder by Nazis possible. Many deaths were caused the decisions of German leadership, but other deaths were due to sickness. Death rates near the end of the war were high from malnutrion, typhus, and exhaustion, (Austin 2). The vast number corpses made the disposal of the dead difficult which caused more sickness. Conditions in the concentration camps became worse during the end of the war and many inmates died from disease, starvation, and over work (Austin 7). In many camps, conditions deteriorated due to the fact that improvements were restricted for privileged and skilled prisoners (Caplan 30). During the end of the war, programs were put in place to target the ill and exhausted who are no longer able to work, (28). Sick inmates were executed simply because they could not work, as a way to decrease the number of inmates being held in concentration camps. Death through epidemic and starvation soared in early 1945, (35).

C. Evaluation of Sources

Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany the New Histories was written by Jane Caplan and Nikolaus Wachsmann and was published in 2009. Jane Caplan is a professor of modern European history at Oxford. Nikolaus Wachsmann is a Reader in modern European history at Birkbeck College, London. Both Caplan and Wachsmann have written prize-winning books on Nazi Germany. This book was written to describe concentration camp life, social life, work, gender issues, public face of the camps, personnel, and the Final Solution. The book provides a historiography of the camps. The book is valuable to the essay because it provides commentary

5 and evidence of the final deaths in concentration camps during the end of World War II. The book is limited in the fact that the author only states facts, but does not analyze the motives of the personnel in the concentration camps.

The Nazi Death Camps is a website page maintained by Ben S. Austin, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Ben S. Austin has been a Professor of Sociology and Anthropology since 1970 who specializes in Sociology of Genocide and the Holocaust. He serves on the Holocaust Education Committee at Middle Tennessee State University. This website was created to describe Nazi Concentration and death camps during World War II. This website provides a short analysis and description of specific Nazi camps. The website is valuable because it describes what each concentration camp did with their prisoners at the end of World War II. The website is limited because it is written by one man and is not reviewed. This website has also not been updated since 1997.

D. Analysis The death that dominated in the final months of the war can be due to two things, murder and sickness, but both are a result of the decisions of the German leadership. The German leadership chose to treat the prisoners harshly throughout the entirety of the war, but the harsh treatment seemed more evident in the final months. When the German leadership heard that the Soviet troops were coming to the camps, the leadership reacted similarly in every camp. By looking at the evidence presented above, the idea of mass liquidation of the camps can be seen in each concentration camp mentioned. German leadership looked for ways to hide the things they

6 did in the concentration camps. The German leadership stepped up the concentration camp deaths during the end of World War II by executing the sick and prisoners unable to work. The German leadership would shut down the camps then murder the prisoners or evacuate them. By killing them, the German leadership was hiding evidence. The German leadership also evacuated the prisoners by sending them on death marches where they were most likely to die. The decisions made by the German leadership to cover up their atrocities during the end of World War II, led to an increase in the deaths of prisoners at the expense of hiding evidence. Other causes of increase of deaths in concentration camps at the end of World War II can be called natural causes such as epidemic and exhaustion, but these deaths were ultimately also the result of German leadership decisions. The disease caused mass deaths during the end of World War II was a result of the deteriorating conditions of the concentration camps. The German leadership decided that only privileged prisoners would receive improvements in their camp lives so many other parts of the camps became more dirty and cramped. Also, with a greater number of murders, it was difficult to dispose of the bodies after the exterminations so many bodies festered in the camps. The decomposing bodies contained disease and cramped the concentration camps and spread sickness. The German leadership did not maintain the camps, feed the prisoners, or dispose of the dead. So while the deaths due to disease can be said to be natural causes, they were still the result of German leadership decisions. The decisions of the German leadership to neglect the management of the concentration camps near the end of World War II, led to an increase in the deaths of the prisoners. These decisions can be said to had stepped up concentration camp deaths near the end of World War II.

E. Conclusion

After analyzing the sources presented, one can see that the increase concentration camp deaths, natural and homicidal, near the end of World War II was due to the decisions of the German leadership. In order to hide evidence from the Soviet troops, German leadership liquidated the camps and murdered the remaining prisoners or sent them on the death marches where they would die. Other deaths, said to be natural, such as disease were also the result of the decisions of German leadership. The German leadership neglected the maintenance of the concentration camps and caused the spread of diseases throughout the camps. These decisions to neglect the prisoners, but also to protect their own leadership and hide evidence caused a great increase in the number of deaths in concentration camps at the end of World War II. In conclusion, German leadership stepped up concentration camp deaths to a great extent during the end of World War II.

F. Sources and Word Limit

8 Austin, Ben S. "The Nazi Death Camps." Middle Tennessee State University. 26 Jan. 1997. Web. 12 Nov. 2011. <http://frank.mtsu.edu/~baustin/holocamp.html>. Bergen, Doris L. War & Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. 205-06. Print. Caplan, Jane, and Nikolaus Wachsmann. Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany the New Histories. London: Routledge, 2010. Print. "Introduction to the Holocaust." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Web. 20 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ushmm.org/>.