Concentration and extermination camps

The camps were places of detention used by the Nazis as a means of repression against anyone acting against the Nazi ideology.

 

Concentration camps

From 1933, the Third Reich created concentration camps in order to lock up political opponents such as the Communists, but also to rid society of any person who did not meet the Aryan canons: common law prisoners, homosexuals, the mentally deficient, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Jews.  

Hermann Goering was in charge of the concentration camps. The first official camp was built under his authority in March 1933: the Camp of Dachau. Dozens of other concentration camps were then built on the Reich’s territory.

During the war, a great many Resistants from all the occupied countries were deported. In the camps, prisoners often died of ill treatment or even torture, but also of malnutrition and disease.

The death camps

In addition to internment camps, the Nazis created extermination camps. The purpose of the extermination camps was to kill the greatest possible number of human beings, as quickly as possible, with maximum efficiency.

Six camps were found. Four were exclusively extermination camps: Chelmno (Kulmhof), Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. In those camps, the deported were taken to gas chambers upon their arrival.
The other camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Lublin-Majdanek, were dual-purpose camps, i.e. concentration and extermination camps. These were equipped with facilities such as gas chambers and crematoria.

Liberation of the camps

It was not until 1945 that the camps were liberated by the Allies. As the Allied pincer closed on Germany, the Nazis evacuated the camps which were located in the East and West of Germany, to prevent the deported from being freed too soon by the Allies.

 

With the contribution of  Rémy Desquesnes
Historian