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AP World History B2
Modern World History B4
Concentration Camps and Gas Chambers
Concentration Camps and Gas Chambers
- Concentration camps were camps in which people are detained, or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in constitutional democracy.
- The first concentration camps in Germany were started soon right after Hitler came to power and became the chancellor January 1933.
Germany established many camps all over Germany, which held large groups of people.
- When the Nazi’s came into power, the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons -- the elite guard of the Nazi party), were the ones who controlled and ran the camp.
- In the year of 1935 they renamed the SS Guard Units, and changed their names to the SS Death’s-Head Units.
- One of these group members were assigned to a concentration camp.
- All SS units wore the Death’s Head Units symbol, Skull and Crossbones, but only the people who were in the group of the DHU were authorized to wear the symbol on their lapels.
- Were separated into two groups : camp staff, and guard detachment.
- Concentration camps turned into a place where they killed targeted groups real or just perceived enemies of Nazi Germany.
- Also was a place where people came to serve as holding centers for a rapidly expanding pool of forced labors: SS construction projects, industrial sites, production of armaments, weapons, and related goods for the German war Effort.
- Treated the prisoners horribly. They were transported to the camps by train carts, and were herded like cattle. Some of the carts only held 30 to 40 people, but the Germans forced twice the capacity to fit into the carts.
- People were forced to go to the bathroom on themselves, there was little food and no water on the way to the camps, also the air was unbearable . Many people died during the trip.
- Conditions were worse when arrived at camp they were separated into two groups. Strong and the weak.
The weak was stripped of their belongings and were told they were going to take showers, but they were showered with either carbon monoxide or Zyklon B, horrible acid which burned the bodies.
- The stronger got to take showers, but the water was very cold. After the showers, the prisoners got dosed with a chemical to kill lice which were a major problem in the camps.
- Only got one pair of specific clothing, which lasted people the whole time they were at the camp. Prisoners traded with each other so they could at least be somewhat comfortable.
- Got assigned barracks, which the bunks weren’t even bunks, the mattresses were filled with straw.
- Prisoners had to wake up at 4-5 in the morning to report for role call. If the officer lost count, they would have to restart over, which some of the prisoners had to stand in a line for an hour or longer.
- Barely got served any food. So many people died of starvation in these camps. Some people ate dirt, and grass to try and survive.
- Forced to do labor, if the work wasn’t completed the prisoner would be brutally beaten. The prisoners had no chance of escaping because the camps were surrounded with electrically charged barbed wire.
- Guards treated people horribly, always beating them and threatening to kill them all because they had no use with them anymore. Officers every few months came into the camp and picked out a selection of people who were to weak and sent them to the gas chambers to be killed.
- Each of the prisoners got tattooed.
- Millions of people died in these camps due to starvation, over crowding, disease, exposure to cold, and the brutality of the Germans.
- People died by the thousands in the gas chambers and mass execution by a firing squad.
- Dead Bodies were stacked like firewood, and every twenty-four hours a truck would come by to pick them up.
- The bodies were buried in enormous mass graves, or they were burned in the crematorium.
The organization, structure, and practice deveoloped in Dachau in 1933-1934 became a model for all other concentration camps as the system expanded.
When germany invaded Poland, there were already six concentration camps.
Labor camps started with very dangerous, but somewhat pointless work.
Later, Forced labor was for German war effort.
The war also gave them a conveinant excuse not to release the prisoners.
After beginning of the war, the killing started.
Litterally a program called “annihilation through work” (
Vernichtung durch Arbeit)
Subcamps were located near factories.
Some inner SS commanders suggested focusing on keeping prisoners alive, to help the war effort, but the commanders at the camps did not take these orders seriously.
Camps were evacuated as the front moved closer because the Natzi’s didn’t want the prisioners to be liberated.
Death marches resulted. Anyone who could not keep up was shot.
Estimated that ½ of the deaths occurred during the last year of the war.
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