Experience: Concentration Camps

Fani Adelsberg
Nettie Adelsberg
Charles Adler
Sonia Aisner
Irving Altus
Helene Aron
Leo Beals
Hajnal Bechky
Bertha Beitner
Jacob Beitner
James Berger
Ella Berman
Ludwig Berman
Rose Bernbaum
Isaac Besserman
Leo Besserman
Sally Biederman
Abraham Bienenstock
Simon Binke
Rose Bohm
Magda Budaj
Albert Burke
"Uncle" Sam Chesla
Simon Cieck
Henia Ciesla
Isadore Ciesla
Ernst Conrad
Harry Cymerint
Arnold Einhorn
Belle Eisenberg
Luba Elbaum
Joseph Farkas
Joseph Feibusch
Golda Feingold
Sylvia Feld
Giselle Feldman
Charlotte Firestone
Max Fischel
Ben Fisk
Lillian Fixler
Morris Fixler
Michael Fordonski
Nancy Fordonski
Aaron Friedman
Doris Friedman
Henry Friedman
Pearl Friedman
Nathan Garfinkel
Sabine Geiringer
Bella Glaser
Helen Glaser
Mike Gluck
Martin Goldberg
Leon Greenbaum
Alex Greenberger
Anna Greenberger
Genia Greener
Isaac Greener
Sara Greenfield
Paula Gringlas
Emery Grosinger
Aron Gross
Lena Gross
Rachel Growe
Wolf Gruca
Rose Guttman
Barna Havas
Frances Herman
Ben Hersen
Toby Hersen
Hermina Hirsch
Ella Hornung
Sam Hornung
Sally Horwitz
Franka Iglewicz
Regina Jablonka
Harry Jubas
Hela Jutkiewicz
Barry Kaplan
Viola Kappy
Ruth Kent
Zelda Klaiman
Abraham Klein
Anna Klein
Viola Klein
Bernard Klisman
Sophie Klisman
Zalman (Zoli) Kohen
Abraham (Zalek) Kolnierz
Phyllis Kolnierz
Helen Kosuch
Max Kozlowski
Alexander Kuhn
Nathan Lachman
George Laksberger
Sara Landsman
Edmund Langerman
Helen Lankin
Marcus Last
Mayer Lebovic
Felicia Lefkowitz
Manfred Lehman
Hertsel Lenchner
Anna Lengel
Gary Lenzner
Michael Lerman
Fred Lessing
Ruth Levi
Henry Lewin
Bendet Lewkowicz
Karel Lipa
Agnes Lugosi
Elias Magnus
Freda Magnus
Eva Mames
Gerald Manko
Aldabert Mann
Brenda Marczak
Herman Marczak
Martin Marks
Mina Martin
Helen Mechlowitz
Moniek Milberger
Ester Moncznik
Bernard Mond
Jenny Mosseri
Saul Muskovitz
Hersz Nisenbaum
Nathan Nothman
Sonia Nothman
Eva Nove
Sam Offen
George Ohrenstein
Anna Oliwek
Steve Oliwek
Yetta Opatowski
Richard Pergament
Gloria Pesis
Ted Pilcowitz
Max Pines
Helga Plonskier
Esther Praw
Harry Praw
Samuel Pruchno
Saul Raimi
Helen Rosenberg
Fay Rotberg
Samuel Rotberg
Agata (Agi) Rubin
Zoltan Rubin
Helen Solarz Sadik
Mania Salinger
Aaron Salzberg
Jane Salzberg
Katherine "Kathy" Sattler
Rosa Schaumberg
David Scherman
Lola Schonberger
Judy Schreiber
Margit Schwartz
Simon Schwartzberg
Sam Seltzer
Sam Seltzer
Felicia Shloss
Nathan Silow
Sara Silow
Samuel Small
Irene Snitchler
Max Solarz
Gisela Solomon
Louis Sondheimer
Erna Staub
Charles Strassberg
Fela Szymkowicz
Esther Tabachnik
Dr. Emanuel Tanay
Lola Taubman
Harry Tuchklaper
Morris Tugman
Alex Ungar
George Vine
Julian Wagner
Melanie Wallis
Jack Wayne
Larry Wayne
Zita Weber
Abraham Weintraub
Clara Weis
Elena Weiss
Eva Weiss
Lilly Weiss
Michael Weiss
Eva Wimmer
Philipp Wimmer
Abram Winogron
Rose Winogron
Leon Wizenberg
Rella Wizenberg
Bella Zarnowiecki
Berl Zicherman
Aron Zoldan
Harold Zuker
Alfred Zydower
“(In German, Konzentrationslager). Camps where the Nazis imprisoned their victims without trial. Although the term "concentration camp" is often used as a term for all Nazi camps, there were, in fact, several types of camps in the Nazi system, of which the “concentration camp was just one”. 

Other types include labor and hard labor camps, extermination camps, transit camps, and prisoner-of-war camps. As the war progressed, the distinction between concentration camps and labor camps became blurred, as hard labor was also performed in the concentration camps. 

The concentration camp network played a pivotal role within the Nazi regime, which developed over time.  Chronologically, the use of concentration camps can be divided into three distinct periods; from 1933 to  1936, 1936 to 1942; and  1942 to 1944-1945. 

The first period corresponds with the Nazis' rise to and consolidation of power. During this time, concentration camps were primarily established for the detention of political opponents of the Nazi Party. Following Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933, the Nazis commenced arresting political adversaries and placing them in camps. By the end of July, 27,000 people had been taken into what the Nazis called "protective custody." In Prussia alone, 20 camps were established for these prisoners. In the fall of  1933, the Nazis began detaining other victims, including persons whom the Nazis considered to be "asocial elements," such as beggars, tramps, and chronic criminals.  
In July 1934 SS chief Heinrich  Himmler named Theodor Eicke (who was serving at the time as commandant at the Dachau concentration camp) “Inspector of Concentration Camps and SS Guard Units”. These guard units became known as “Death’s Head Units”, and performed the brutal work of guarding the concentration camps. In his new post, Eicke was in charge of the concentration camp prisoners' routine and punishments. During this phase, the main goal of the camp system was to deconstruct the opposition to the Nazi regime. 
In the second period (1936--1942), almost all of the concentration camps established during the first period were shut down, except Dachau. Newer, larger camps were built to accommodate the growing number of prisoners. These included Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, Ravensbrueck, Auschwitz, Majdanek, Natzweiler, Neuengamme, and Stutthof. 

During this period, World War II broke out and the Nazis established labor, hard labor, and "reeducation" camps.  From 1937 onward many companies used German and Austrian Jews followed by Jewish populations from throughout Nazi territory for forced labor, housing them in camp-like conditions or in camps themselves. From the summer of 1938, Jews were imprisoned in the camps simply for being Jews, particularly after Kristallnacht, when 36,000 were detained. 

Throughout this period, the number of prisoners interned in concentration camps rose constantly. When the war began, some 25000 prisoners were housed in the camps, and by the end of 1941, 60,000 prisoners were incarcerated in the concentration camp system. Numbers rose even higher after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, tens of thousands of Soviet prisoners of war were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, and subsequently murdered.  
In late 1941 and early 1942, Death camps were set up at Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec – In line with the Nazi extermination policy “The Final Solution”. Majdanek and Auschwitz, originally built as concentration camps, were expanded to serve as extermination centers, as well. Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, was the extermination center while the remainder of Auschwitz and its sub-camps functioned as forced labor camps. In Majdanek, prisoners who were not murdered immediately were incorporated into the concentration camp population.  
During the third period, beginning in February 1942, concentration camp prisoners were exploited as forced laborers in the German armaments industry, manufacturing weapons and other essential items for the German war machine. Previously, forced labor had often been used as a punishment. At this stage, the SS created a special Economic-Administrative Main Office (Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt, WVHA) to oversee the use of concentration camp prisoners as manpower for both government-owned and private companies. The WVHA built many sub-camps next to industrial factories to house the prisoner laborers.  The standard of living conditions in the Nazi concentration camps varied according to the period and camp. 

From 1933 to 1936, the work, food, and housing were bearable, and most prisoners were detained for approximately a year. Throughout the second period and the start of the third, many prisoners died in the camps as a result of brutal treatment, harsh working conditions, malnutrition, and overcrowding. In 1943 the living conditions improved slightly as the  Nazis wanted productive results from the prisoners working in the armaments industry.  

Concentration camp prisoners lacked personal freedoms and the ability to make decisions. The SS maintained strict control over all aspects of their life. A prisoner who did not follow an order would be severely punished by whipping, solitary confinement, lost food rations, and other forms of punishment. The prisoners were classified according to their country of origin and the reason they were interned. Some prisoners were given supervisory or administrative positions, such as room, block, and camp "elders," or as kapos (work foremen). In general, German prisoners were given the top positions and thus received the most privileges. In the Auschwitz camp complex, Polish prisoners were accorded this higher status. Jews and Soviets were at the very bottom of the prisoner totem pole. The Jews were treated much worse than any other prisoner group, and after the war broke out, Jewish prisoners had very poor prospects for survival. By October 1942 the WVHA ordered the removal of Jews from all concentration camps inside the Reich. The Jewish prisoners were deported to Auschwitz or Majdanek, in Poland, where most were exterminated.  

By the fall of 1944, the Germans were clearly losing the war. The Allied front advanced from all directions. The Nazis gradually closed the concentration camps outside of the Reich and often sent their prisoners on insufferable death marches toward camps still in operation in Germany and Austria.  

Accessed on July 19, 2011

Accessed on July 26, 2011

View of barracks and the ammunition factory in one of the first photos of Dachau concentration camp. Dachau, Germany, March or April 1933.