Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled before and during the Second World War. The first Nazi camps were erected in Germany in March 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his Nazi Party was given control of the police by Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring. Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers, the camps initially held around 45,000 prisoners.
Heinrich Himmler’s Schutzstaffel (SS) took full control of the police and the concentration camps throughout Germany in 1934–35. Himmler expanded the role of the camps to hold so-called “racially undesirable elements”, such as Jews, Romanis, Serbs, Poles, disabled people, and criminals. The number of people in the camps, which had fallen to 7,500, grew again to 21,000 by the start of World War II and peaked at 715,000 in January 1945
Holocaust scholars draw a distinction between concentration camps and extermination camps, which were established by Nazi Germany for the industrial-scale mass murder of Jews in the ghettos by way of gas chambers.
Nazi Germany built extermination camps (also called death camps or killing centers) during the Holocaust in World War II, to systematically kill millions of Jews, Slavs, Communists, and others whom the Nazis considered “Untermenschen” (“subhumans”). The victims of death camps were killed primarily by gassing either in permanent installations constructed for this specific purpose or by means of gas vans. Some Nazi camps before the end of war in 1945, such as Auschwitz and Majdanek, served a dual purpose: extermination by poison gas, but also through extreme work under starvation conditions.
Many of these camps have been preserved for you to visit today in order for the future generations to learn about the horror that happened and to stop it from happening again. Below is a few open for you to visit
Auschwitz -Konzentrationslager Auschwitz- or Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940–1945), (Located approximately 50 km west of Krakow,) was a network of Nazi German concentration and extermination campsbuilt and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or base camp); Auschwitz II–Birkenau (theVernichtungslager or extermination camp); Auschwitz III–Monowitz, also known as Buna–Monowitz (a labor camp); and 45 satellite camps.
Mauthausen Concentration Camp (known from the summer of 1940 as Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp) grew to become a large group of Nazi concentration camps that was built around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen in Upper Austria, roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of the city of Linz. Initially a single camp at Mauthausen, it expanded over time and by the summer of 1940, the Mauthausen-Gusen had become one of the largest labour camp complexes in German-controlled Europe.Apart from the four main sub-camps at Mauthausen and nearby Gusen, more than 50 sub-camps, located throughout Austria and southern Germany, used the inmates as slave labour. Several subordinate camps of the KZ Mauthausen complex included quarries, munitions factories, mines, arms factories and Me 262 fighter-plane assembly plants.
Natzweiler-Struthof was a German concentration camp located in the Vosges Mountains close to the Alsatian village of Natzwiller in France, and the town of Schirmeck, about 50 km SW from the city of Strasbourg. Natzweiler-Struthof was the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on present-day French territory, though there were French-run temporary camps such as the one at Drancy. At the time, the Alsace-Lorraine area in which it was established had been annexed by Germany as an integral part of the German Reich, unlike other parts of France. The writer Boris Pahor was interned in Natzweiler-Struthof and wrote his novel Necropolis based on this experience.
Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950. The remaining buildings and grounds are now open to the public as a museum.
On March 22, 1933, just a few weeks after Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor, a concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. It served as the prototype for all subsequent concentration camps and as a “school of violence” for the SS, under whose command it stood. In the twelve years of its existence, over 200,000 persons from throughout Europe were imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp and its 140 subcamps, persecuted for political, racist and biological ‘reasons’. Approximately 41.500 prisoners died here.
The Sonnenstein Euthanasia Clinic (German: NS-Tötungsanstalt Sonnenstein; roughly translated “Sonnenstein Nazi Death Institute”) was a Nazi killing centre located in the former fortress of Sonnenstein Castle near Pirna in East Germany, where a hospital had been established in 1811.
In 1940 and 1941, the facility was used by the Nazis to exterminate around 15,000 people in a process that was labelled as euthanasia. The majority of victims were suffering from psychological disorders and mental retardation, but their number also included inmates from the concentration camps. The institute was set up after the beginning of the Second World War as part of a Reich-wide, centrally coordinated and largely secret programme called Action T4 for the “Elimination of life unworthy of life” (Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens) or the killing of what the Nazis called “dead weight existences” (Ballastexistenzen). Today, the Pirna Sonnenstein Memorial Site (Gedenkstätte Pirna Sonnenstein) stands to commemorate these crimes.
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