Expansion of the Concentration Camp System

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The regime’s aims for its concentration camps changed over the course of 1942. Some, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek, became pure extermination camps where European Jews were gassed as if in factories. Other camps served as a labor pool for the arms industry.

Once the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” had been settled “organizationally” at the Wannsee Conference in January of 1942, the Jews living under inhumane conditions in ghettos in Warsaw, Litzmannstadt/Lodz, Lemberg and Riga were shot or deported to extermination camps and gassed.

Jews from all over Europe, even the remotest Greek islands, were dragged off, herded into “cattle cars” and killed in the extermination camps– men and women, children, the elderly and the infirm. Altogether, over six million people were killed.

Countless concentration camps covered the German Reich and the occupied territories in order to exploit the inmates’ labor optimally and ruthlessly. In addition to the main camps such as Dachau, Natzweiler-Struthof, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen, several thousand subcamps arose.

Ten thousand concentration camp inmates were set to work on the construction of underground galleries or in the arms industry. From December of 1944 onward, probably at least 240,000 people lost their lives to malnourishment, inadequate clothing, illness and hard labor as well as “death marches” intended to evacuate the camps before advancing Allied forces. The exact numbers are unknown.

Source / title

  • Kamahele, public domain

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