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The Holocaust

The Holocaust Resource Center

The Nazi Camps

As soon as the Nazis came to power, they began to set up concentration camps as a tool for suppressing political opponents and "undesirable" elements of society. These camps, which were “unofficial”, were quickly legalized by the regime. The camps became a central component of the SS system. They institutionalized the regime's brutality to the point that beatings and even death penalties became routine. Gradually, the Nazis came to use the camps for the economic exploitation of the inmates by means of forced labor. Beginning in 1936 and specifically on the eve of World War II, the number of prisoners in the camps increased when the arrest of members of additional segments of society began. Following the Kristallnacht pogrom, more than 30,000 Jews were arrested arbitrarily.

When World War II broke out, concentration camps were opened in the German-occupied areas and became an important instrument for instilling terror. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners from all over Europe were incarcerated in a ramified network of hundreds of camps and were exploited to sustain the German war economy. Living conditions in the camps were inhumane, and masses of prisoners died of starvation, hard labor and abuse. The Nazis also used the camps to implement their racial policy in the occupied countries. Even among the camp inmates there was a racial hierarchy. The camp system of the Third Reich reached its peak after the opening of the Auschwitz complex, which served as a concentration camp for Poles, as well as other nationalities, and as an extermination camp where more than a million Jews were murdered.

This section contains sources, which deal with the process of establishing concentration camps and their development, as well as the daily lives of the inmates.

Total Sources (by media type):

Artifact Collection 87
Diaries and Letters 12
Documents 14
Lexicon Entries 62
Maps and Charts 1
Photographs 199
Research 9
Testimonies 66
Works of Art 4
Total Sources 454