Dachau camp established

3/22/1933

The new Nazi regime established the first concentration camp about 15 kilometers northwest of Munich, at a site where a munitions factory had stood until it was abandoned in the wake of the economic crisis. Heinrich Himmler dedicated the camp, meant to contain 5,000 prisoners, at a press conference on March 20. The first group of prisoners-mostly Communists, Social-Democrats, and homosexuals-was taken there on March 22. Bavarian police guarded the prisoners until April 11, when the SS took over. Theodor Eicke, appointed commandant of the camp in June 1933, elaborated its organizational structure and its detailed rules. When Eicke was placed in charge of all concentration camps, he applied the rules and the regimen that he had developed at Dachau elsewhere, too. Because the institution Eicke developed was meant, by its very existence, to sow fear among the population, it became an efficient tool in silencing opponents of the regime. The first Jewish detainees were among the best-known political opponents of the Nazi regime, since Dachau was a "political camp" throughout its 12-year tenure. However, Jews were treated more harshly than other prisoners. Gradually, members of the Sinti and Roma peoples (Gypsies) were imprisoned there, along with the regime's political opponents, and more than 10,000 Jews from all over Germany were interned there after the Kristallnacht pogrom. From autumn 1937 until the autumn of 1941, those who could prove that they were about to leave Germany were released. When the systematic genocide of Jews began, the Jewish prisoners were deported from Dachau and other camps in the Reich to the extermination camps in the East.