The Holocaust is the most horrifying crime against humanity of
all times. Hitler, in an attempt to establish the pure Aryan
race, decided that all mentally ill, gypsies, non supporters of
Nazism, and Jews were to be eliminated from the German population.
He proceeded to reach his goal in a systematic scheme. One of
his main methods of doing away with these undesirable was
through the use of concentration camps. In January 1941, in a
meeting with his top officials the 'final solution' was decided.
Jews were to be eliminated from the population. Auschwitz was the
concentration camp that carried out Hitler's final solution in
greater numbers than any other. In this paper I will discuss
concentration camps with a detailed description of the most well-
known one, Auschwitz.
The first concentration camps were set up in 1933. In the
early days of Hitler, concentration camps were places that held
people in protective custody. Victims for protective custody
included those who were both physically and mentally ill, gypsies,
homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Jews and anyone against the Nazi
regime. Gypsies were classified as people with atleast two gypsy
By the end of 1933 there were atleast fifty concentration
camps throughout occupied Europe. At first, the camps were
controlled by the Gestapo (police), but by 1934 the S.S. (Hitler's
personal security force) were ordered, by Hitler, to control the
Camps were set up for different purposes. Some for forced
labor, others for medical experiments and, later on, for death/
extermination. Transition camps were set up as holding places for
Henrick Himmler, chief of the German police, the Gestapo,
thought that the camps would provide an economic base for the
soldiers. This did not happen. The work force was poorly
organized and working conditions were inhumane. Therefore,
productivity was minimal.
Camps were set up along railroad lines, so that the prisoners
would be conveniently close to their destination. As they were
being transported, the soldiers kept telling the Jews to have hope.
When the camps were finally opened, most of the families who were
shipped out together ended up being separated. Often, the
transports were a sampling of what went on in the camps, cruelty by
the officers, near starvation of those being transported, fetid
and unsanitary conditions on the trains. On the trains, Jews were
starved of food and water for days. Many people did not survive
the ride to arrive at the camp.
Jews were forced to obey the guard's orders from the moment
they arrived at the camps. If they didn't, they would be beaten,
put into solitary confinement or shot. The prisoners usually had
marks on their clothes or numbers on their arms to identify them.
The sanitary conditions of the camps were horrible. There
was only one bathroom for four hundred people. They had to stand
for hours in snow, rain, heat, or cold for role-call, which was
twice a day. Within the first few days of being at the camps,
thousands of people died of hunger, starvation and disease. Other
people died from the cruel punishments of the guards; beatings and
torture. Typhus, a disease caused by germs carried by flies, was
the main disease that spread throughout the camps. Even when
people were sick, they still continued working because they did not
see that sickness meant death.
In 1937, 7,000 Jews were in camps. By 1938, 10,000 more Jews
were sent to camps. Jews were taken to camps if they expressed
negative feelings about the government, if they married a non-Jew,
if they were sick (mentally or physically), or if they had a police
When someone escaped from the camp, all the prisoners in that
group were shot. Nazis, who claimed that they did not necessarily
hate Jews, but wanted to preserve the Aryan race, seemed to enjoy
making the Jews suffer. They also felt that slavery was better
than killing their prisoners. Gold fillings, wedding bands,
jewelry, shoes and clothing were taken from the prisoners when they
first entered the camps and were sold.
Surrounding some of the camps in Poland was a forest, that the
Jews who planned to escape would flee into. Before the escaped
prisoners got very far, they were killed. When the Germans caught
a Jew planning a rebellion, and the Jew refused to name his/her
associates, the Germans would bring everyone from his/her barracks
out and force him/her to watch the Germans mutilate the others.
The people who could not run away from the camps dreamt about
Special areas of a camp were set aside for medical
experiments. One doctor in a medical unit performed an experiment
in sterilization. He injected a