Concentration camps refer to places where selected groups of people are confined. In these camps people are usually exposed to inhuman conditions for different reasons the leading factor being due to political reasons. These camps are also known by various other names like corrective labor camps, relocation centers or reception centers.
Although the concentration camps are usually associated with periods of war and national emergency over history, they were common features during periods of wars and conflicts and were used to contain refugees. Most countries like Spain, America, Britain, Japan and Germany have had a history of these camps.
When the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933 they introduced concentration camps where people could be detained for indefinite periods of time by the police. Many camps were established in Germany especially to detain a wide variety of political opponents of the Nazis. The Jews were mostly affected by these developments.
It was during the period of Second World War (1939-19450 that saw the number of camps increase in Germany. Thousands of Jewish prisoners were put into these camps alongside other prisoners of war. They were exploited as forced laborers in industrial production being overworked to death. Millions of Jews perished in the Nazi camps.
These camps were not only established in Germany but also in other countries outside Germany. As the Nazi gained control of Europe they began massive deportation of Jews into the concentration camps that were in other countries. One of these countries is Poland where the Nazi authority created ghettos and concentration camps to contain the deported Jews.
Among the established camps in Poland where Jews were contained were Majdanek, Treblinka and Auschwitz. Of the three, Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp that the Germans established during the World War II. It was so large such that it had three other camps attached to it. Jews were brought in daily to these camps in thousands from the European countries that had been conquered by the Nazis. These Jews were involved in hard labor in the camp, were ill treated and starved to death (www.encyclopedia.com). It is recorded that the guards who were brought to watch over the Jews in the concentration camp left them locked up in the camps without food for few days. Later as they brought food to them, they would only open the door and place food outside. They would then stand far and enjoy watching the Jews scramble for the little food that was presented. Many of the Jews were injured and the weak ones were trampled over and died. As a result of such experiences many women and children died.
The guards who were appointed by the Nazi to guard the Jews in the concentration camps in Poland were ordinary men taken from their normal lives and put into squads. They were then given the mission to kill the Jews. The Nazis found them fit in the job since they could not fit in other duties within the Nazi administration. Their feeling of superiority over the Jews contributed to their higher capacity to murder since they executed tens of thousands of Jews during their terms of service. (www.wezaponline.com)
Life for the Jews in the concentration camps was not easy at all. It was so hard to bear and survive. The conditions were brutal and death rates were high. The prisoners in the camps were exploited for cheap labor by the Nazi. Those who were weak and ailing were killed almost after arriving in the concentration camps since they were seen to have no value if they could not be put to productive work. Those who were strong enough to work were put to productive work in factories that were near the camps. Most of them were overworked to death or killed by the guards who watched over them as they worked. Even after being exposed to long hours of hard work and labor, the Jews were not given enough food to eat. As such most of them were malnourished and as such grew weak to continue working. Many of them died from exhaustion due to long periods of hard work and also due to malnourishment. (www.humboldt.edu) others lost their limbs to the machineries in the factories due to exhaustion and had to live like disabled people for the few days before they could get executed on the basis of being unproductive. . In order to reduce the incidences of the Jews escaping from the camps the guards shot dead those who were found trying to escape. The corpses were then left hanging on the walls so as to remind the Jews of the consequences they would face if they were caught trying to escape (www.yaleuniversity.org) .
Health of the Jews was not a priority in any way to the Nazis. This was made evident by the fact that medical care never existed in the concentration camps. Most of the sick and ailing Jews were abandoned and left to die. If anything that was the final result they would be waiting for in the camps.
Ghettos were other formalized detention methods that the Nazis used in order to detain the Jew. These Ghettos were more or like the concentration camps or prisons since the conditions of living were pathetic. The Jews were restricted from free movement by the Nazis and the guards on the ground. Confinement of the Jews in order to suppress them was the main idea that the Nazis had when they set them up. The ghettos were separated from the rest of the cities by fences and barbed wires to restrict the Jews from moving out. Food supply was rationed in these confinements as starvation, hunger and death from diseases claimed many lives of the Jews. Disease epidemics like typhoid and tuberculosis lead to death of many Jews. Those who survived the living conditions in the ghettos were rounded up together and taken to the concentration camps.
For easier identification in the concentration camps different groups of people were given different identification marks. This made it easier for the guards to conduct their duties in executing the Jews. This was because they were supposed to wear yellow colored triangle on their clothes and as such were easy to identify (www.worldwar2.info.)
The use of different identification colors made it easier for the Nazis to carry out their systematic methods of killing Jews. This is because they had devised other methods of killing more people in a faster way than shooting, overworking or malnourishment could. This method involved the use of poisonous gases which the Jews would be exposed to in large masses. After exposure to these gases they would die in hundreds and thousands. Carbon dioxide and Zyklon 2 gases were the two mainly used gases.
The Jews would be taken from the concentration camps to the execution centres. On entry into these centers, they were supposed to remove all their clothes and women were at times shaved off their hair. They then would be exposed to the poisonous gases which would kill all of them. During such times when the poisonous gases would be used to execute the Jews, few of them were also forced to work in disposing the dead bodies. This was mostly done by use of clamation or burning the dead bodies. These Jews were also used by the Nazi officers to collect some valuable elements from the dead bodies which could be recycled for use. Such items included any precious bracelets, ring or teeth which could be of gold or other precious metals.
The hair shaved off from the Jewish women would also be collected by the same people so that it could be recycled to make some products like rugs and other cleaning equipments.
Apart from the already mentioned hard experiences that the Jews want through in the concentration camps, the Nazi doctors used the Jewish people and children to perform some medical experiments. An example is given of a doctor who could spare all the twins born of Jewish mothers in order to use them in performing his experiments. He would eventually kill them by injecting them with some poisonous elements into their bodies. These experiments were supposed to test the effect of some drugs or elements on people and were done without observing any caution.
After the world war II was over, it has been recorded that 18% of the total people who died were Jews most of who were brutally murdered in the concentration camps by the Nazi.
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