Table of Contents

The Concentration Camps, used against the people of Germany and allied nationals, was one of the fundamental institutions of the Nazi regime. It was a pillar of the system of terror by which the Nazis consolidated their power over Germany. It was a primary weapon in the battle against the Jews, against the Christian church, against labor, against those who wanted peace, against systematic use of terror to achieve the cohesion within Germany which was necessary for the execution of the conspirators' plans for aggression. It was the final link in a chain of terror and repression which involved the SS and the Gestapo and which resulted in the apprehension of victims and their confinement without trial, often without charges, generally with no indication of the length of their detention.

The SS thought its espionage system tracked down the victims; the criminal police and the Gestapo seized them and brought them to the concentration camps; and the concentration camps were administered by the SS. No attempt will be made to present a complete catalogue of individual brutalities. The emphasis will rather be upon the fundamental purposes for which these camps were used, the techniques of terror which were employed, the large number of their victims, and the death and anguish which they caused.


The Nazis realized early that without the most drastic repression of actual and potential opposition they could not consolidate their power over the German people. Immediately after Hitler became Chancellor, the conspirators promptly destroyed civil liberties by issuing the Presidential Emergency Decree of 28 February 1933 (1930-PS). It was this decree which was the basis for "Schutzhaft", that is, "protective custody"-the power of the Gestapo to imprison people without judicial proceedings. This is made clear by a typical order for protective custody:

"Order of Protective Custody. Based on Article 1 of the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State of 28 February 1933 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, p. 83), you are taken into protective custody in the interest of public security and order.

"Reason: Suspicion of activities inimical toward the State." (2499-PS)

Goering, in a book entitled "Aufbau Einer Nation" and published in 1934, sought to give the impression that the camps originally were directed at those whom the Nazis considered "Communists" and "Social Democrats". At page 89 of this book he stated:

"We had to deal ruthlessly with these enemies of the State. It must not be forgotten that at the moment of our seizure of power over 6 million people officially voted for Communism and about 8 million for Marxism in the Reichstag elections in March.

"Thus the concentration camps were created, to which we had to send first thousands of functionaries of the Communist and Social Democratic parties." (2324-PS)

In practical operations, the power to order confinement was almost without limit: Frick, in an order which he issued on 25 January 1938, as Minister of Interior, made this clear. Article 1 of this order provided:

"protective custody can be decreed as a coercive measure of the Secret State Police against persons who endanger the security of the people and the State through their attitude in order to counter all aspirations of enemies of the people and State." (1723-PS)

This order further provides:

"* * * In a summary of all the previously issued decrees on the cooperation between the Party and the Gestapo I refer to the following and ordain:

"1. To the Gestapo has been entrusted the mission by the Fuehrer to watch over and to eliminate all enemies of the Party and the National Socialist State as well as all disintegrating forces of all kinds directed against both. The successful solution of this mission forms one of the most essential prerequisite for the unhampered and frictionless work of the Party. The Gestapo, in their extremely difficult task, is to be granted support and assistance in every possible way by the NSDAP." (1723-PS)

A. Persecution of Pacifists.

The conspirators, then, were directing their apparatus of terror against the "enemies of the State", against "disintegrating forces", and against those people who endangered the State "with their attitudes". Whom did they consider as belonging in these broad categories? First, they were the men in Germany who wanted peace. In this connection an affidavit by Gerhart H. Segar declares as follows:

"* * * 2. During the period after World War I up until my commitment to the Leipzig jail and Oranienburg concentration camp in the spring of 1933 following the Nazis' accession to power in January of that year, my business and political affiliations exposed me to the full impact of the Nazi theories and practice of violent regimentation and terroristic tactics. My conflict with the Nazis by virtue of my identification with the peace movement, and as duly elected member of the Reichstag representing a political faith (Social Democratic Party) hostile to National Socialism, clearly demonstrated that, even in the period prior to 1933, the Nazis considered crimes and terrorism a necessary and desirable weapon in overcoming democratic opposition * * *"

"* * * (e). That the Nazis had already conceived the device of the concentration camp as a means of suppressing and regimenting opposition elements was forcefully brought to my attention during the course of a conversation which I had with Dr. Wilhelm Frick in December 1932. Frick at that time was Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Reichstag of which I was a member. When I gave an emphatic answer to Frick concerning the particular matter discussed, he replied, 'Don't worry, when we are in power we shall put all of you guys into concentration camps.' When the Nazis came into power, Frick was appointed Reichminister of Interior and promptly carried out his threat in collaboration with Goering, as Chief of the Prussian State Police, and Himmler." (L-83)

Thus, even before the Nazis had seized power in Germany they had conceived of the plan to repress any potential opposition by terror.

Frick's statement to Gerhart Segar is completely consistent with an earlier statement which he made on 18 October 1929.

Frick at that time declared:

"This fateful struggle will first be taken up with the ballot, but this cannot continue indefinitely, for history has taught us that in a battle, blood must be shed, and iron broken. The ballot is the beginning of this fateful struggle. We are determined to promulgate by force that which we preach. Just as Mussolini exterminated the Marxists in Italy, so must we also succeed in accomplishing the same through dictatorship and terror." (2513-PS)

There are many additional cases of the use of the concentration camp against the men who wanted peace. There was, for example, a group called the "Bibel Forscher' (Bible Research Workers), most of whom were Jehovah's Witnesses. Since they were pacifists, the conspirators provided not only for their prosecution in the regular courts, but also for confining them in concentration camps after they had served the judicial sentences. An order by the Secret State Police, Berlin, dated 5 August 1937, provided:

"The Reichsminister of Justice had informed me that he does not share the opinion voiced by subordinate departments on various occasions, according to which, the arrest of the Bibelforschers after they have served a sentence, is supposed to jeopardize the authority of the law courts. He is fully aware of the necessity for measures by the State Police after the sentence has been served. he asks, however, not to bring the Bibelforschers into protective custody under circumstances detrimental to the respect of the law courts. * * *."

"2. If information regarding the impending release of a Bibelforscher from arrest is received from the authorities carrying out the sentence, my decision regarding the ordering of measures by the State Police, will be asked for in accordance with my circular decree dated 22.4.37, so that transfer to a concentration camp can take place immediately after the sentence has been served. Should a transfer into a concentration camp immediately after the serving of the sentence not be possible, Bibelforschers will be detained in police prisons." (D-84)

B. Persecution of Trade Union Members.

Labor unions, traditionally opposed to wars of aggression, also felt the full force of Nazi terror. The concentration camp was an important weapon in the campaign against the trade unions. Goering made it plain, for instance, that members of the Social Democratic Party were to be confined in concentration camps (2324-PS). Labor leaders were largely members of that party and soon learned the meaning of "protective custody".

In this connection, an order that one Joseph Simon should be placed in protective custody, is pertinent (2330-PS). The "reasons" given were as follows:

"Simon was for many years a member of the Socialist Party and temporarily a member of the Union Socialiste Populaire. From 1907 to 1918 he was Landtag deputy of the Socialist Party; from 1908 to 1930 Social Democratic City Counsellor Stadtrat in Nurnberg. In view of the decisive role which Simon played in the international trade unions and in regard to his connection with international Marxist leaders and central agencies, which he continued after the national recovery, he was placed under protective custody on 3 May 1933, and was kept, until 25 January 1934, in the Dachau concentration camp. Simon is under the urgent suspicion that even after this date he played an active part in the illegal continuation of the Socialist Party. He took part in meetings which aimed at the illegal continuation of the Socialist Party and propagation of illegal Marxist printed matter in Germany.

"Through this radical attitude which is hostile to the State, Somon directly endangers public security and order." (2330-PS)

Further instances of this persecution of members of trade unions are contained in (2334-PS) and (2928-PS).

C. Persecution of Jews.

Thousands of Jews, were, of course, confined in concentration camps. (For a fuller discussion of this point see Chapter XII.) Among the wealth of evidence showing the confinement of Germans only because they were Jews, a teletype from SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich is typical. This order is dated 10 November 1938, and is addressed to all headquarters of the State Police and all districts and sub-districts of the SD (3051-PS). Paragraph 5 of this teletype, which was entitled "Measures against Jews tonight," provided:

"* * * 5. Inasmuch as in the course of the events of this night the employment of officials used for this purpose would be possible, in all districts as many Jews, especially rich ones, are to be arrested as can be accommodated in the existing prisons. For the time being only healthy men not too old are to be arrested. Upon their arrest, the appropriate concentration camps should be contacted immediately, in order to confine them in these camps as fast as possible." (3051-PS)

Himmler in 1943 indicated that use of the concentration camp against the Jews had been motivated, not simply by Nazi racialism, but also by a fear that the Jews might have been an obstacle to aggression. In a speech delivered at a meeting of the SS Major Generals at Posen on 4 October 1943, Himmler sought to justify the Nazi anti-Jewish policy:

"I mean the clearing out of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race. It's one of those things it is easy to talk about-'The Jewish race is being exterminated', says one party member, 'that's quite clear, it's in our program, elimination of the Jews, and we're doing it, exterminating them'. And then they come, 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course, the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew. Not one of all those who talk this way has witnessed it, not one of them has been through it. Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500 or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at the same time-apart from exceptions caused by human weakness-to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is never to be written, for we know how difficult we should have made it for ourselves, if-with the bombing raids, the burden and deprivations of war-we still had Jews today in every town as secret saboteurs, agitators and trouble-mongers." (1919-PS)

It is clear from the foregoing evidence that prior to the launching of a Nazi aggression, the concentration camp had been one of the principal weapons by which the conspirators launched their aggression and their armies swept over Europe, they brought the concentration camp and the whole system of Nazi terror to occupied countries. In addition, they brought the citizens of the occupied countries to Germany and subjected them to the whole apparatus of Nazi brutality. In a communication to Himmler dated 16 December 1942, Mueller, for the Chief of the Security Police and SD, deals with the seizure of Polish Jews for deportation to concentration camps in Germany. I should like to quote the body of this communication:

"In connection with the increase in the transfer of labor to the concentration camps, ordered to be completed by 30 January 1943, the following procedure may be applied in the Jewish section.

"1. Total number: 45,000 Jews.

"2. Start of transportation: 11 January 1943; End of transportation: 31 January 1943. (The Reich railroads are unable to provide special trains for the evacuation during the period from 15 December 1942 to 10 January 1943 because of the increased traffic of armed forces leave trains).

"3. Composition: The 45,000 Jews are to consist of 30,000 Jews from the district of Byalystock. 10,000 Jews from the Ghetto Theresienstadt, 5,000 of whom are Jews fit for work who heretofore had been used for smaller jobs required for the Ghetto, and 5,000 Jews who are generally incapable of working, also over 60 year old Jews * * *. As heretofore only such Jews would be taken for the evacuation who do not have any particular connections and who are not in possession of any high decorations. 3,000 Jews from the occupied Dutch territories, 2,000 Jews from Berlin-45,000. The figure of 45,000 includes the invalid (old Jews and children). By use of a practical standard, the screening of the arriving Jews in Auschwitz should yield at least 10,000 to 15,000 people fit for work." (R-91)

The Jews of Hungary suffered the same fate. Between 19 March 1944 and 1 August 1944 more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews were rounded up. Many of these were put in wagons and sent to extermination camps. An affidavit made in London by Dr. Rudolph Kastner, a former official of the Hungarian Zionist Organization, states in part:

"19 March 1944: Together with the German military occupation arrived in Budapest a 'Special Section Commando' of the German Secret Police with the sole object of liquidating the Hungarian Jews * * * They arrested and later deported to Mauthausen, all the leaders of Jewish political and business life and journalists, together with the Hungarian democratic and anti-Fascist politicians * * *."

"Up to 27 June 1944, 475,000 Jews were deported."

"According to statements of Krumey and Wislicseny in February or March 1945 a conference of the officers of IV.B. was called to Berlin by Eichmann in the spring of 1942. He then informed them that the government decided in favor of the complete annihilation of the European Jews and that this will be carried out silently in the gas-chambers. 'Victory is ours', declared Eichmann. 'The end of the war is near. We must hurry as this is the last chance to free Europe of the Jews. After the war it will not be possible to utilize such methods.'"

"Commanders of the death-camps gassed only on direct or indirect instructions of Eichmann. The particular officer of IV.B. who directed the deportations from some particular country had the authority to indicate whether the train should go to a death camp or not, and what should happen to the passengers. The instructions were usually carried by the SS-NCO escorting the train. The letters 'A' or 'M' on the escorting instruction documents indicated Auschwitz or Majdanek; it meant that the passengers were to be gassed.

* * * Regarding Hungarian Jews the following general ruling was laid down in Auschwitz: children up to the age of 12 or 14 older people above 50, as well as the sick, or people with criminal records (who were transported in specially marked wagons) were taken immediately on their arrival to the gas chambers.

"The others passed before an SS doctor who, on sight indicated who was fit for work, and who was not. Those unfit were sent to the gas chambers, while the others were distributed in various labor camps." (2605-PS)