The savage treatment which was inflicted in these concentration camps upon allied nationals, prisoners of war, and other victims of Nazi terror has been depicted in motion picture evidence. Verbal discussion of this subject may therefore be brief.
The minutes of the Central Planning Committee, on which Speer sat, and where the high strategy of Nazi armament production was formulated, record a conference on the question of squeezing more work out of slave laborers. Speer, who was not generally considered a fanatic like Frick, or a man of Blood and Iron like Goering, handled the problem in this fashion:
"Speer: We must also discuss the slackers. Ley has ascertained that the sick list decreased to one fourth or one fifth in factories where doctors are on the staff who are examining the sick men. There is nothing to be said against SS. and Police taking drastic steps and putting those known as slackers into concentration camps. There is no alternative. Let it happen several times and the news will soon go around." (R-124)
The deterrent effect of the concentration camps upon the public was carefully planned. To heighten the atmosphere of terror surrounding the concentration camps, they were shrouded in secrecy. What went on behind the barbed wire enclosures was a matter of fearful conjecture in Germany and the countries under Nazi control.
This was the policy from the very beginning, when the Nazis first came into power in Germany and set up their concentration camp system. An order issued in 1 October 1933 by the Camp Commander of Dachau prescribes a program of floggings, solitary confinement, and executions for the inmates for infractions of the rules. (778-PS). Among the rules were those prescribing a rigid censorship concerning conditions within the camp:
"By virtue of the law on revolutionaries, the following offenders, considered as agitators, will be hung. Anyone who, for the purpose of agitating, does the following in the camp, at work, in the quarters, in the kitchens and workshops, toilets and places of rest: politicizes, holds inciting speeches and meetings, forms cliques, loiters around with others; who for the purpose of supplying the propaganda of the opposition with atrocity stories, collects true or false information about the concentration camp and its institution; receives such information, buries it, talks about it to others, smuggles it out of the camp into the hands of foreign visitors or others by means of clandestine or other methods, passes it on in writing or orally to released prisoners or prisoners who are placed above them, conceals it in clothing or other articles, throws stones and other objects over the camp wall containing such information; or produces secret documents; who, for the purpose of agitating, climbs on barracks' roofs and trees, seeks contact with the outside by giving light or other signals, or induces others to escape or commit a crime, gives them advices to that effect or supports such undertakings in any way whatsoever." (778-PS)
Censorship concerning the camps was complemented by an officially inspired rumor campaign outside the camps. Concentration camps were spoken of in whispers, and the whispers were spread by agents of the secret police. A "Top Secret" order, relating to concentration camps, issued by the Head of the Gestapo and distributed to appropriate police officers, and dated 26 October 1939, provides:
"In order to achieve a further deterrent effect, the following must, in future, be observed in each individual case * * *
"3. The length of the period of custody must in no case be made known, even if the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police or the Chief of the Security Police and the SD has already fixed it.
"The term of commitment to a concentration camp is to be openly announced as 'until further notice.'
" In most serious cases, there is no objection to the increasing of the deterrent effect by the spreading of cleverly carried out rumour propaganda, more or less to the effect that, according to hearsay, in view of the seriousness of his case, the arrested man will not be released for 2 or 3 years.
"4. In certain cases, the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German police will order flogging in addition to detention in a concentration camp. Orders of this kind will, in future, also be transmitted to the State Police District Office concerned. In this case too, there is no objection to spreading the rumor of this increased punishment as laid down in Section 3, paragraph 3, in so far as this appears suitable, to add to the deterrent effect.
"5. Naturally, particularly suitable and reliable people are to be chosen for the spreading of such news." (1531-PS)