Fascist German Concentration Camps

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fascist German Concentration Camps


camps created after the coming to power of the Hitlerites in 1933 for the purpose of isolating and repressing opponents of the Nazi regime. From 1934, SS organs provided the administration and the guards for them.

Prior to the beginning of fascist aggression the prisoners of the camps (Buchenwald, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, and others) were German antifascists, primarily Communists, and individuals persecuted for racial or religious reasons. All were held under inhumane conditions, subjected to incessant torture and humiliation, as well as exhausting labor, which was often of a meaningless character. In 1938-39 the system of camps was extended to the occupied countries and converted into an instrument for merciless repression and the policy of genocide in respect to the populations of these countries. Since the former camps did not have the capacity to execute these expanded tasks, numerous new camps were created during World War II, especially on Polish territory (Auschwitz, Maidanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, and others). The camps were equipped with gas chambers and crematoriums, allowing for the mass liquidation of people on an unprecedented scale. Of the 18 million citizens of the USSR, Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Hungary, and other countries who passed through them, 11 million perished. E. Thälmann, Lieutenant General of the Soviet Army D. M. Karbyshev, and many other prominent figures from various countries were villainously murdered in the camps.

During the war years there was increased interest on the part of German monopolies in the exploitation of the labor of the prisoners, which brought tremendous profits to big capital. On this same basis there also arose an extended system of SS industrial enterprises.

The Hitlerites tried to demoralize the prisoners completely and to compel them to give up struggling. But even in the inhumane conditions of the camps, the antifascists, among whom Communists played the leading role, put up resistance, saved the lives of their physically weak comrades, and made preparations for an armed struggle for liberation. A striking example of this is the activity of the international camp committee of Buchenwald, which was composed of representatives of various nationalities (headed by the German Communist W. Barthel). On the territory of the previously existing camps museums and memorials have been created, and meetings of prisoners who survived take place.


SS v deistvii: Dokumenty o prestupleniiakh SS. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from German.)
Kiihnrich, H. Der KZ-Staat: Rolle und Entwicklung der faschistischen Konzentrationslager 1933 bis 1945. Berlin, 1960.
Kaminski, A. Y. Hitlerowskie obozy koncentracyine i osrodki masowej zaglady w polityce imperializmu niemieckiego. Poznan, 1964.
Wormser-Migot, O. Le Système concentrationnaire nazi (1933–1945). Paris, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.