Nederlands Holocaust in Europe Persecution

Concentration Camps

Shortly after coming into power in Germany in 1933, the nazis installed a system of prison camps. Initially, the camps were intended for locking up political and ideological opponents of the regime. The first camp was Dachau (north of Munich), which was established in March 1933. The first prisoners were communists, social democrats, and other political opponents of the nazis. As of March 1933, the term Konzentrazionslager (concentration camp, abbreviated to KZ) was used, which initially seemed to be a neutral concept. In 1937, with the establishment of Buchenwald, the Nazis began a wave of arrests of people who were considered ‘asocial'; prostitutes, psychiatric patients, handicapped people, and unemployed were taken into ‘preventive custody'. After the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, many people in this part of the Reich were also locked up. Mauthausen became notorious. Initially, it was built for German and Austrian political prisoners, but later prisoners of war from all over Europe were deported to this camp. The Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht) in November 1938 was the beginning of the deportation of Jews to camps. Between 1933 and 1945, millions of people were imprisoned in concentration camps.


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  1. The entrance to an improvised concentration camp, April 1933
    NIOD Collection, Amsterdam
  2. Sachsenhausen concentration camp (near Berlin) was built in 1936 by prisoners. The most important German virtues are written on the sign.
    NIOD Collection, Amsterdam
  3. Dachau (near Munich) was the first concentration camp. This picture, from the early days of the camp, was published in the Illustrierten Beobachter, a German weekly paper (3 December 1936).
    NIOD Collection, Amsterdam
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