Concentration Camps

The Nazi concentration camps of WW2 saw millions of people imprisoned and murdered by Hitler’s immoral regime. The Nazis imprisoned all who they considered to be ‘undesirable’ - Jews, socialists, Romanies, homosexuals, political opponents and others they considered to be ‘defective’.

These concentration camps and their successor extermination camps saw millions of people killed, including six million Jews, two-thirds of those who resided in Europe before the war.

Today, a number of concentration camps have been preserved as a warning from history and to ensure the world does not forget this terrible crime.

A list of some of the prominent concentration camps can be found below and a concentration camps map is above. Click on the title of each concentration camp for further information.

Concentration Camps: Site Index

Photo by tsaiproject (cc)

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Auschwitz Birkenau was the largest Nazi concentration camp or death camp during WWII and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

DID YOU KNOW?

Auschwitz Birkenau was a concentration camp founded by the Nazis near the town of Oświęcim or “Auschwitz” in Poland and which became the largest and most infamous camp of them all.

Opened in 1940 following the Nazi annexation of Poland, Auschwitz was originally intended to be a prison for the large number of arrested Poles overwhelming existing local prisons. However, by 1942, Auschwitz had taken on a further role, as the main “death camp” in Hitler’s mission to exterminate the Jewish people, known as the “Final Solution” or the Holocaust.

Those interned at Auschwitz were subject to the most horrific treatment, including forced labour, starvation, random executions and various forms of torture such as “medical experiments”.

Auschwitz was also the central location for Hitler’s campaign to exterminate the Jews in gas chambers. By the time Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet forces on 27 January 1945, the camp had claimed 1.3 million lives, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

Auschwitz was made up of three sections. The first and original “Auschwitz I” became the camp’s administrative centre, but also operated as part of the camp and was the original testing venue for gassing prisoners using Zyklon B. “Auschwitz II”, which was actually in the nearby town of Birkenau, became the main prisoner centre and a mass extermination site, while “Auschwitz III” was the main labour camp.

Auschwitz Museum is based at the original concentration camp site and offers visitors the chance to pass through the camp's infamous arches bearing the chilling slogan of "Arbeit macht frei" or "Work will set you free". Inside, visitors can tour Auschwitz Birkenau individually or in group tours. The length of the tour can vary, but lasts approximately three and a half hours.

Dachau Concentration Camp

Dachau Concentration Camp was a Nazi concentration camp in Germany and one of the first camps to be established. In total, around 41,500 people were murdered at Dachau.

DID YOU KNOW?

Dachau Concentration Camp (KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau) was one of the first of many concentration camps set up by the Nazis to imprison and murder certain groups as part of their campaign of genocide. Founded on 22 March 1933, a mere few weeks after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp was seen as an example for the SS as to how to run other such camps throughout Europe.

Overall, Dachau Concentration Camp housed over 200,000 prisoners, which included Jews, homosexuals, communists and other groups considered to be inferior or subversive by the National Socialists. These prisoners were kept in dire conditions and subjected to ongoing atrocities including forced labour and medical experimentation. In total, around 41,500 people were murdered at Dachau, many of whom were incinerated in the crematorium in Barrack X.

The camp was liberated by American forces on 29 April 1945.

Today, the site of Dachau Concentration Camp houses a memorial to those who suffered and perished under the Nazis. Visitors can tour the grounds and the remains of the camp and audio guides are available as are guided tours. There are several exhibitions detailing the history of the camp as well as a documentary shown at 11:30am, 2pm and 3:30pm in English and at 11am and 3pm in German.

Photo by Philos8 (cc)

KZ Majdanek

A Nazi concentration camp near Lublin, Poland, KZ Majdanek was operational from 1941 to 1944. By the time it was liberated 78,000 people had been killed there.

DID YOU KNOW?

KZ Majdanek was a Nazi concentration camp established near the city of Lublin in Poland in September 1941. From October 1941, KZ Majdanek began accepting prisoners, most of whom were Polish and other European Jews as well as Soviet prisoners of war. By the end of its period of operation, almost thirty nations would be represented within Majdanek’s barbed wire fences.

Those sent to KZ Majdanek were subject to the worst forms of treatment, including starvation, forced labour, malnutrition and random executions. Death from disease and starvation were not uncommon and the Nazis would take to shooting large groups of prisoners into vast pits. KZ Majdanek was also used as an extermination camp, with gas chambers and two crematoriums in which to kill victims and destroy their bodies.

Overall, by the time it was liberated by Soviet soldiers in 1944, 150,000 people had been incarcerated at KZ Majdanek. According to the latest figures, 78,000 people died at KZ Majdanek, of which 60,000 were Jews.

KZ Majdanek was liberated by Soviet soldiers on 23 July 1944. With its location relatively near to the Russian border, much of the camp remained intact upon its dissolution, the Nazis not having enough time to destroy any evidence.

Today, KZ Majdanek stands as a memorial to those who suffered and perished there. Visitors can see the camp as well as the visitor centre, which houses exhibits and information about the site.

Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Mauthausen Concentration Camp was a notorious Nazi internment camp in Austria. Prisoners were subject to numerous atrocities, including starvation, torture, overcrowding and slave labour and almost 120,000 people were murdered.

DID YOU KNOW?

Mauthausen Concentration Camp or ’KZ Mauthausen’ was a vast Nazi concentration camp in northern Austria. First established in 1938, Mauthausen Concentration Camp was built through the slave labour of prisoners from another such camp, Dachau. Over time, it grew to encompass a number of sub-camps, such as Gusen Concentration Camp.

Prisoners at Mauthausen Concentration Camp included those labelled as criminals, but were mainly comprised of anyone opposed to the Nazi regime, especially on a political or ideological basis. At a later stage, large numbers of Jews from concentration camps like Auschwitz were also transported there.

Like in all such Nazi camps, prisoners at Mauthausen were subject to numerous ongoing atrocities, such as starvation, torture, overcrowding and slave labour. Inmates at Mauthausen Concentration Camp were quite literally worked to death in the camp’s quarries and munitions factories, while the Nazis reaped the financial benefits of their work. Those who didn’t perish as a result of hard labour were liable to die of disease, malnourishment or to be killed in gas chambers.

Over 119,000 of the almost 200,000 prisoners at Mauthausen Concentration Camp had died there by the time it was liberated by American forces on 5 May 1945.

Today, Mauthausen Concentration Camp is open to the public, who can see the original camp and the terrible conditions to which prisoners were subjected. There is a visitor centre and many memorials to the different national, ethnic and religious groups who suffered at Mauthausen.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen was a Nazi concentration camp located outside Berlin. Estimates put the number killed at Sachsenhausen at between 30,000 and 35,000.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (KZ-Sachsenhausen) was used by the Nazis between 1936 and 1945. Its primary function was for the imprisonment and execution - or extermination - of Jews and political dissidents, including many Dutch freedom fighters, Russian prisoners of war and even some political leaders from invaded countries.

Its prime location near Berlin ensured that Sachsenhausen was an important camp and it served as a template for other concentration camps. Estimates put the number of Sachsenhausen casualties at between 30,000 and 35,000, many of whom were shot, hung or exterminated in a specially built room in its infirmary.

Conditions in this concentration camp, as in others, were terrible, with many prisoners dying of starvation or disease.

Those who enter Sachsenhausen can still see the chilling words “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work will set you free” emblazoned on its iron gates. Much of Sachsenhausen was destroyed during and after its liberation by Soviet and Polish troops on 22 April 1945, but was rebuilt as part of the project to turn it into a memorial and museum.

The reconstructed Sachsenhausen draws many visitors and guided tours are available. Overall, one can gain a detailed insight into life at Sachsenhausen and see, amongst other things, the crematory ovens, the surviving buildings, pictures, documents and scale models of the camp.

Theresienstadt Concentration Camp

Theresienstadt was a concentration camp set up by the Nazis during WW2 where over 30,000 prisoners died and at least 80,000 others were sent to death camps such as Auschwitz.

DID YOU KNOW?

Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Terezin in the Czech Republic was a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Theresienstadt was originally a stronghold known as Terezin Fortress built in the eighteenth century to protect Prague from the possibility of invasion by Prussia. It then became a prison in the 1880’s before being taken over during the Nazi occupation of the then Czechoslovakia in World War Two.

The majority of the 140,000 to 160,000 people interned at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp were of Jewish descent and over 30,000 of the prisoners died at the camp, despite Nazi attempts to portray it as a humane institution. Many others, around 80,000 of Theresienstadt’s inmates, were sent to death camps.

Today, Theresienstadt Concentration Camp is open to the public and includes a museum as well as the possibility of visiting the former ghetto.