chapter  7
18 Pages

The Holocaust and the concentration camps


Prior to 1942, the Nazi concentration camps were much less important for the persecution and murder of European Jewry than had been assumed for decades after the war. Research during the last 25 years has shown that less than half of the victims of the Holocaust were killed in camps; and within this group approximately 1.2 million men, women and children were murdered in concentration camps properly speaking, i.e. those camps subsumed under the Inspection of the Concentration Camps (IKL) and later the SS Business and Administration Main Office (WVHA). The reasons for this lay both in the course of anti-Jewish policy and in the comparatively late expansion of the concentration camps into the massive system they eventually became, which did not begin until the end of 1942.1

For a long time the historiography on the subject developed along two separate paths, with camp history on the one side and Holocaust history on the other. Only during the 1990s did it become commonly recognized that Jews were a major element in concentration camp history from 1943 on. Recently the history of Jews in several of the major camps like Gross Rosen, Ravensbrück or Stutthof has been investigated as a separate subject.2 Current projects for encyclopaedias of the camps enable the historian to trace the history of each satellite camp, where Jews in particular were forced to work.3 And there is now a growing body of literature on the death marches of 1944/5, which constitute a major part of both concentration camp history and the Holocaust.4