The Holocaust: Buchenwald
The Holocaust is the most horrifying crime against humanity of all times. "Hitler, in an attempt to establish the pure Aryan race, decided that all mentally ill, gypsies, non supporters of Nazism, and Jews were to be eliminated from the German population.He proceeded to reach his goal in a systematic scheme." One of his main methods of "doing away" with these "undesirables" was through the use of concentration camps. "In January 1941, in a meeting with his top officials, the 'final solution' was decided". The Jewish population was to be eliminated. In this paper I will discuss concentration camps with a detailed description of the worst one prior to World War II, Buchenwald.
The first concentration camps were set up in 1933. In the early days of Hitler's regime, concentration camps were places that held people in protective custody. Victims for protective custody included those who were either physically or mentally ill, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Jews and anyone against the Nazi regime. "Gypsies were classified as people with at least two gypsy great grandparents."
By the end of 1933 there were at least fifty concentration camps throughout occupied Europe. "At first, the camps were controlled by the Gestapo (police), but by 1934 the SS, Hitler's personal security force, were ordered, by Hitler, to control the camps."
Camps were set up for several different purposes. Some for forced labor, others for medical experiments and, later on, for death/extermination. Transition camps were set up as holding places for death camps.
"Henrick Himmler, chief of the German police, the Gestapo, thought that the camps would provide an economic base for the soldiers." This did not happen. The work force was poorly organized and working conditions were inhumane. Therefore, productivity was minimal.
Camps were set up along railroad lines, so that the prisoners would be conveniently close to their destination. As they were being transported, the soldiers kept telling the Jews to have hope. When the camps were finally opened, most of the families who were shipped out together ended up being separated. Often, the transports mirrored what went on in the camps; cruelty by the officers, near starvation of those being transported, fetid and unsanitary conditions on the trains. "On the trains, Jews were starved of food and water for days. Many people did not survive the ride to arrive at the camp."
Jews were forced to obey the guards' orders from the moment they arrived at the camps. "If they didn't, they would be beaten, put into solitary confinement or shot." Prisoners usually had marks on their clothes or numbers on their arms to identify them.
The sanitary conditions of the camps were horrible. "There was only one bathroom for four hundred people. They had to stand for hours in snow, rain, heat, or cold for roll call, which was twice a day." Within the first few days of being at the camps, thousands of people died of hunger, starvation and disease. Other people died from the cruel punishments of the guards; beatings and torture. "Typhus, a disease caused by germs carried by flies, was the main disease that spread throughout the camps. Even when people were sick, they still continued working because they did not see that sickness meant death."
In 1937, 7,000 Jews were in camps. By 1938, 10,000 more Jews were sent to camps. "Jews were taken to camps if they expressed negative feelings about the government, if they married a non-Jew, if they were sick (mentally or physically), or if they had a police record."
When someone escaped from the camp, all the prisoners in that group were shot. Nazis, who claimed that they did not necessarily hate Jews, but wanted to preserve the Aryan race, seemed to enjoy making the Jews suffer. They rationalized that slavery was better than killing their prisoners. "Gold fillings, wedding bands, jewelry, shoes and clothing were taken from the prisoners when they first entered the camps and these items were then sold."
Surrounding some of the camps in Poland was a forest, that the Jews who planned to escape would flee into. Before the escaped prisoners got very far, they were usually killed. "When the Germans caught a Jew planning a