A Historical Overview of the Death Camp
The Holocaust is one of the most horrifying crimes against humanity. "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." (Bauer, 58) One of his main methods of exterminating these ‘undesirables' was through the use of concentration and death camps. In January of 1941, Adolf Hitler and his top officials decided to make their 'final solution' a reality. Their goal was to eliminate the Jews and the ‘unpure' from the entire population. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp that carried out Hitler's ‘final solution' in greater numbers than any other.
The first concentration camps were set up in 1933. Hitler established the camps when he came into power for the purpose of isolating, punishing, torturing, and killing anyone suspected of opposition against his regime. In the early years of Hitler's reign, concentration camps were places that held people in protective custody. These people in protective custody included those who were both physically and mentally ill, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Jews and anyone against the Nazi regime. 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 S.S. (Hitler's personal security force) was ordered, by Hitler, to control the camps. (Feig, 20) These camps were set up for many different purposes: Some for forced labor, others for medical experiments and, later on, for the mass destruction of the Jews. (Feig, 21) However, there was never a clear idea from camp to camp as to the true purpose. Was it to extract labor or merely to kill? We do know that Auschwitz was designed for those three reasons stated. Its ultimate goal though was to exterminate as many people possible in the shortest amount of time.
The first death camp, Chelmno, was set up in Poland on December 8, 1941. This was five weeks before the Wannsee Conference at which time the 'final solution' was planned out. (Feig, 23) Usually, the death camps were part of existing camps, but some new ones were just set up for the sole purpose of mass extermination. In total there were close to 46 concentration camps and six death camps.
These camps were set up along railroad lines so that the prisoners would be conveniently close to their destination. Unfortunately, many prisoners didn't even survive the train ride to the camps. Herded like cattle, exhaustion, disease, and starvation ended the long treacherous journey for many of the prisoners. On the trains, Jews were starved of food and water for days. Nearly 8% of the people did...