In the Camps
Concentration camp is a term that stirs up many emotions. How did they come about? What were they exactly? And just what went on inside those walls? Many have tried to give a full description of what life in the camps was like. With toady’s fast moving and knowledgeable media the public has become very informed on the subject at hand. The fact still remains that few were there, so few can know what really happened. These three poignant questions posed above could each take eternity to fully understand. This is a short explanation of the atrocities that the Nazi’s handed out to the innocent victims of the Holocaust.
How exactly did concentration and extermination camps come about, legally speaking? On first glance it seems that in toady’s modern and civil world that nothing of this nature could ever happen. In fact it happened due to article 48, paragraph 2 in the German Constitution. Here the president is given far reaching emergency powers. This article was used by Paul von Hindenburg in 1933 giving protective custody to protect the state’s security. From there in momentum gained. On April 12, 1934 an edict from the Ministry of the Interior was introduced governing protective custody grounds for establishment of camps. This edict also decreed that those sent to concentration camps were under the rule of the Gestapo and their release was indicative to the discretion of this secret service.
Power is a strange phenomena. Once the Gestapo had legal rights to cruelty the act of playing God became easier to abuse. Terrence Des Pres explains this best by stating:
“As power grows, it grows more and more hostile to everything outside itself. Its logic is inherently negative, which is why it ends by destroying itself. . . The exercise of totalitarian power, in any case, does not stop with the demand of outward compliance. It seeks, further, to crush the spirit, to obliterate that active inward principle whose strength depends on its freedom from entire determination by external forces. And thus the compulsion, felt by men with great power, to seek out and destroy all resistance, all spiritual autonomy, all sign of dignity in those held captive. . .The death of the soul was aimed at.”
This verifies the purpose of these camps as given by Bruno Bettleheim. He states that the “purpose was to terrorize and through the anxiety this created, permit the state to control all that its subjects did and thought.”
Given the above the next question must be addressed. What were concentration and extermination camps? At first concentration camps were internment centers for political and minority groups. They housed non-Aryans who had been caught having sex with “Germans”, homosexuals, those deemed defected or disobedient, political opponents of the Nazi party, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There were also French and Russian POW’s and...