The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without any regard to the legal normality of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy. In Nazi Germany, between the years of 1933 and 1945, concentration camps were a severe integral feature of the regime. The first concentration camps in Germany were established soon after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in January of 1933. In the following weeks after the Nazis came to power, they organized numerous detention camps to incarcerate any opponents.
In April of 1940, Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction of a new concentration camp near Poland. This camp came to be known as Auschwitz, and quickly became the largest Nazi concentration and death camp in history. By the time of its liberation, Auschwitz had grown to include three large camps and up to 45 other sub-camps. Auschwitz I, or “the main camp”, mainly housed prisoners and was the location of many medical experiments. This was also the site of Block 11 and the Black Wall, the first was a place of severe torture and the second was a place of execution. At the entrance of Auschwitz I stood the infamous sign that stated “Arbeit Macht Frei”, which means “Work Makes One Free.” Auschwitz I also housed the Nazi staff that ran the entire camp complex.
Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, was completed in early 1942. Birkenau was built approximately 1.9 miles away from Auschwitz I and was the real killing center of the Auschwitz death camp. It was in Birkenau where the dreaded selections were carried out on the ramp and where the camouflaged gas chambers waited. Birkenau, much larger than Auschwitz I, housed the most prisoners and included areas for women and Gypsies. Auschwitz III, or Buna-Monowitz, was built last as “housing” for the forced laborers at the Buna synthetic rubber factory in Monowitz. The 45 other sub-camps also housed...