Camps in (pre-war) germany
Early concentration camps
At the start of the nazi regime many spontanic “concentration camps” were opened. This period is called the “wild camp”period. When the Nazis came to power they arrested many political opponents of the competitor parties. This arrest waveled to way too many prisoners for the normal prison system to handle. Therefore, the SA opened many camps in abandoned factories, castles, municipal prisons and even boats. The arrests of political opponents was possible due to the protective custody law called schutzhaft.
Schutzhaft, protective custody, was a form of imprisonment were somebody could be arrested without committing a crime in a form of “self-protection”. The prisoners even had to sign a document stating they were agrreing with their arrest.
The wild camps clustered around the industrial centers of Germany. This is because this is the place were most of the political of the Nazis lived, the working class parties. The camps themselves can be roughly divided into 3 categories:
- Protective custody camp (schutzhaftlager)
- Concentration camps (koncentrationslager)
- Torture sites (folterkeller)
Most of the early camps were opened on places according to a space availability basis. This means every camps looked and functioned differently and no constant policy was present. Most camps did not even have barbed wire fencing, gaurdtowers or other facilities.
This high variation of camps led to problems. Some camps had a too harsh of a policy and many prisoners died. Also people living closeby spread romours about the terrors. Most of the camps were in highly populated areas. Making it hard to hide what the Nazis were doing in the camps and even harder to expand the camps and make it more efficient.
Concentration camps in germany
To solve these problems Theodor Eicke was appointed to design a template for the camp lay-out and policies which could be applied to all the camps. Eicke openend the Dachau concentration camp and became commandant of this camp in 1933. In the next year he designed the blueprint of future concentration camps which would be applied to many to the camps in the future.
Prior to the war several concentration camps were opened. The new camps were located in less densely populated areas. These camps are: Dachau, Buchenwald, flossenburg, Neuengamme, ravensburck and Sachsenhausen. Mauthausen concentration camp was opened after the anschluss of Austria. During the war several more concentration camps such as bergen-belsen and mittelbau-dora were opened in order to be able to harbor all the prisoners. All these camps had similar regimes as designed by Theodor Eicke. Eicke became the supercisor of all the camps and their functioning, with different commandants running the camps themselves.