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How Many Camps?

(1933-1945)

Most people are familiar with the names of the major concentration camps - Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Treblinka, for example - but few realize that these were not the only places where Jews and other prisoners were held by the Nazis. Each of the 23 main camps had subcamps, nearly 900 of them in total. These included camps with euphemistic names, such as “care facilities for foreign children,” where pregnant prisoners were sent for forced abortions.

The Nazis established about 110 camps starting in 1933 to imprison political opponents and other undesirables. The number expanded as the Third Reich expanded and the Germans began occupying parts of Europe. When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum first began to document all of the camps, the belief was that the list would total approximately 7,000. However, researchers found that the Nazis actually established about 42,500 camps and ghettoes between 1933 and 1945. This figure includes 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettoes, 980 concentration camps; 1,000 POW camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm; Germanizing prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers. Berlin alone had nearly 3,000 camps.

These camps were used for a range of purposes including: forced-labor camps, transit camps which served as temporary way stations, and extermination camps, built primarily or exclusively for mass murder. From its rise to power in 1933, the Nazi regime built a series of detention facilities to imprison and eliminate so-called "enemies of the state." Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesseshomosexuals, and persons accused of "asocial" or socially deviant behavior. These facilities were called “concentration camps” because those imprisoned there were physically “concentrated” in one location.

Millions of people were imprisoned, abused and systematically murdered in the various types of Nazi camps. Under SS management, the Germans and their collaborators murdered more than three million Jews in the killing centers alone. Only a small fraction of those imprisoned in Nazi camps survived. As many as 15-20 million people may have died in the various camps and ghettoes.


Sources:
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum