Concentration camps in Nazi Germany
Concentration camps in Nazi Germany served a number of purposes. First, these camps were used to jail those who opposed Hitler’s government or were thought to threaten it. Second, knowledge of what life was like in a concentration camp was allowed to leak out – or came out when someone was released. The fear of ending up in such a camp was sufficient for a great many Germans to openly declare their loyalty to Hitler even if this was not the case. Therefore for the Nazi leaders, concentration camps served the dual purpose of controlling the majority of the population because of the fear they engendered and also locking away those who crossed the line- a line imposed by the Nazi government.
Hitler had no issues with the harshness of these institutions. Even before he became Chancellor in January 1933 he said to Hermann Rauschning:
“We must be ruthless. We must regain our clear conscience as to ruthlessness. Only thus shall we purge our people of their softness and sentimental philistinism, of their easy going nature and their degenerate blight in beer-swilling. We have no time for fine sentiments. I don’t want the concentration camps transferred into penitentiary institutions. Terror is the most effective instrument. I shall not permit myself to be robbed of it simply because a lot of stupid, bourgeois mollycoddlers choose to be offended by it.”
Officially concentration camps were to “reform” those who had expressed opposition to Hitler’s regime and to turn “anti-social members of society into useful members”. Hitler argued that the Weimar constitution made such camps legal but just in case this was not the case, a law was passed on February 28th 1933 that suspended the personal liberties of dissenters and allowed for them to be kept in “protective custody”.
The first concentration established in Nazi Germany was at Dachau. As the name of the camps suggest, these camps incarcerated a large...