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John Joseph Paul Barrett
Francis Illuzi Garcia-Pages
Txikia Tomeo Hernandez-Morales
Jesus Miguelez

Structure and Organization

The Nazi party had two wartime objectives: Lebenraum [Lebensraum is the German ideology of acquiring land to expand the German regime] and Rassenherrschaft [Rassenherrschaft is the German ideology of racial domination over other races]. The concentration camps were used as a tool to fulfill the Jewish question. Hitler, along with the Nazi party, agreed upon the "Final Solution" to finally dispose of the Jewish race. The Arian race [The Arian race was the white race meant to rule over the other races, more specifically the white German race] was the only race worthy of ruling and all other races were impure and unworthy. With these ideology in mind, the National-Socialists which had power in Germany, showed their supremacy through their elaborate camp systems. Their goal was to exterminate impurities. These camps killed millions of Jews and allowed Germany to extract necessary labor from healthy workers and kill the unhealthy population. The concentration camps were in fact "part of the National-Socialist system of domination" (Pingel 3). The concentration camps were also "tools of oppression in Nazi-occupied Europe" and a means of forced labor (Dunin-Wasowicz 133). Because the idea of Lebensraum was improbable, the idea of Rassenherrschaft was carried out up until the dismantling of the concentration camps.

"As early as the second month of the National-Socialist coalition government-when the first camps were established-and until the final defeat in 1945, the concentration camps remained an integral component of the Nazi system of domination" (Pingel 3). From the formation of the camp system, three phases in its history can clearly be explained: 1933-1936, 1936-1941, and 1942-1945. During the first phase the "stabilization of the executive within the National-Socialist state" took place with the "predominate aims of National Socialism, namely the elimination of the workers' organizations" (Pingel 3).

These workers' unions included the "German Communist Party, or KPD; the Social-Democratic Party, or SPD; and the trade unions" (Pingel 3). "In the first period, the prisoners formed a relatively homogenous group: 90 percent were [part of the workers organizations] and only 10 percent was Jewish" (Pingel 8). "The structure and character of the camps was greatly affected by this struggle these political-ideological opponents, and even the training given to the guards and other camp personnel was directed toward this aim" (Pingel 3-4). "Objectives beyond the suppression of political opponents could be carried out only to a limited extent" (Pingel 4).

"The establishment of the concentration-camp administration must be viewed in the context of the organization of the Security Police, whose sphere of activity was separate from that of the rest of the police, and with the penetration of the entire police apparatus by the S.S." (Pingel 4). These aims were accomplished in 1936 while Himmler was appointed chief of the German police. The second phase of the administration of the camp system "experienced the repercussions of war preparations..." (Pingel 4).

Himmler realized that concentration camps could also be used for criminals and enemies of the Nazi party. "Concentration-camp internment was therefore possible in place of penitentiary, work-houses or prison sentences" (Pingel 4). Due to a limited money supply, "camps also entered into competition with the penal administration of the judiciary, which remained outside the realm of political internment" (Pingel 4). Once the war started, a greater influx of prisoners was expected so the camps were expanded. "...the new facilities proved insufficient to accommodate the large numbers of new prisoners" (Pingel 5).

"The pogroms of 1938 and the intake of foreign prisoners from the conquered territories, especially from the East, led to catastrophic overcrowding of the camps and to disastrous conditions of accommodation for the prisoners" (Pingel 5). With an overcrowded population and a constant inflow of prisoners, "this state of affairs favored measures for mass extermination, which were put into practice soon after the beginning of the war" (Pingel 5). Methods of extermination included starvation, euthanasia, and massive shootings. "These measures, for the most part, did not start with the camp authorities, but were initiated outside the camps and then continued within their confines" (Pingel 5).

The third phase of administration brought about the "reorganization of armament production" and to "increase in the supply of forced labor" (Pingel 5). "The continuos intake of new prisoners was intended to expand the potential of the work force inside the camps" (Pingel 5). "This was not an independent decision of the SS leadership; responsibility was borne jointly by Hitler, the Armaments Ministry...and the Army Armament of the OKW..." (Pingel 5). These institutions realized that "the continuation of essential weapon production could only be achieved if the flow of production and deployment of labor were more closely regulated" (Pingel 5). This realization caused drastic changes in the organization of the camp system. "With the implementation of forced-labor conditions in the last phase of the National-Socialist regime, the concentration camps assumed an important role" (Pingel 5). 

"The changes in the structure and character of the camps initiated at these turning points become comprehensible when one considers several factors: the number of prisoners and camps, the composition of their prisoner population, the reasons for their imprisonment, their work in the camp, and their mortality rate' (Pingel 5). The camps were organized in the following groups: 

"(1) Places of detention set up independently by the SS or the SA without the permission or assistance of government bodies;
(2) Sections within police prisons or those of the courts of law that admitted prisoners in 'protective custody';
(3) Separate camps under the authority of the political police of the respective federal states" (Pingel 7).

"Thus there was no uniform organizational structure. The different types of camps were the result of differing arrest operations" (Pingel 7).

"Within one year the SS had become the dominant organization in the emerging system of the concentration camps" (Pingel 8). "In order to cut costs and to more easily control the many small and scattered detention camps, prisoners in protective custody were concentrated in a few central camps. The largest of these were Dachau in Bavaria and Esterwegen in Prussia" (Pingel 9).

In 1934, Himmler became in direct control of these camps and initiated a structure and system of admission for all camps in the Reich. "Himmler appears to have been the only one among the heads of police, the party leaders and politicians in the different states to have a definite plan for the construction of a concentration-camp system embracing the entire Reich" (Pingel 9).

"Next, he united the administration of the concentration camps under one central authority called Inspektion der Konzentrationslager [Supervision of the Concentration Camps], which became an agency of the SS Central Office" (Pingel 9). "The commandant of Dachau, Theodor Eicke, became the first supervisor of the concentration camps and of the SS Wachverbande [SS guard organizations]" (Pingel 9). "By issuing special camp regulations and directives to the guards in Dachau as early as the end of 1933, the SS tried to create special legal regulations for the concentration camps and to make the commandants and supervisors the supreme legal authority for punishments, including the death penalty" (Pingel 9).

"The organizational structure of the concentration camps retained this form until the beginning of the third period" (Pingel 10).

Works Cited

Pingel, Falk. The Nazi Concentration Camps: Structure and Aims; The image of the Prisoner; The Jews in the Camps. Proceedings of the Fourth Yad Vashem International Historical Conference. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1964, pp. 3-17.

Dunin-Wasowicz. The Nazi Concentration Camps: Structure and Aims; The image of the Prisoner; The Jews in the Camps. Proceedings of the Fourth Yad Vashem International Historical Conference. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1964, pp. 133-142.