John Joseph Paul Barrett
Francis Illuzi Garcia-Pages
Txikia Tomeo Hernandez-Morales
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
"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..."
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
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, 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.