5: The Camps

Concentration, Extermination and Slave Labor Camps and Ghettoes

At the time Adolf Hitler assumed power in 1933, concentration camps were established, of which Dachau was the first. They served as internment camps for all those who were either politically opposed to National Socialism and/or were viewed by the Nazis as opponents. Jews were assigned the role of racially inferior subhumans and compared to parasitic germs. As the Jewish deportation program began in 1941, the Nazis established Jewish ghettoes in Nazi-occupied Poland, and at Terezin [Theresienstadt], near Prague, in the recently occupied "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia".

In the latter part of 1941, extermination camps were established, and when manpower became scarce in 1943, slave labor camps were created. Inmates from the concentration camps were sent to these camps in order to be usefully employed in the Nazi war effort and to be worked and starved to death. Medical treatment of the sick and injured was at best ineffective. Most inmates in the infirmary either died because of insufficient treatment or were gassed.

Below are memorabilia from Theresienstadt I received from my aunt, Mrs. Lea Vogel, my father's sister, who survived Terezin. Her husband, Otto, and son, Tommy, perished.

Savings card of the Jewish Self-Administration Bank in the Ghetto Theresienstadt.

Partially used rationing card from the Ghetto Theresienstadt, belonging to survivor, Lea Vogel.

Lowest denomination bank note, one crown, circulated in the Ghetto Theresienstadt. The money was worthless because virtually nothing could be bought for it.

A piece of Ersatz soap from a concentration camp. Erastz literally means "substitute". The rumor has it that some ersatz soap was produced from human remains. Years ago, a lady of German background donated this piece of soap she had saved from World War II. She claimed that she had saved it because of the rumor.

KZ Buchenwald.
Pictures and Words by Dipl.-Ing. Simon Wiesenthal, Nr. 127371. Vienna, 1946.
Simon Wiesenthal is an Austrian Jew who helped bring more than 1100 Nazi war criminals to justice as founder and director of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna. He was a slave laborer in a number of Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

The definitive book on Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, published in Warsaw in 1961. The book is very well documented and well-written by Jan Sehn.

Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity by Primo Levi. A Primer and the best-written book on the subject by a survivor.

Christus in Dachau (c. 1957) was authored by Pater Johannes M. Lenz, a Catholic priest, who survived Dachau. He gives a reflective assessment of his camp experience in his moving insightful account.

An informative book about the only concentration camp exclusively for women.