Think “concentration camps” and high probability is you see images of or think about the holocaust. Not surprising, considering the fact that the concentration camps of World War II have been the most discussed, talked, and written about. But the concept of concentration camps existed long before the holocaust and continued even decades after the Second World War! Some even believe that the concentration camps of Nazis were not the worst the world has witnessed! Let’s get to the facts.
Although some dictionaries define concentration camps as places where people who do not participate in the combat are accommodated, in reality; these have been synonymous with ‘hell on earth’. Most concentration camps were centers of inhumane treatment such as forced labor, starvation, rape, violence; not to mention, mass extermination.
Many of us believe that concentration camps were a concept that took shape during the World War II. But the fact is, Hitler was not the first person to set-up or create concentration camps! In fact, the origins of this concept dates back to the 1900s and the credit for the first concentration camps goes to the British.
The first known concentration camp was created during the “Boer War” where the British created these “secured camps” to maintain their ‘civilian enemies’. This war was the result of Britain’s attempts to take the Boer Republic from the Dutch settlers in Africa.
Nonetheless, the first concentration camp lived up to its present name and was not any better than the ones that came later in history! This camp was the epicenter of several epidemics such as measles, dysentery, and enteric fever and around 25,000 women and children lost their lives!
Although the allies have always focused on the “ German concentration camps” to garner support for themselves; they did have their own secret camps! Ever heard of the Topaz Internment Camp? This existed near the Delta region in our very own Utah. And, its purpose – to house the many US citizens of Japanese descent!
The Topaz camp was created to protect the interests of the US, during World War II. Although none of its inmates were charged for any offence or tortured in any manner, it does not undermine the fact that over 8,000 people were forced to leave their own homes to live in sub-standard and restricted conditions, along with their women and children, from 1942 to 1945.
During World War II, the Germans used “concentration camps” as a tool to weaken and destroy all those whom they considered a threat. Although many of these camps were originally created to house political prisoners and prisoners of war, they soon turned into hubs that were used to mass exterminate ‘real’ and ‘perceived’ threats!
The Holocaust was not just intended to exterminate the Jews but to cleanse the earth of all inferior people. And this included people with disabilities, Catholics, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses, Africans and anyone whom the Germans deemed as inferior human race.
Not all epidemics in concentration camps were the result of sub-standard living conditions; some were purposefully induced as a means of conducting different medical experiments. The inmates of the concentration camps were the scapegoats that were sacrificed in the name of these experiments. Just another excuse for mass murder!
If you think that Auschwitz, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Maly Trostenets would have made the world end the concept of concentration camps, think again! The Balkan War and the break-up of Bosnia and Herzegovina witnessed the extermination of over 200, 000 Serbs, Muslims, and Croats in the name of ethnic cleansing! And this happened between 1992 and 1995!