What are camps?

USHMM 15010 Barracks Ravensbrueck concentration camp germany.jpg
Prisoner barracks at Ravensbrueck concentration camp, Germany
© 2011 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Hitler was appointed Chancellor on 30 January 1933. Immediately, the SA stepped up their campaign of violence and terror against the communists. They did this in order to increase their power and to reduce opposition.

Hermann Goering, a leading Nazi, was appointed head of the police in Bavaria. He recruited 50,000 SA and SS members into the police in order to step up the campaign against the Nazis’ enemies.

Across Germany the local police and SA and SS rounded up many thousands of communistssocialists, church leaders and anyone else who might criticise the Nazis. These prisoners were held in local prisons and police stations. There were so many prisoners that makeshift buildings were converted to house them.

This system did not work – it was inefficient and not centrally run. The Nazis needed a new solution. They realised that they would have to establish large, purpose-built camps in order to hold these prisoners.

As prisoners were physically concentrated in one place, the Nazis called these first camps 'concentration camps'. Over the next 12 years, as they invaded and occupied lands all over Europe, the Nazis would build over 20,000 camps of various kinds. These included concentration camps, transit camps, forced labour or work camps and death camps.