Before the Holocaust: Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939

This is the website of a major research project funded by the British Arts & Humanities Research Council dealing with concentration camps in Nazi Germany in the pre-war period. The website has a special section with primary sources: "The absence of accessible documentary material has contributed greatly to the widespread lack of knowledge about the pre-war Nazi concentration camps. Key documents are scattered across archives throughout the world, while most published survivors’ memoirs have long been forgotten or gone out of print. This website brings together a selection of documents about the pre-war camps, drawn from various archives and libraries. These sources shed light on the SS camps between 1933 and 1939. Documents have been divided into six sections, each focusing on a different aspect of the SS camps, from their emergence (1) and later consolidation (2) under a professional corps of SS men (3), to the conditions inside the camps (4) for different inmate groups (5), as well as the public face of the camps (6). All the documents – as well as several hundred others – appear in: Christian Goeschel and Nikolaus Wachsmann (eds), Before the Holocaust: Documents from the Nazi Camps, 1933-1939 (Lincoln, NE: Nebraska University Press, forthcoming) All documents are translated into English (translation: Ewald Osers). In addition, some documents are available in the German original." More about the project: : "The Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War and the Holocaust have been heavily researched and continue to deserve much scholarly attention. But what about the early years of Nazi rule? This AHRC-funded research project looks at the Nazi concentration camp system between 1933 and 1939, trying to uncover the foundations for wartime terror. The research project explores the Nazi camps from three perspectives, which shed light on the intricate relationship between terror, state and society in the Third Reich. First, it examines the camps from the regime’s standpoint, analysing the changing function of the camps within the Nazi dictatorship. Second, it studies the conditions within the camps, as well as the various inmate groups and their relationships to each other. Third, the project looks at the relationship between the camps and the German population, asking what ordinary people knew about the camps. These aspects are explored in four PhD dissertations linked to this research project. They are also central for the compilation and edition of a primary source collection on the camps, 1933-1939, which will promote research and teaching on the neglected pre-war history of the concentration camps and encourage debate on the role of discipline, order and terror in modern dictatorships more generally." History: "The SS concentration camps have become symbols of the horrors of the Third Reich. References to camps like Auschwitz – the most deadly camp of all – have become shorthand for Nazi inhumanity. Most of the focus on the camps has been on the last years of the Second World War, when the SS camp system grew massively, characterized by deadly conditions, lethal forced labour, mass murder and the extermination of European Jews. But the SS camps were neither a product of the Second World War nor of the Holocaust; they were much older. By the time Auschwitz was set up in 1940, the Dachau camp, the first to be established by the SS, had operated for more than seven years. The pre-war system was quite unlike the wartime one, with far fewer camps, prisoners and deaths; almost all inmates were German and economic exploitation still took a backseat. And yet, the prewar camps left a crucial legacy for the infernal camps of the Second World War. To find out more about the beginnings of the SS camp system and its development in prewar Nazi Germany, click here for an article by Dr. Christian Goeschel and Dr. Nikolaus Wachsmann."

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Friday, 16 May 2014 - 10:35am
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