WORK SETS YOU FREE Arbeit macht frei
Arbeit Macht Frei (Auschwitz)
"TITTER YE NOT"
The Führer visited a lunatic asylum. All the patients were told to stand in a row, and they were given instructions on how to salute him. When Hitler approached they all raised their right hands and shouted:
‘Heil Hitler!’ Only the last man in the row uttered no sound and did not raise his hand. Red with rage Hitler stepped up to him and shouted:
‘Don’t you know who I am? Why don’t you raise your hand?’ ‘I beg your pardon,’ replied the man politely, ‘I am the doctor.
I’m not a lunatic’.’
Adolf Hitler is due to inspect a concentration
camp and the camp
commandant, eager to impress the Fuhrer, addresses the inmates.
"As today is the visit of the Fuhrer we will have
a special sportsday.
Therefore all the Americans shall play baseball in the west
field and all the English shall play cricket in the east field. In addition, all the French shall play soccer in the north field and all the Jews shall play hopscotch in the minefield."
Nazi gas chambers:
“If you can’t stand the heat get out of the oven.”
Arbeit macht frei is a German phrase meaning "work sets you
free." The slogan is known for appearing on the entrance of
Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
The expression comes from the title of a novel by German
philologist Lorenz Diefenbach, Arbeit macht frei:
Lorenz Diefenbach (1873), in which gamblers and fraudsters find
the path to virtue through labour. The phrase was also used in
French ("le travail rend libre!") by Auguste Forel, a Swiss
entomologist, neuroanatomist and psychiatrist, in his "Fourmis de la
Suisse" "Ants of Switzerland" (1920). In 1922, the Deutsche
Schulverein of Vienna, an ethnic nationalist "protective"
organization of Germans within the Austrian empire, printed
membership stamps with the phrase Arbeit macht frei.
The slogan "Arbeit macht frei" was placed at the entrances to a
number of Nazi concentration camps. The slogan's use in this instance was ordered by
SS General Theodor Eicke , inspector of concentration camps and second commandant of
Dachau Concentration Camp. The slogan can still be seen at several sites, including over the entrance to Auschwitz where,
according to BBC historian Laurence Rees in his "Auschwitz:
a New History", the sign was erected by order of commandant Rudolf Höss . This particular sign was made by prisoner-labourers including Jan Liwacz. The sign features an upside-down 'B', which has been interpreted as an act of defiance by the prisoners who made it.
In 1933 the first political prisoners were being rounded up for an indefinite period without charges. They were held in a number of places in Germany. The slogan was first used over the gate of a "wild camp" in the city of Oranienburg, which was set up in an abandoned brewery in March 1933 (it was later rebuilt in 1936 as Sachsenhausen). It can also be seen at the Dachau concentration camp, Gross-Rosen concentration camp, and The Resienstadt Ghetto-Camp, as well as at Fort Breendonk in Belgium. It has been claimed that the slogan was placed over entrance gates to Auschwitz III Buna Monowitz. The slogan appeared at the Flossenbürg
camp on the left gate post at the camp entry. The original gate posts survive in another part of the camp, but the slogan sign no longer exists. Primo Levi describes seeing the words illuminated over a doorway (as distinct from a gate) in Auschwitz III Buna Monowitz.
At Buchenwald, "Jedem das Seine" (literally, "to each his own", but idiomatically "everyone gets what he deserves") was used.
In 1938 the Austrian political cabaret writer Jura Soyfer and the composer Herbert Zipper, while prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp, wrote the Dachaulied (The Dachau Song). They had spent weeks marching in and out of the camp's gate to daily forced labour, and considered the motto "Arbeit macht frei" over the gate an insult. The song repeats the phrase cynically as a "lesson" taught by Dachau. (The first verse is translated in the article on Jura Soyfer.)
In The Kingdom of Auschwitz, Otto Friedrich wrote about Rudolf Höss, regarding his decision to display the motto so prominently at the Auschwitz entrance:
He seems not to have intended it as a mockery, nor even to have intended it literally, as a false promise that those who worked to exhaustion would eventually be released, but rather as a kind of mystical declaration that self-sacrifice in the form of endless labour does in itself bring a kind of spiritual freedom.
Considering the role played by the Auschwitz prisons during the Holocaust as well as the individual prisoner's knowledge that once they entered the camp freedom was not likely to be obtained by any means other than death, the cruel comedy of the slogan becomes strikingly clear. The psychological impact it wrought on those who passed through the gates of each of the camps where it was seen was incredibly powerful.
Signs displaying the slogan at the interpretive centers which now occupy the former Nazi concentration camps have repeatedly been targeted by thieves. Motivation for the thefts was originally thought to be for financial gain, however when the individuals responsible for the theft were identified it was revealed that in at least one instance the thieves themselves were affiliated with the Neo Nazi
movement. What political goals that they hoped to achieve through stealing the signs is unclear.
The sign over Auschwitz was stolen in December 2009 and later recovered by authorities in three pieces. Anders Högström , a Swedish neo-Nazi former leader, and two Poles were jailed as a result. The original sign is now in storage at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and a replica was put over the gate. Five years later, the sign
over the Dachau gate was stolen by unknown thieves. The November 2014 theft of the Dachau sign remains unsolved and the artefact has never been recovered.
NaziGermany maintained concentration camps
Konzentrationslager, throughout the territories it
The first Nazi concentration camps were erected in
Germany in March 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his Nazi Party was given control over the police through Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring.
Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers the camps initially held around 45,000 prisoners.
Heinrich Himmler's SS took full control of the police and concentration camps throughout Germany in 1934–35. Himmler expanded the role of the camps to holding so-called "racially undesirable elements" of German society, such as
Jews, criminals, homosexuals, and Romani. The number of people in camps, which had fallen to 7,500, grew again to 21,000 by the start of World War II and peaked at 715,000 in January 1945.
The concentration camps were administered since 1934 by Concentration Camps Inspectorate which in 1942 was merged into SS-Wirtschafts- Verwaltungshauptamt and were guarded by SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV).
Holocaust scholars draw a distinction between concentration camps (described in this article) and extermination camps, which were established by the Nazis for the industrial-scale mass execution of the predominantly Jewish ghetto and concentration camp populations.
Use of the word "concentration" came from the idea of using documents confining to one place a group of people who are in some way undesirable. The term itself originated in the "reconcentration camps" set up in Cuba by General Valeriano Weyler in 1897. Concentration camps had in the past been used by the U.S. against Native Americans and by the British in the Second Boer War. Between 1904 and 1908, the Schutztruppe of the Imperial German Army operated concentration camps in German South-West Africa (now Namibia) as part of their genocide of the Herero and Namaqua peoples . The Shark Island Concentration Camp in Lüderitz was the biggest and the one with the harshest conditions.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they quickly moved to suppress all real or potential opposition. The general public was intimidated through arbitrary psychological terror of the special courts (Sondergerichte). Especially during the first years of their existence these courts "had a strong deterrent effect" against any form of political protest.
The first camp in Germany, Dachau, was founded in March 1933 . The press announcement said that "the first concentration camp is to be opened in Dachau with an accommodation for 5,000 persons. All Communists and – where necessary – Reichsbanner and
Social Democratic functionaries who endanger state security are to be concentrated there, as in the long run it is not possible to keep individual functionaries in the state prisons without overburdening these prisons." Dachau was the first regular concentration camp established by the German coalition government of National Socialist Workers' Party (Nazi Party) and the Nationalist People's Party (dissolved on 6 July 1933). Heinrich Himmler, then Chief of Police of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."
Dachau served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi concentration camps. Almost every community in Germany had members taken there. The newspapers continuously reported of "the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps" making the general population more aware of their presence. There were jingles warning as early as 1935:
"Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not
come to Dachau."
Between 1933 and the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, more than 3.5 million Germans were forced to spend time in concentration camps and prisons for political reasons, and approximately 77,000 Germans were executed for one or another form of resistance by Special Courts, courts-martial, and the civil justice system. Many of these Germans had served in government, the military, or in civil positions, which enabled them to engage in subversion and conspiracy against
As a result of the Holocaust , the term "concentration camp" carries many of the connotations of "extermination camp" and is sometimes used synonymously. Because of these ominous connotations, the term "concentration camp", originally itself a euphemism, has been replaced by newer terms such as internment camp, resettlement camp,detention facility, etc., regardless of the actual circumstances of the camp, which can vary a great deal.
After September 1939, with the beginning of the Second World War, concentration camps became places where millions of ordinary people were enslaved as part of the war effort, often starved, tortured and killed. During the war, new Nazi concentration camps for "undesirables" spread throughout the continent. According to statistics by the German Ministry of Justice, about 1,200 camps and sub camps were run in countries occupied by Nazi Germany, while the Jewish Virtual Library estimates that the number of Nazi camps was closer to 15,000 in all of occupied Europe and that many of these camps were created for a limited time before being demolished. Camps were being created near the centers of dense populations, often focusing on areas with large communities of Jews, Polish intelligentsia, Communists or Romani. Since millions of Jews lived in pre-war Poland, most camps were located in the area of General Government in occupied Poland, for logistical reasons. The location also allowed the Nazis to quickly remove the German Jews from within Germany proper. In 1942, the SS built a network of extermination camps to systematically kill millions of prisoners by gassing. The extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) and death camps (Todeslager) were camps whose primary function was genocide . The Nazis themselves distinguished between concentration camps and the extermination camps. The British intelligence service had information about the concentration camps, and in 1942 Jan Karski delivered a thorough eyewitness account to the government.
The two largest groups containing prisoners in the camps, both numbering in the millions, were the Polish Jews and the Soviet
prisoners of war (POWs) held without trial or judicial process. There were also large numbers of Romani people, ethnic Poles,
Serbs, political prisoners, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholic clergy, Eastern European
intellectuals and others (including common criminals, as declared by the Nazis). In addition, a small number of Western Allied
aviators were sent to concentration camps as spies. Western Allied POWs who were Jews, or whom the Nazis believed to be
Jewish, were usually sent to ordinary POW camps; however, a small number were sent to concentration camps under antisemetic
Sometimes the concentration camps were used to hold important prisoners, such as the generals involved in the attempted assassination of Hitler; U-boat Captain-turned-Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller; and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris , who was interned
at Flossenbürg on February 7, 1945, until he was hanged on April 9, shortly before the war’s end.
In most camps, prisoners were forced to wear identifying overalls with colored badges according to their categorization:
red triangles for Communists and other political prisoners, green triangles for common criminals, pink for homosexual men, purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, black for a socials and the "work shy", yellow for Jews, and later brown for Romani.
Many of the prisoners died in the concentration camps through deliberate
maltreatment, disease, starvation, and overwork, or were executed as unfit for
labor. Prisoners were transported in inhumane conditions by rail freight cars, in
which many died before reaching their destination. The prisoners were confined
to the boxcars for days or even weeks, with little or no food or water. Many died
of dehydration in the intense heat of summer or froze to death in winter.
Concentration camps also existed in Germany itself, and while they were not
specifically designed for systematic extermination, many of their inmates perished
because of harsh conditions or were executed.
In the spring of 1941, the SS – along with doctors and officials of the T-4
Euthanasia Program – introduced the Action 14f13 programme meant for
extermination of selected concentration camp prisoners. The Inspectorate of the
Concentration Camps categorized all files dealing with the death of prisoners as
14f, and those of prisoners sent to the T-4 gas chambers as 14f13. Under the
language regulations of the SS, selected prisoners were designated for "special
Sonderbehandlung) 14f13". Prisoners were officially selected
based on their medical condition; namely, those permanently unfit for labor due to
illness. Unofficially, acialand eugenic criteria were used:
Jews, the handicapped,
and those with criminal or antisocial records were selected. For Jewish prisoners
there was not even the pretense of a medical examination:
the arrest record was
listed as a physician’s “diagnosis” In early 1943, as the need for labour increased
and the gas chambers at Auschwitz became operational, Heinrich Himmler
ordered the end of Action 14f13 .
After 1942, many small subcamps were set up near factories to provide forced
labor. IG Farben established a synthetic rubber plant in 1942 at Monowitz
concentration camp ( AuschwitzIII ); other camps were set up next to airplane
factories, coalmines and rocket propellant plants. Conditions were brutal and
prisoners were often sent to the gas chambers or killed if they did not work
On 31 July 1941 Hermann Göring gave written authorization to SS
Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Reich Main Security Office
(RSHA), to prepare and submit a plan for a "total solution of the Jewish question"
in territories under German control and to coordinate the participation of all
involved government organisations. The resulting General plan Ost (General
Plan for the East) called for deporting the population of occupied Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to Siberia, for use as slave labour or to be murdered.
Towards the end of the war, the camps became sites for medical experiments. Eugenics experiments , freezing prisoners to determine how downed pilots were affected by exposure, and experimental and lethal medicines were all tried at various camps.
The lead editors of the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945 of
the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum , Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, operating from. They estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites.
Some of the most notorious slave labour camps included a network of sub-camps.
Gross-Rosen had 100 subcamps , Auschwitz had 44 sub-camps, Stutthof had 40 sub- camps set up contingently. Prisoners in these sub-camps were dying from starvation, untreated disease and summary executions by the tens of thousands.
The camps were liberated by the Allied and Soviet forces between 1944 and 1945. The first major camp, Majdanek,was discovered by the advancing Soviets on July 23, 1944.
Auschwitz was liberated, also by the Soviets, on January 27, 1945; Buchenwald by the Americans on April 11; Bergen-Belsen by the British on April 15; Dachau by the Americans on April 29; Ravensbrück by the Soviets on the same day; Mauthausen by Americans on May 5; and Theresienstadt by the Soviets on May 8.
Treblinka, Sobibór, and Bełżec were never liberated, but were destroyed by the
Nazis in 1943. Colonel William W. Quinn of the U.S. 7th Army said of
"There our troops found sights, sounds, and stenches horrible beyond
belief, cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind."
In most of the camps discovered by the Soviets, almost all the prisoners had
already been removed, leaving only a few thousand alive— 7,000 inmates were
found in Auschwitz, including 180 children who had been experimented on by
doctors. Some 60,000 prisoners were discovered at Bergen-Belsen by the British
11th Armoured Division, 13,000 corpses lay unburied, and another 10,000 died
from typhus or malnutrition over the following weeks. The British forced the
remaining SS guards to gather up the corpses and place them in mass graves.
Wild camps, or early camps, usually
without proper infrastructure, springing up in each and every town across the German state beginning in 1933 like mushrooms after the rain (Himmler's quote), overseen by Nazi paramilitaries as political police utilising any lockable larger space, i.e. engine
rooms, brewery floors, storage facilities, cellars, etc.
State camps (i.e. Dachau, Oranienburg, Esterwegen) guarded by the SA; prototypes for future SS concentration camps, with the total of 107,000 prisoners already in 1935.
Hostage camps (Geisellager), known also as police prison camps (i.e. Sint- Michielsgestel, Haaren) where hostages were held and later killed in reprisal actions.
Labor camps (Arbeitslager): concentration camps where interned captives had to perform hard physical labor under inhumane conditions and cruel treatment. Some of these were sub-camps (Aussenlager) a.k.a. the Outer Camps, built around a larger central camp (Stammlager) or served as "operational camps" established for a temporary need. POW camps (Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager / Stalag) a.k.a. Main Camps for Enlisted Prisoners of War:
concentration camps where enlisted prisoners-of-war were held after capture. They were usually assigned soon to nearby labor camps (Arbeitskommandos i.e. the Work Details.
POW officers had their own camps (Offizierslager / Oflag). Stalags were for Army prisoners, but specialized camps (Marinelager /
Marlag ("Navy camps") and Marine interniertenlager / Milag ("Merchant Marine Internment Camps") existed for the other services.
Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager Luftwaffe / Stalag Luft ("Air Forces Camps") were the only camps that detained both officers and non-commissioned personnel together.
Camps for the so-called "rehabilitation and re-education of Poles" (Arbeiterziehungslager - "Work Instruction Camps"):
camps where the intelligentsia of the ethnic Poles were held, and "re-educated" according to Nazi values as slaves.
Collection and Transit camps:
camps where inmates were collected (Sammellager) or temporarily held (Durchgangslager / Dulag)
and then routed to main camps.
Extermination camps (Vernichtungslager):
These camps differed from the rest, since not all of them were also concentration camps. Although none of the categories are independent, many camps could be classified as a mixture of several of the above.
All camps had some of the elements of an extermination camp, but systematic extermination of new-arrivals occurred in very
specific camps. Of these, four were extermination camps, where all new arrivals were simply killed the " Aktion Reinhard " camps (Treblinka, Sobibór and Belzec), together with Chelmno. Two others (Auschwitz and Majdanek) were combined concentration and extermination camps. Others like Maly Trostenets were at times classified as "minor extermination camps".
Though most Nazi concentration and extermination camps were
destroyed after the war, some were made into permanent memorials. In
Communist Poland, some camps such as Majdanek, Jaworzno, Potulice
and Zgoda were used by the Soviet NKVD to hold German prisoners of
war, suspected or confirmed Nazis and Nazi collaborators, anti-
Communists and other political prisoners, as well as civilian
members of the German, Silesian and Ukrainian ethnic minorities.
Currently, there are memorials to both Nazi and Communist camps at
Potulice; they have helped to enable a German-Polish discussion on
historical perceptions of World War II. In East Germany, the
concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were used for
similar purposes. Dachau concentration camp was used as a detention
centre for the arrested Nazis.
SS Totenkopfverbände (SSTV), rendered in English as Death's Head
Units, was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi
concentration camps for the Third Reich, among similar duties. While the
Totenkopf (skull) was the universal cap badge of the SS, the SS-TV also
wore the Death's Head insignia on the right collar to distinguish itself from
other Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) formations.
Arbeit Macht Frei THE LIBERTINES
The SS-TV created originally in 1933 was an independent unit within the SS with its own ranks and command structure. It ran the camps throughout Germany and later, the Nazi-occupied Europe. Camps in Germany included Dachau, Bergen Belsen and Buchenwald; camps elsewhere in Europe included Auschwitz in German occupied Poland and Mauthausen in Austria among the numerous other concentration camps and death camps. The extermination camps' primary function was genocide and included
Treblinka, Bełżec and Sobibór built for Aktion Reinhard. They were responsible for facilitating what the Nazis called the
Final Solution , known since the war as the Holocaust. It was perpetrated by the SS in collaboration with the Reich Main Security Office, and the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office or WVHA.
At the outbreak of World War II one of the first combat units of the Waffen-SS, the SS Division Totenkopf, was formed from SS-TV personnel. It soon developed a reputation for ferocity and fanaticism, participating in war crimes such as the Le Paradis massacre
in 1940 during the Fall of France. On the Eastern Front the mass shootings of Polish and Soviet civilians in Operation Barbarossa
the work of special task forces known as SS-Einsatzgruppen, which were organized by Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich.
The SS-TV created originally in 1933 was an independent unit within the SS with its own ranks and command structure. It ran the camps throughout Germany and later, he Nazi occupied Europe. Camps in Germany included
Dachau, Bergen Belsen and Buchenwald; camps elsewhere in Europe included Auschwitz in German occupied Poland and Mauthausen in Austria among the numerous other concentration camps and death camps. The extermination camps' primary function was genocide and included
Treblinka, Bełżec and Sobibór built for Aktion Reinhard. They were responsible for facilitating what the Nazis called the Final Solution , known since the war as the Holocaust. It was perpetrated by the SS in collaboration with the Reich Main Security Office, and the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office or WVHA.
Another main branch of the SS known as the SS Verfügungstruppen (SS-VT) was soon reorganized and expanded by Himmler into the Waffen-SS (or the Armed-SS) with some 150,000 members. Almost half of the concentration
camp officers served with the Waffen SS combat divisions, including the
Leibstandarte, Das Reich, the Nord Division, and Totenkopf which was
directly linked to the camp system. Some concentration camp officers served
as division commanders in the Waffen-SS. In 1941, prior to the "Final Solution",
the SS concentration camp personnel began to arrive from the front-line SS formations upon medical discharge. Attack dogs were introduced to compensate for the personnel shortage. Meanwhile, by October 1944 the
Waffen-SS membership reached 800, Within the camps themselves, there existed a hierarchy of camp titles and positions which were unique only to the camp service. Each camp was commanded by a Kommandant, sometimes referred to as Lagerkommandant, who was assisted by a camp adjutant and command staff. The prison barracks within the camp were supervised by a Rapportführer who was responsible for daily roll call and the camp daily schedule. The individual prisoner barracks were overseen by junior SS-NCOs called Blockführer who, in turn had one to two squads of SS soldiers responsible for overseeing the prisoners. Within the extermination camps, the Blockführer was in charge of the prisoner Sonderkommando and was also the person who would physically gas victims in the camp's gas chambers. The Jewish
Concentration camps also had supply and medical personnel, attached to the headquarters office under the camp commander, as well as a security office with Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst (SD) personnel attached temporarily to the camp. These security personnel, while answering to the camp commander, were also under direct command of Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) and RSHA
commanders independent of the camps. As a result, SD and Gestapo personnel within the
concentration camps were seen as "outsiders" by the full-time camp personnel and frequently
looked down upon with distrust by the regular SS-TV members.
In addition to the regular SS personnel assigned to the Concentration Camp, there also existed a
prisoner system of trustees known as Kapos who performed a wide variety of duties from
administration to overseeing other groups of prisoners.
In 1942 Richard Glücks was increasingly involved in the administration of the Endlösung, supplying
personnel to assist in Aktion Reinhardt (although the death camps of Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor
were administered by SS-und Polizei-führer Odilo Globocnik of the General Government). In July
1942, Glücks met Himmler to discuss medical experiments on concentration camp inmates. All
extermination orders were issued from Glücks' office to SS-TV commands throughout Nazi
Germany and occupied Europe. He specifically authorized the purchase of Zyklon B for use at
In 1945 SS-TV units began to receive orders to conceal as much of the evidence of The Holocaust
as possible. Camps were destroyed, sick prisoners were shot and others were marched on death
marches away from the advancing Allies. The SS-TV were also instrumental in the execution of
hundreds of political prisoners to prevent their liberation.
By April 1945 many SS-TV had left their posts. Due to their notoriety, some removed their death
head insignia to hide their identities. Camp duties were increasingly turned over to so-called
"Auxiliary-SS", soldiers and civilians conscripted as camp guards so that the Totenkopf men could
escape. However, many were arrested by the Allies and stood trial for war crimes at Nuremberg
between 1946 and 1949.
SS-Mann, deine Ehre heißt Treue!
"Man of the SS, your honour is loyalty"