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Concentration Camps

Concentration Camps

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The concentration camp has become a paradigmatic symbol for oppression of the racial or ethnic other. The Oxford Dictionary defines a concentration camp as a camp where non-combatants of a district are accommodated. While this definition captures the basic description it does not articulate that concentration camps have become synonymous with starvation, rape, torture, violence, and mass extermination. Some camps also involve forced labor in addition to the other forms of inhumane treatment. Many statesWestern and non-Western, democratic and undemocratichave used concentration camps as tools to target civilian populations and hated ethnic groups. The justification for camps has generally been to cleanse the society of perceived internal threats to security and order. In most cases a distinct ethnic group or class of people is determined to be a threat and subject to internment by state decree in order to guarantee stability and prevent insurgency. Thus the development of concentration camps is driven in its earliest form as a counterinsurgency technique against anticolonial struggles.

The first use of concentration camps was by the British during the Boer war (18991902). Boers and black Africans were placed in camps so that they would be unable to aid Boer guerrillas. It is reported that more than 27,000 Boers and 14,000 Africans died in the camps from disease and starvation. Most of the dead were children, clearly noncombatants in the conflict. The British also employed the use of concentration camps in Namibia, the Isle of Man, Cyprus, Kenya, Channel Islands, and Northern Ireland. In Kenya during the Mau-Mau rebellion the British placed 1.5 million Kikuyu rebels in concentration camps. More than 300,000 Kenyans died as a result of these policies. These cases make it clear that even when concentration camps are not explicitly designed to exterminate large portions of the enemy population they are no less deadly in their effect.

Camps have almost always been justified by and surrounded conflicts whether civil or international. Some of the most notable examples have surrounded multinational conflicts like World Wars I (19141918) and II (19391945). During World War I, Austria-Hungary placed Serbs and Ukranians in concentration camps during the war. However, the most prominent examples emerge from the experience of World War II.

The experience of Nazi Germany in World War II stands as the paradigmatic example of concentration camps. The Nazi government led by Adolf Hitler and an ideology of cleansing the German nation and controlled territories of Non-Aryans, developed camps for mass extermination and forced labor. The primary groups targeted by Germans were Jews from Germany and territories occupied by Germany during World War II like the Netherlands, France, and Poland. However, while the Nazi camps are known for their extermination of Jews they were not the only populations placed in camps. Nazis also placed the Roma (Gypsies), Africans, homosexuals, and communists in camps for forced labor and extermination.

The Nazi camps first began in 1933 largely for internment but were converted to the cause of extermination in 1941. Evidence shows that more than six million Jews and some unknown others perished in the Nazi camps of Treblinka, Belzec, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Sobibor. Methods of extermination included starvation, gas chambers, disease, and firing squads. According to some sources groups of individuals were used at times as target practice for German soldiers.

The Nazi concentration camp spawned immense creativity and social scientific work. Psychologist Viktor Frankl developed his psychological perspective called logotherapy based upon his experiences in Auschwitz and Dachau. Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben has developed theories around the state of exception and the bare life to see the concentration camp as a product of modern state sovereignty rather than as an aberration. Italians also placed Jews and communists into camps during World War II and camps also existed in the Netherlands and France.

However, Germany and Italy were not the only nations to use internment during World War II. The United States put ethnic Japanese, many of who were American citizens, into what were called internment camps beginning in 1942. This action was undertaken by the Roosevelt administration under executive order 9066 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan in December of 1941. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans and some German Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, were placed in internment camps. Lt. General J. L. DeWitt wrote in a letter to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, June 5, 1943, that, The security of the Pacific Coast continues to require the exclusion of Japanese from the area now prohibited to them and will so continue as long as that military necessity exists (p. vii).

Many Japanese died or suffered poor health and neglect in the camps. In order to leave the camps young men had to swear allegiance to the United States and agree to enter the U.S. military. Many refused and were punished, and their stories are captured in the novel The No, No Boys (1978)[MS1] referring to their decline of swearing allegiance to the U.S. and their decline of military conscription. In 1988 the U.S. Congress formally apologized to Japanese American victims of internment camps and granted reparations to the group according to the Japanese-American Reparation Act.

Japanese internment is not the only instance in the United States of the perceived use of what many identify as concentration camps. The practice of placing Native Americans on Indian reservations that had few services and little or no economic opportunities has been likened to the practice of concentration camps. The Native American experience begins with the Indian Removal Act of 1838, which relocated Southern tribes east of the Mississippi River and set the stage for moving them to reservations. Others like Stanley Elkins in his work on slavery compared slave plantations to concentration camps.

In the twenty-first century the detention and torture of terror suspects and so-called illegal combatants outside of the Geneva conventions at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been likened to concentration camps. Detainees have been subjected to a range of forms of extralegal torture that do not conform to the Geneva Conventions or other international law.

Latin America has not been free from the experience of concentration camps. The military junta in Argentina used camps to torture and kill more than 30,000 disappeared dissidents between 1976 and 1983 during what is called the Dirty War. The military regime of Augusto Pinochet (19152006) in Chile also used similar camps to deal with dissidents during its reign following the coup against democratically elected leftist President Salvador Allende (19081973).

Between 1895 and 1898 the Spanish in Cuba employed camps to combat the insurgents fighting for Cuban independence. The atrocities in the camps, the bombing of the Maine, as well as the imperialist designs of the United States are cited as reasons the United States invaded Cuba in the Spanish-American War (1898). The Spanish also used camps in the Philippines in 1901 to quell descent against colonial rule.

Other uses of the concentration camp have involved the Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot (19251998) in Cambodia, North Korea, and the Peoples Republic of China reform and labor camps. The camps in Cambodia caused the deaths of 1.7 million enemies of the Khmer Rouge (19751979); the camps in North Korea held 1.6 million enemies of the state (19481994); and countless millions in the camps in China developed during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (19581961 and 19661969). In each case, these were communist regimes that used camps to reform political dissidents or those who were perceived to be ideological or ethnic enemies of the regime. In each case, thousands died in camps from starvation or from overwork or were executed. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (18781953) used concentration camps called gulags to address political dissenters, Jews, and other ethnic groups in Russia. These camps included Trotskeyite political foes, and ethnic Ukranians, Chechens, Inguish, Crimean Tartars, Tajiks, Bashkirs, and Kazaks.

One of the more recent experiences with concentration camps was the Balkan War, following the break-up of Yugoslavia. In Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 more than 200,000 Croats, Serbs, and Muslim were killed in camps and by acts of ethnic cleansing.

The widespread use of concentration camps for social scientists demonstrates the willingness of various kinds of states in different contexts to engage in this harsh form of population regulation. The camps themselves demonstrate the extensive power of modern states to regulate all aspects of everyday life for citizens and other populations contained within national, colonial, or imperial boundaries. Camps have also provided opportunities to understand the psychology of the oppressors and the oppressed. The concept of authoritarian personality was developed in part to understand the participation of regular Nazi soldiers in the extermination of Jews. Further, the works of Stanley Elkins, Avery Gordon, Agamben, and Frankl, among others, examine the effects of camps on individuals and groups. Beyond psychology, notions of collective memory and haunting have also been developed to analyze the way the experience of concentration camps structures the lives and memories of generations beyond the initial victims. Concentration camps are a devastating product of modern nation states and civil and international military conflicts. At the same time, they are a rich but disturbing area of study for those who seek to understand the role of the state and the psychology of violence and oppression.

SEE ALSO Colonialism; Contempt; Genocide; Hitler, Adolf; Holocaust, The; Imperialism; Imprisonment; Incarceration, Japanese American; Jews; Nazism; Personality, Authoritarian; Reparations

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Elkins, Stanley. 1968. Slavery. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Frankl, Viktor. 1997. Mans Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. New York: Touchstone.

Gordon, Avery. 1997. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lt. Gen. J. L. DeWitt to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, June 5, 1943. 1943. In Final Report; Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast 1942. pp. viix. Washington DC: Government Printing Office.

Mark Sawyer

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"Concentration Camps." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Concentration Camps." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/concentration-camps

concentration camp

concentration camp, a detention site outside the normal prison system created for military or political purposes to confine, terrorize, and, in some cases, kill civilians. The term was first used to describe prison camps used by the Spanish military during the Cuban insurrection (1868–78), those created by America in the Philippines (1898–1901), and, most widely, to refer to British camps built during the South African War (Boer War) to confine Afrikaners in the Transvaal and Cape Colony (1899—1902). The term soon took on much darker meanings. In the USSR, the Gulag elaborated on the concept beginning as early as 1920. After 1928, millions of opponents of Soviet collectivization as well as common criminals were imprisoned under extremely harsh conditions and many died.

During World War II concentration camps were established throughout Europe by the Nazis, and throughout Indochina and Manchuria by the Japanese. Of the millions of people of many nationalities detained in them, a large proportion died of mistreatment, malnutrition, and disease. In both Nazi and Japanese camps inmates were exploited for slave labor and medical experimentation, but the Nazis also established extermination camps. In the best known of these—Majdanek, Treblinka, and Oświęcim (Auschwitz), in Poland—more than six million mainly Jewish men, women, and children were killed in gas chambers. Among the most notorious Nazi camps liberated by U.S. and British troops in 1945 were Buchenwald, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen.

The term has also been applied to the U.S. relocation centers for American citizens of Japanese origin and others interned in the W United States during World War II. In China during the Cultural Revolution (1966–69) millions were sent to euphemistically named "reeducation" camps, and in Cambodia after Pol Pot came to power (1976) an estimated one million civilians died in "reeducation" camps. North Korea maintains a system of political and criminal prison camps in which inmates are sentenced to harsh physical labor and are underfed and mistreated. In 1992, reports of malnutrition and killings in concentration camps for Muslim, Croat, and Serb male civilians in Bosnia led to attempts by international organizations to identify the location of the camps and inspect them.

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concentration camp

concentration camp Detention centre for military or political prisoners. The first were set up by the British for Afrikaner civilians during the South African Wars (1899–1902). The most notorious were established by the German Nazi regime in the 1930s for political opponents, and people considered racially or socially undesirable. Some of these camps provided slave labour while others were the sites of mass execution. In Poland, more than 6 million people (mostly Jews) were murdered in the gas chambers. Gulags were widely employed during Stalin's purges, and reeducation camps were used in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and by the Khmer Rouge. See also Auschwitz; Belsen; Buchenwald; Dachau

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concentration camp

con·cen·tra·tion camp • n. a place where large numbers of people, esp. political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned to provide forced labor or to await mass execution. The term is most strongly associated with the camps established by the Nazis.

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"concentration camp." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"concentration camp." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/concentration-camp