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http://www.pbs.org/auschwitz/40-45/background/ideology.

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Nazi ideology did not explicitly prescribe the system of camps that has
become emblematic of Nazi terror, but the way the camps functioned
reflected some key points in Nazi thinking. Central to Hitler's view of the
world were the twin goals of expanding Germany's territory and purifying the
so-called Aryan race. Camps of various kinds evolved over the twelve years
of Nazi rule to further these goals. The development of the camps also
reflected pragmatic considerations that changed over time. From surveying
the camps, we can see how much power Hitler had to implement his plans,
and when he and the rest of the Nazi leadership needed to pay attention to
public opinion, both inside Germany and abroad.
The Early Targets
The first concentration camp in Germany opened in Dachau in 1933, at a
time when the Nazi government was still consolidating its power.
Accordingly, it focused on political prisonerscommunists, social democrats,
and dissidents who posed a threat to the new regime and were unpopular
with most other Germans.
All of these early victims were easy targets, people whom other
Germans did little or nothing to protect, and whose disappearance
from the public scene they often welcomed.
Soon Nazi authorities and the police began to consign members of other
groups to the new camps: homosexual men arrested as criminal offenders;
Jehovah's Witnesses who refused to obey demands to cease their activities;
women accused of prostitution; people labeled "asocial" because they were
homeless, begged, or for some other reason did not fit into Nazi society.
In 1936, in preparation for the Olympic Games in Berlin, German police
"cleaned up" the city, arresting people deemed inappropriateprostitutes,
street people, petty thievesand forcing hundreds of Gypsies (Sinti and
Roma) into makeshift camps. All of these early victims were easy targets,
people whom other Germans did little or nothing to protect, and whose
disappearance from the public scene they often welcomed.
Nazis Increase Power and Targeted Populations
Mass attacks on Nazi targets that included widely respected members of
German society did not start until 1938, five years after Hitler was named
chancellor. By then Nazis had firm control of all the instruments of state

powerthe police, courts, laws, civil service, military and pressso they
could afford to be less cautious.
This was the first time Jews were sent to concentration camps for no
other reason than that they were Jews.
In November 1938 during the Kristallnacht Pogrom (also called the "Night of
Broken Glass"), Hitler Youth, stormtroopers, and other thugs torched
hundreds of synagogues all over Germany and attacked German Jews, their
homes, and their property. At the same time, police arrested approximately
30,000 Jewish men and locked them in concentration camps, where they
were held in "protective custody." This was the first time Jews were sent to
concentration camps for no other reason than that they were Jews.
The "Euthanasia" Program
During the following year, 1939, Nazi authorities began deadly attacks on
one of their major targets: people considered handicapped. Rather than
sending them to concentration camps where they would have to be housed
and fed along with people who were being held and then sometimes
released, disabled people were taken from hospitals and other institutions
and sent to designated locations for "special treatment." That "special
treatment" was killing. In just a few years, with the cooperation of scores of
doctors, social workers, hospital administrators, and others, Nazi officials
organized and carried out the murder of at least 70,000 Germans deemed
"unfit for life." To the extent possible, the authorities tried to hide these
killings from the rest of the population, so that family members would not
protest.
German Annexations and Invasions Increase Control Over More
People
As Germany annexed territories in 1938 and 1939 from Austria and
Czechoslovakia, it built new camps and prisons in those areas. Once World
War II began in 1939, German conquests led to construction of all kinds of
camps in Poland. Camps in the Netherlands, France, and elsewhere in
western and northwestern Europe followed in 1940, and beginning in 1941,
in Greece, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. These included POW camps for
captured enemy soldiers, labor camps for conquered people, brothels based
on sexual slavery, ghettos for Jews, camps for Gypsies, and starting in late
1941, death camps equipped with the means to murder thousands of people
almost always Jewseach day.

Nazi ideology needed enemies, and its aggressive expansion


provided an ever-growing supply.
By 1945, when Allied troops opened the camps, the types of prisoners they
encountered form a catalogue of everyone the Nazis vilified. There were Jews
from all over Europe, communists, and Polish intellectuals; partisans and
resistance fighters from Yugoslavia, France, Ukraine, and elsewhere; Gypsies,
gay men, Afro-Europeans, uncooperative Roman Catholic priests, and
Protestant pastors; critics of the regime and people who had merely told
jokes about Hitler; male and female forced laborers; conscientious objectors;
Germans accused of sexual relations with so-called non-Aryans; Jehovah's
Witnesses; Italian soldiers who had surrendered to the Allies; convicted
criminals; and many others. As this list indicates, Nazi ideology needed
enemies, and its aggressive expansion provided an ever-growing supply.
Divide and Rule
The day-to-day functioning of the camps exhibited another feature of Nazi
ideology and practiceits tendency to divide and rule its opponents. Nazis
specialized in pitting people against each other, as a way to ease the
processes of subjugation and destruction. Within Germany, this approach
meant picking on the least popular elements of the population first, so as to
maximize public support, or at least indifference. In conquered territories, it
meant turning ethnic groups or social classes against each otherlike Serbs
and Croats in Yugoslavia or Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews in Poland.
To enforce the hierarchy, guards chose some prisoners from higherranking groups to help them control the rest of the inmates.
Inside the camps, divide and rule meant using prisoners to tyrannize each
other. To this end, guards in most camps marked prisoners of different
categories with colored badges: red triangles for communists and other
political prisoners, green triangles for common criminals, pink triangles for
homosexual men, purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, black for Gypsies and
asocials, and yellow for Jews.
Camp authorities then instituted a hierarchy among the inmates that
mirrored the Nazi racial hierarchy of "Aryans" on top, Jews at the bottom, and
others ordered in between. To enforce the hierarchy, guards chose some
prisoners from higher-ranking groups to help them control the rest of the
inmates. These kapos, block supervisors, and other privileged prisoners were
often extremely brutal. Many understood that brutal behavior would prove

their toughness to the guards and result in more privileges, goods, and
power for themselves and their friends. This strategy worsened the horror of
the camps and revealed the total destructiveness at the core of Nazi
ideology and practice