"All of Europe was a (concentration) camp"

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is producing an Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. They expected that several thousand camps involved in the Holocaust. They have found over 20,000.

Washington Post article (free registration may be required)

US Holocaust Museum web page about the encyclopedia

The Washington Post article quotes one Holocaust researcher “anyone looking through this volume is going to be astounded at how vast the camp system was. . . . It’s simply not possible to think of these activities as an aberration when you see all of the information.”

Another researcher is quoted “What we are seeing in this project is that all of Europe was a camp.”


I’m putting this in GQ because there’s no debate, and I do not find it mundane or pointless at all.

Faulkner was right “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

What’s the question, please? If you don’t have a question, this shouldn’t be in GQ. We can debate about that, if you like.

But there doesn’t see to be a question, general or otherwise, either.

Also, I might be misreading it, but I take the encyclopedia to be including all concentration camps, whether they were involved in the Holocaust or not. So while the research is interesting, I think that some of the ways some of the ways the 20,000 camp finding is being interpreted by those quoted in the Post article are a little inaccurate. For example:

“Shapiro says that the sheer number of camps may end one of the lingering protestations surrounding the Holocaust – that ordinary people knew nothing of the killing underway in their locales. ‘In most towns, there was some sort of prison, or holding area or place where people were victimized’”

Since many (the majority?) of the camps listed were work camps, etc., rather than death camps I don’t see how this conclusion follows. I don’t think that anyone would claim that ordinary people were unaware that there was political repression going on.

Since there doesn’t seem to be a question in the OP, I am moving it to MPSIMS from GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Indeed. For example, the first Nazi German concentration camp that was built (and prototype for subsequent camps), the Dachau concentration camp, was located just 10 miles outside of Munich, which is the third largest city in Germany.

I visited the site of the camp (now a memorial) about 15 years ago. It was a sobering experience. On the way back from the camp, I remember looking at elderly people and wondering if they had been there when the concentration camp was in operation.

I think that in order to reach a number of 20.000, you basically need to qualify every prison as a camp. I’m not saying that such a decision is unqualified, though: surely horrible things went on in ‘regular’ prisons as well, and the prisons were absolutely a part of the logistics of extermination and political repression. However, I think you’re quite wrong if you think this means there 20.000 Dachaus and Auschwitzes in Europe.

The Washington Post article says the encyclopedia counts both main camps like Dachau and Auschwitz, all of their sub-camps, plus a lot of smaller camps/ghettos/prisons. There were not 20,000 of the big places, but the Museum’s research director is quoted as saying “In most towns, there was some sort of prison, or holding area or place where people were victimized”

Just as a point of comparison, McDonalds has 31,000 restaurants world-wide, and 12,000 in the USA. Everyone knows about McDonalds, and specifically the restaurants near them.

Yes, but McDonald’s advertises relentlessly, and the franchises usually have a huge sign that can be seen from a mile away or more. Plus, McDonald’s has been around for more than 50 years and has become an indelible piece of popular culture, so much so that even people in tiny villages in Appalachia who’ve never actually been to a McDonald’s know what it is.

I seriously doubt that the death camps were advertising on German radio, or had electric signs (“over 6 million killed”?) at the gates.

Understand that I’m the LAST person to defend “the good Germans” on this issue. I’m just noting that it’s not completely out of the question for the majority of Germans to not realize exactly what was up at places like Auschwitz and Dachau.

And basically every town jail that held prisoners of the Third Reich could be counted in that number. Yes, certainly every person in their community knew that you didn’t want to be taken to the jail of the local Nazi office. They undoubtedly knew people who were questioned sometimes didn’t come back. That doesn’t mean it was some sort of grand European conspiracy. They were dangerous times for any person. You could be as Aryan as anyone and your neighbor could make an accusation against you and you’d be questioned and possibly tortured.


Well, Auschwitz is in Poland, so few German civilians would have had much exposure to it during the war.

I’d understood that none of the death camps were in Germany (is this correct?) - if so, Dachau would have looked like a prison camp, something fully plausible during wartime.

All of the Extermination Camps were located in Poland. However, over 25,000 people died or were killed at Dachau alone.

There was a saying in Hanover that “it must be a north wind, 'cos you can smell the jews”, as Bergen-Belsen campp was to the north of the city.

So yeah, the idea that people didn’t know something was up doesn’t wash; whether they knew about the gas ovens etc is perhaps less sure, but given that many employees lived in local towns it’s hard to believe that rumours didn’t spread.

You misspelled inedible there. (I actually read it that way)