We are very fortunate that the US Holocaust Museum has spent the time, money, and effort to compile an Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945.
Auschwitz, Dachau, the Warsaw Ghetto… These are names that resonate with anyone who knows the story of the Holocaust. Most people are shocked, however, to learn just how many camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder the Nazis and their allies ran: over 42,000. Likewise, few people know much about the conditions in those places, or how broad the range of prisoner experiences was.
In order to fill this vast gap in our knowledge, the Museum and Indiana University Press are compiling and publishing an Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945. Specifically, the work aims to answer basic questions about as many individual sites as possible; to provide scholars with leads for additional research; and to memorialize the places where so many millions of people suffered and died.
Work on this enormous project began in 1999; it involves a small team of editors, writers, and researchers at the Museum, plus hundreds of volunteers and scholars from all over the world. Three volumes have already appeared, and four more are in preparation. When it is complete, the Encyclopedia will be the most comprehensive and up-to-date guide to the Nazi camp system in existence.
Volume one entitled, Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA), focuses on (emphasis mine):
This volume contains entries on 110 early camps, 23 main SS concentration camps (including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau), 898 subcamps, 39 SS construction brigade camps, and three so-called youth protection camps. Introductory essays provide broader context, while citations and source narratives offer the basis for additional research.
From Volume I (pps. 1525-1526 and emphasis mine):
INTRODUCTION TO THE YOUTH CAMPS
The idea of establishing a separate prevention institution (Bewahranstalt) or assembly camp (Sammellager) for the “difficult or impossible to educate” youth, who had become noticed because of their stubborn and deviant behavior, was not new. From the mid-1920s, youth welfare workers, lawyers, medical practitioners, psychiatrists, and adherents of the “racial hy- giene” movement had been demanding such institutions to deal with the high level of care (and thus expense) for such youths. Without any further education, they would be held for an indefinite period of time in such institutions with their labor being exploited. Those advocating such a policy were not successful during the Weimar Republic, but this changed from 1933 with the assumption of power by the National Socialists and the establishment of the concentration camp system.
A series of decrees and orders from 1937 set the legal and institutional basis for the struggle against youth de- generation. A decree dated October 14, 1937, on “preventive criminal measures” established what was regarded as “asocial behavior,” which was “someone who acts against the community, even if such actions were not criminal, but showed that he or she did not want to be part of the community.”1 This decree formed the basis for the persecution of anyone who deviated from National Socialist norms and ideals. In 1938, there followed a further series of decrees and regulations that dealt with the treatment of asocials and called for the “protective custody” of whole families as well as suggesting the registration and police surveillance of asocials.
Following a circular decree by the Reich Ministry of the Interior (RMdI) on May 24, 1939, the Reich Center for Combating Youth Criminality (Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung der Jugendkriminalität) was established as a department of the Reich Criminal Police Office (Reichskriminalpolizeiamt, RKPA). This authority was tasked with the police surveillance of youths and the power to use force, including sending youths to closed reform institutes. Later, it would be in charge of the “police youth protection camps” (polizeiliche Jugendschutzlager). In actuality, they were concentration camps for youths. On December 22, 1939, at a conference on “degenerate youth,” Reinhard Heydrich demanded the establishment of reform camps for youths (Jugenderziehungslagern). This demand was supported in the following months by Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler. On June 26, 1940, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) issued a circular announcing that the confinement of youths to police youth protective custody camps could begin within a short period of time. In the end, three such camps opened: Morin- gen (for boys) in August 1940, Uckermark (for girls) in June 1942, and Litzmannstadt (for Polish juveniles) in December 1942. All remained in operation almost until the end of the war.
Youths were admitted to the Jugendschutzlager on racial, religious, or political grounds. They included the so called Hamburg Swing Youth (Swing Jugend), who were accused of establishing a dangerous clique even though they only wanted to listen to jazz, then regarded as un-German, and had formed their own subcultures to do so. The authorities also confined homosexuals, Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Jews, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Youths in the camps were subjected to military drill, euphemistically termed “community training” (Gemeinschaftserziehung). The stated aim was character education, focusing on cleanliness, order, punctuality, discipline, and above all, work. The inmates worked on agricultural estates, at armaments firms, and at workshops of various sorts. Living arrangements were primitive, the food and clothing inadequate, and the punishments severe. Death rates were not as high as in some of the adult concentration camps, but prisoners did die in significant numbers.
SOURCES Sources on the youth protection camps can be found in the individual camp entries.
1. Quoted in Detlef Peukert, Volksgenossen und Gemein- schaftsfremde. Anpassung, Ausmerze und Aufbegehren unter dem Nationalsozialismus (Cologne, 1982), p. 250.
They’re concentration camps.