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Holocaust History: Concentration Camps

This LibGuide is a starting point for general research on the concentration camps, with resources on genocide, survivor memoirs, and primary sources.

Brief History

Dachau was the first permanent concentration camp established by the National Socialist government in March 1933 only a few weeks after Adolf Hitler was named chancellor. It was located near the town of Dachau, situated about 10 miles northwest of Munich. Dachau developed into the prototype camp and training center for all other concentration camps. Initially, the camp held opponents of the Nazi regime, including Communists, Social Democrats, outspoken journalists, and others the Nazis deemed political adversaries. Over time, members of other groups were also imprisoned, such as criminals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma, and homosexuals. The number of Jewish prisoners rose in the days immediately after Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938, when more than 10,000 Jewish males were sent to the camp and subjected to brutal physical “retraining.” Dachau came to include some 30 sub-camps in which over 30,000 prisoners were worked to exhaustion and many to death.

Prisoners at the camp were assigned to forced labor, beginning with the construction of the camp itself. Subsequently, most worked in armament and munitions factories. German doctors and scientists subjected some prisoners to involuntary medical experiments. Hundreds of victims suffered and died due to high altitude and other experiments.

As Allied forces advanced toward Germany, the Germans sent prisoners in camps near the front lines to Dachau, causing massive overcrowding. On April 29, 1945, United Stated troops liberated Dachau. Units of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, and 45th Infantry

Division secured the camp. Soldiers found several railroad cars with bodies of prisoners sent to the camp from the east. The number of prisoners held at Dachau and its sub-camps exceeded 188,000. More than 28,000 died there, although the exact number is unknown since some prisoners were not registered.


The following summary derived information from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library

Leatherby Libraries

Archival Material

Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library