Skip to Main Content

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

On December 12, 1938, the first hundred prisoners arrived in Neuengamme from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The camp was located in a former brick factory that was purchased by the SS and was situated on the bank of the Elbe River in the Hamburg suburb of Neuengamme, in northern Germany.

In June 1940, the SS established Neuengamme as an independent concentration camp. Prisoners were forced to build the barracks, guard towers, and fences. The prisoner population increased immediately, and by the end of 1940, around 3,000 prisoners were housed there. Initially, Neuengamme was a work camp for the production of bricks. Over time, the work expanded to projects on the Elbe River and the development of a canal between the Dove and Elbe Rivers. After the Allies began bombing cities in northwestern Germany, such as Hamburg, the SS deployed prisoners from the camp to clean up rubble and remove unexploded munitions from the streets. Prisoners worked 10 to 12 hours a day, without sufficient food and with clothing that offered no protection from the elements. In the winter of 1944-1945, 1,700 prisoners died each month; in February 1945, nearly 2,500 prisoners died.

Overall, 80,000 men and more than 13,000 women were registered and issued a prisoner number at the Neuengamme concentration camp. As British troops approached Neuengamme, the SS sent 9,000 prisoners onto three seized ships. The prisoners were crammed into the ships' holds, and many died of hunger, thirst, and disease. Some 7,000 were killed when the British—unaware there were prisoners on board—attacked two of the ships. The remaining prisoners from the camp were murdered or sent on death marches to other camps, including Bergen-Belsen. It is estimated that around 50,000 of those imprisoned at Neuengamme were killed.


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

Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library

Archival Material