- What was the Holocaust?
- Memories of pre-war life
- The Nazi rise to power
- The Nazification of Germany
- The Nazi impact on Europe
- The Nazi camp system
- The Final Solution
- How did the world respond?
- Survival and legacy
Prisoners were housed in wooden or brick-built barracks, which were intended for between 250 to 400 prisoners. However, they would often house 700 to 1200 prisoners in each.
Within each barrack or block control and order was administered by a male of female barrack or block commander – usually German convicts or Ukrainians. These block commanders or ‘Kapos’ were extremely ruthless and cruel in order to demonstrate their power to prisoners and their usefulness to the SS.
Having arrived at a camp men and women were separated, children staying with their mothers. After registration, prisoners had to undress and have their hair shaved before showering. They usually had their own clothing taken away, which would be replaced by a striped uniform. This process was designed to remove any remnants of human dignity and personal identity.
Camps were divided into sections, each separated by rows of barbed wire fences. There would be separate sections for male and female prisoners, with children often being housed in the same barracks as the women.
Different categories of prisoners were segregated. For example, there would be separate areas for political prisoners, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses and Roma. Those who worked in various areas of the camp were isolated from other prisoners.
Daily routines were designed to reduce prisoners to mere numbers. After an early wake-up, daily concentration camp routines would begin with the appell the daily roll call. Prisoners had to stand in rows, completely still, for hours at a time, and in all weathers. Long lists of orders and instructions would be read out. The number of prisoners would be counted. Often, the Kapos would announce that the total number of prisoners in a block was inaccurate, leading to a recount at the whim of the SS.
Punishments were a way in which the Nazis kept order within the camps. Summary punishments (shootings or beatings) were often carried out by Kapos or members of the SS. Prisoners caught breaking camp rules would be severely punished. Those who attempted to escape were sentenced to death. Often, executions were carried out in full view of other prisoners during the Appell, as a warning and example.