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An Initiative of the Fayette County Cultural  Trust                                                   
 

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Connellsville has ties to some of the Concentration Camps that were in Europe during WWII.  Some of our past citizens spent years in these camps, fortunately, surviving and coming home to tell their stories.  Some of our area veterans also helped liberate  some of the most deadly camps that were in use during that time, and came back with photographs and stories of the horrible conditions that they found when providing medical treatment and releasing those people from the camps.  We need to keep these stories alive.  In Connellsville, we need to do our part so history does not repeat itself.  This was one of the worst and most hateful wars of all time.


What were Concentration Camps?


Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany established about 20,000 camps to imprison its many millions of victims. These camps were used for a range of purposes including forced-labor camps, transit camps which served as temporary way stations, and killing centers built primarily or exclusively for mass murder. From its rise to power in 1933, the Nazi regime built a series of detention facilities to imprison and eliminate so-called "enemies of the state." Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of "asocial" or socially deviant behavior. These facilities were called “concentration camps” because those imprisoned there were physically “concentrated” in one location.


After Germany's annexation of Austria in March 1938, the Nazis arrested German and Austrian Jews and imprisoned them in the Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, all located in Germany. After the violent Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogroms in November 1938, the Nazis conducted mass arrests of adult male Jews and incarcerated them in camps for brief periods.


FORCED-LABOR AND PRISONER-OF-WAR CAMPS
 

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Nazis opened forced-labor camps where thousands of prisoners died from exhaustion, starvation, and exposure. SS units guarded the camps. During World War II, the Nazi camp system expanded rapidly. In some camps, Nazi doctors performed medical experiments on prisoners.


Following the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Nazis increased the number of prisoner-of-war (POW) camps. Some new camps were built at existing concentration camp complexes (such as Auschwitz) in occupied Poland. The camp at Lublin, later known as Majdanek, was established in the autumn of 1941 as a POW camp and became a concentration camp in 1943. Thousands of Soviet POWs were shot or gassed there.


 KILLING CENTERS
 
To facilitate the "Final Solution" (the genocide or mass destruction of the Jews), the Nazis established killing centers in Poland, the country with the largest Jewish population. The killing centers were designed for efficient mass murder. Chelmno, the first killing center, opened in December 1941. Jews and Roma were gassed in mobile gas vans there. In 1942, the Nazis opened the Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka killing centers to systematically murder the Jews of the Generalgouvernement (the territory in the interior of occupied Poland).


The Nazis constructed gas chambers (rooms that filled with poison gas to kill those inside) to increase killing efficiency and to make the process more impersonal for the perpetrators. At the Auschwitz camp complex, the Birkenau killing center had four gas chambers. During the height of deportations to the camp, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed there each day.

 

Jews in Nazi-occupied lands often were first deported to transit camps such as Westerbork in the Netherlands, or Drancy in France, en route to the killing centers in occupied Poland. The transit camps were usually the last stop before deportation to a killing center.


 Millions of people were imprisoned and abused in the various types of Nazi camps. Under SS management, the Germans and their collaborators murdered more than three million Jews in the killing centers alone. Only a small fraction of those imprisoned in Nazi camps survived.

Just a few of the many concentration camps are listed below.



Camp
Locale
Type
Usage
 Closure
 Present
Poland
Annihilation
Forced Labor
 Apr 1940
Jan 1945
  Liberation
(USSR)
Preserved
(Museum)
Poland
 Annihilation
Mar 1942
Jun 1943
Closeout
  Monument
Germany
Holding Center 
Apr 1943
Apr 1945
Liberation
(UK)
Graveyard 
Germany
Forced
Labor
Jul 1937
Apr 1945 
Liberation
(USA)
Preserved
(Museum)
Poland
Annihilation
Dec 1944
Apr 1943
Apr 1944
Jan 1945
Closeout

Monument
Germany
Forced
Labor
Mar1933
Apr 1945 
Liberation
(USA)
Preserved
(Museum)
Germany
Forced
Labor
Sep 1943
Apr 1945
Liberation
(USA)
 Memorial
Sculpture
Germany
Forced
Labor
May 1938
Apr 1945 
Liberation
(USA) 
Monument
Gross-
Rosen
Poland 
Forced
Labor
Aug 1940
Feb 1945
Liberation
(USSR)
Preserved
(Museum)
Ukraine 
Annihilation
Forced Labor
Sep 1941
Nov 1943
Closeout
Not
Maintained
Latvia
Forced
Labor 
Mar 1943
Sep 1944 
Closeout
Not
Maintained
Poland
Annihilation
Jul 1941
Jul 1944 
Liberation
(USSR)
Preserved
(Museum)
Austria
Forced
Lavor
Aug 1938
May1945 
Liberation
(USA)
Monument
France
Forced
Lavor
May 1941
Sep 1944
Closeout
Preserved 
Germany 
Forced
Labor
Jun 1940
May 1945
Liberation
(UK)
Monument
(Prison)
Germany
Holding
Center
Mar 1933
Mar 1935
Destroyed
Not
Maintained
Poland
Forced
Labor
Dec 1942
Jan 1945
Closeout
Not
Maintained 
Germany
Forced
Labor
May 1939
Apr 1945
Liberation
(USSR)
Monument
Germany
Forced
Labor
Jul 1936
Apr 1945
Liberation
(USSR)
Preserved
(Museum)
Poland
Annihilation
May 1942
Oct 1943
Closeout
Monument
Poland
Forced
Labor
Sep 1939
May 1945
Liberation
(USSR)
Preserved
(Museum)
Czed
Republic
Holding
Center/
Transit
Nov 1941
May 1945
Liberation
(USSR)
Monument
Poland
Annihilation
Jul 1942
Nov 1943
Closeout
Monument
Nether-
lands
Transit
Oct 1939
Nov 1943
Liberation
(Canada)
Monument