During World War II concentration camps were established throughout Europe by the Nazis, and throughout Indochina and Manchuria by the Japanese. Of the millions of people of many nationalities detained in them, a large proportion died of mistreatment, malnutrition, and disease. In both Nazi and Japanese camps inmates were exploited for slave labor and medical experimentation, but the Nazis also established extermination camps. In the best known of these—Majdanek, Treblinka, and Oświęcim (Auschwitz), in Poland—more than six million mainly Jewish men, women, and children were killed in gas chambers. Also detained and often killed in Nazi camps were Communists, Romani (Gypsies), homosexuals, and others. Among the most notorious Nazi camps liberated by U.S. and British troops in 1945 were Buchenwald, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen.
See N. Wachsmann, KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (2015).
The term has also been applied to the U.S. relocation centers for American citizens of Japanese origin and others interned in the W United States during World War II. In China during the Cultural Revolution (1966–69) millions were sent to euphemistically named
reeducation camps, and in Cambodia after Pol Pot came to power (1976) an estimated one million civilians died in
reeducation camps. North Korea maintains a system of political and criminal prison camps in which inmates are sentenced to harsh physical labor and are underfed and mistreated. In 1992, reports of malnutrition and killings in concentration camps for Muslim, Croat, and Serb male civilians in Bosnia led to attempts by international organizations to identify the location of the camps and inspect them.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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