New research proves Holocaust had 42,500 more Nazi camps than thought
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
New research proves that the Holocaust was even more horrifying than previously thought, as research scholars at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently documented an additional 42,500 Nazi camps.
For the past 13 years, the researchers have been documenting all of the Nazi concentration camps, ghettos, slave labor sites and killing factories that were dispersed throughout German-controlled areas in France, Russia and Germany from 1933-1945. According to the study, researchers expected to find approximately 7,000 camps when they first began the project, but the final number of over 35,000 more shocked them.
History professor James Brophy said the current number documented is just provisional and will mostly grow as the research continues in a project that is expected to be completed in 2025.
During Hitler’s reign of terror, more than 12 million people were thought to have been killed, but that number is growing. Within the 42,500 camps, the researchers predict that up to 20 million people died or were imprisoned.
Junior Moriel Singer-Berk, secretary of KOACH, a Conservative Judaism program run through Hillel Student Life, is not surprised by the number, she said, just disgusted.
“It’s not just the Jewish people that were in the camps,” Singer-Berk said. “We tend to focus on the suffering of our people. From the number, it’s clear there had to be others as well.”
The new research shows that extermination camps only represented a small portion of all camps. In addition to the extermination camps, the researchers have documented thousands of forced labor camps which include brothels, forced abortion clinics, centers for manufacturing war supplies, centers for euthanizing the elderly and centers for housing prisoners of war.
The new research, Brophy said, does not change the master narrative plan of extermination—it enhances the history.
“In terms of thinking about the process of extermination, what we knew before still stands,” Brophy said.“That process—that, sad tragic story—has not been challenged. What we have now is a supplemental story, about labor exploitation and about extensive breadth of the SS Empire.”
The amount of camps found proves they were much more widespread and prevalent than previously believed, which brings into question both the frequency of the sightings of the camps and the actions taken against the camps, or lack thereof.
Brophy said he believes the new research will change the understanding of the everyday social history of the labor camps, as it alters the perceptions of war. The amount indicates many Germans were aware of the camps, despite their claims of ignorance.
“In some ways, paradoxically, all these camps served as terms of camouflage,” Brophy said. “Germans saw so many camps in their own country and saw that Russian and Polish prisoners of war were being housed, camped and worked. But, since they weren’t killed or gassed, Germans could believe the lie.”
Connecting the history of the second World War with the Holocaust adds layers of culpability and complicity, Brophy said, making this research of enormous importance.
Singer-Berk said she believes the documentation of more camps can be used as evidence against the people who deny or exaggerate the history of the Holocaust. She said it also can be used to help prevent future genocides from occurring.
Junior Samantha Rosen, president of Hillel Student Life, also said it is important for students to study the past so the same mistakes are not repeated in the future.
“As we get further and further from the date, people start downplaying it or thinking wasn’t as big of a devastation as it was,” Rosen said. “The new research brings it into light again.”
On college campuses, Rosen said, the Holocaust Remembrance Day goes unnoticed. This year, the event will occur on Apr. 8, and the new research makes history all the more powerful and prevalent, she said.
Singer-Berk said the generation of survivors is very limited, and the people who survived were mostly young children when the Holocaust occurred or people who are now too old to tell stories and share their experiences, making it that much more important to gather all of the new information and share it.
As the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors, Singer-Berk said learning about their history gives her strength. and hopes that through the recent documentation of the 42,500 camps, more people can also be influenced.
“It’s in my blood—I have that strength in me, I have that history,” Singer-Berk said. “I think everyone should be able to look at that and not be afraid.”
Learning about the Holocaust teaches us about ourselves, Singer-Berk said, so the more documentation continues, the more people can learn about themselves.
“There’s no such thing as not enough information,” she said. “Learning about the Holocaust really puts life into perspective for people our age. In a really twisted way, it teaches you a lot.”