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Police prison Camps and Police Prisons in the Occupied Territories

Only little is known about police prison camps and police prisons established in the occupied territories. There are no cross-national and only few scientific investigations available on some of these places of detention resp. countries. Apart from some scattered references on this type of camp mainly survivors’ testimonies and reports of former prisoners of police prison camps resp. police prisons have been passed on. Historical investigation is further complicated by the fact that the police prison camps and prisons in the occupied territories were not managed by one responsible body and their form of appearance as well as their function showed significant differences to some extent. For example the police prison camps and police prisons in Norway, the Netherlands, the "Reichskommissariat Ostland" and in the "Reichskommissariat Ukraine" were run by German civil government. In Belgium, France, Serbia and Greece, however, they were subjected to the military administration. In the Eastern and South Eastern European countries the camps were often governed by the individual respective commander of the Security Police or the SD. Sometimes, however, they were initiated by the task forces. In Croatia and Italy on the other hand, police prison camps were mainly in control of the respective national authority. Yet there were also camps in the territories occupied by the German forces, which were only indirectly in German control. Anyway, in those camps natives of the respective countries were involved in guarding activities.

Police prison camps and police prisons in the occupied territories that were under German control were named with various expressions indicating the different functions of this type of camp. They were, for example, called "Anhaltelager", "Auffanglager", "Durchgangslager", "Geisellager", "Sühnegefangenenlager", "Studentenhäftlingslager" or even "collective internment camps for Jews". In the Netherlands the "polizeiliche Durchgangslager" Amersfoort and Schoorl, the "Justizlager" Ommen, the "Judendurchgangslager" Westerbork and the "Geisellager" Sint-Michielsgestel and Haaren belonged to the police prison camps. In accordance with the different designation of these camps, they were assigned with different functions. Prisoners of conscience were held prisoner in police prison camps and police prisons; furthermore, hostages or Jewish natives of the individual country were amongst prisoners. Camps and prisons were meant to combat (as a preventive measure) any real or alleged opponent of the National Socialists as well as to scare the civil population. "Collective internment camps" for Jews, however, were predominantly used to isolate and "concentrate" the Jewish population and to prepare their subsequent deportation. Jewish prisoners were deported from the police prison camps to ghettos, concentration camps or else straight to extermination camps. Sometimes Jewish prisoners were murdered in the police prison camp itself, for example in camp Zemun (Semlin) in Serbia. A lot of these camps showed similar features as ghettos, concentration camps as well as extermination camps, mainly in the final phase of the war.

Selected Literature:

Benz, Wolfgang & Distel, Barbara (Hg.). Die vergessenen Lager. Dachauer Hefte 5. Dachau 1989.

Benz, Wolfgang & Distel, Barbara (Hg.). Terror im Westen. Nationalsozialistische Lager in den Niederlanden, Belgien und Luxemburg. Berlin 2004.

Schwarz, Gudrun. Die nationalsozialistischen Lager, 2. Auflage Frankfurt a. M. 1996.