Teaching the Holocaust with Primary Sources
Introduction: Nuremberg Race Laws | Kristallnacht | Ghettos
Concentration Camps: Dachau | Bergen-Belsen | Auschwitz
Righteous Among the Nations: Gies | Schindler | Winton | Grueninger
Primary Source and Analysis Tools | Library of Congress Resources
Primary Source Sets | PDF Version
A Final Solution: Concentration Camps
The ghettos were a terrible experience, but no one predicted the horror awaiting the Jewish people after they left. From the ghettos, people were loaded into boxcars filled so tightly that no one could move. There was no food, water, bathrooms, or fresh air. These death trains could take days to reach the final destination, a Nazi concentration camp.
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime created nearly 20,000 concentration camps.10 These camps were designed and constructed for hard labor and terminations. Hitler's "final solution" was a plan for the mass destruction of all Jewish people to secure a true Aryan race. The camps were tools to achieve that goal. Some camps had the sole purpose of killing Jews that arrived daily. As soon as they were unloaded from the trains, the people of all ages were taken to "the showers". Nazi guards would deceive prisoners by telling them they were going to take a shower for sanitary purposes. Then unsuspecting victims would leave their clothes and enter "the showers". Instead of water, SS guards would throw Zyklon-B pellets into the chamber from a hole in the ceiling. When exposed to air, Zykon-B creates a vapor that when breathed in staves the body of oxygen and causes death. When there was no sign of life, the bodies were thrown into piles before being sent on to the crematorium and destroyed.
10. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust Encyclopedia,
Nazi Camps. Accessed 8.6.12