Concentration Camps during the Holocaust

Some concentration camps were brutal, while others left prisoners’ stomachs full. Concentration camps are a tool that Hitler used to penetrate Jews in awful ways. Concentration camps show the horrific stories of torture and daily beatings. But, some concentration camps gave sympathy to those that they held captive. Concentration camps were, for the most part, brutal and violent because of Hitler’s hatred for Jews. The reason why he hated Jews is still an enigma to many people.

Pionki was one of the very few camps that had plenty of food, kind leaders and guards.

Christians, who worked alongside the prisoners were mostly kind and giving. Deals were made all day long at Pionki between Jews and Christians. The head of the factory was Hauptmann Brendt, who was credited for saving Jews on many occasions. The guards who worked at Pionki followed in Hauptmann Brendt’s footsteps. They were kind and knew when to look the other way when they could be catching Jews (Bornstein and Hoinstat).

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Pionki had twelve by twelve rooms with windows, which were hard to find in concentration camps and even in the homes where Jews used to live, where their windows were boarded up. Each room at Pionki could fit two bunk beds. Young children were allowed at Pionki if nobody said that they had children with them. If you said something, your children were taken away. Pionki did have to keep some standards, to keep the people on the outside unsuspicious, it was surrounded by a barbed wire fence (Bornstein and Hoinstat).

But, Pionki could not stay that way forever. One day, a new head of the factory was appointed. His name was Herr Widner. He made the rules stricter and any past kindness was forgotten. Then, to follow the change, Pionki was going to be shut down and Jews were going to be resettled in Auschwitz. The ride to Auschwitz was 300 km in a jam packed train for days with no food or water, unless someone managed to sneak some pass the guards. But, another act of kindness saved many people’s lives. Hautmann Brednt sent word ahead of the groups of Jews being resettled saying that they were some of the best laborers in the world and should be put to work, rather than being killed (Bornstein and Hoinstat).

Auschwitz is known for its brutal labor and a sign in the very front that says “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” which roughly translates to “Work Makes You Free”. But, little did the prisoners know, that the sign was a trick for harder working prisoners, but working harder than anyone else did not make you free, at the very least, it gave you more trouble and work than before. The work that was given was physically and mentally exhausting. It ranged from sorting to being assigned to be a Sonderkommandos, which is a job assigned to drag the dead bodies out of the gas chambers (Meltzer).

Auschwitz also is known for Block 11. Block 11 was a torture chamber that had many ways to “teach” Jews how to behave if they tried to escape. There were regular cells, dark cells and standing cells. Standing cells were the worst, prisoners had to crawl in a very small entrance and stand there for days or even weeks. At Block 11, death was the best outcome according to survivors (Meltzer). Comment by Lyla Kirchner: Great paper! *Jamie*

Even though Auschwitz was brutal and harsh, it did take some precautions to keep prisoners healthy, and although it might sound nice their reasoning was not why you may think. They wanted prisoners to be healthy because they wanted more laborers. Some precautions were as little as shaving all the heads of prisoners, so they didn’t all catch lice. They also did give hardworking Jews showers, so they stayed somewhat healthy (Zaifman).

The officers kept track of every prisoner’s name, age, history, and date of death. But, a Jew is not dead until a Nazi officer confirmed that they were truly dead. Every day at roll call, if someone who died in their sleep, wasn’t there, the whole group would be punished. People would drag dead bodies to roll call, so they don’t all have to suffer. The tattooed numbers that identified the prisoners went from one to 20,000. Once a number reached 20,000 they would start all over again with the next prefix. Some examples are B-17,291, or A-1148. Little did the Jews know that those numbers would be etched into their skin for the rest of their life (Bornstein and Holinstat).

Concentration camps, for the most part were harsh and violent, but there were few that still had their own view of humanity. There were hundreds of concentration camps, ranging from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Westerbork. All of them contained many Jews. It is estimated that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. About 1.1 million of them were children. The Holocaust has killed and broken millions of people, not just Jews. About 5 million people of other religions were also killed during the holocaust (

Concentration camps were horrible in the eyes of many people. All did have to do with labor, but some did keep their prisoners fed and clean while others completely disregarded the fact that Jews were being hurt. Hitler is a monster in the eyes of many, and so was his army. Like Primo Levi said “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions”( The Holocaust was a terrible time for many, and concentration camps made it worse. Concentration camps were all different and some were worse than others. While some put their captives to work, others kept them well fed and were kind to those that they held captive.

Works Cited

  • Bornstein, Michael. Survivors Club: the True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017.
  • “Concentration Camps: List of Major Camps.” Suleyman,
  • “Holocaust Quotes (445 Quotes).” Goodreads, Goodreads,
  • Meltzer, Milton. Never to Forget. Harper & Row, Publishers, 1976.
  • Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Essential Facts About the Holocaust.” Thoughtco., Dotdash,
  • Zaifman, Jack, and Deanna Bosco. Sass. Tailor-Made for Life: the Story of Jacov ‘Jack’ Zaifman, Holocaust Survivor. D. Sass, J. Zaifman, 2010.

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Concentration Camps during the Holocaust. (2021, Apr 20). Retrieved from

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