Mapping the SS Concentration Camp System Over Space and Time
Anne Kelly Knowles and Paul B. Jaskot, with Chester W. Harvey, Charlie Hofmann, Toral Patel, Roz Vara, and Alexander Yule
Concentration camps have become one of the most powerful symbols of the Holocaust. Many individual camps, as well as aspects of their administration and changing purposes, have been studied extensively, but few scholars have attempted to analyze the SS camp system as a whole or to describe how the many camp/subcamp networks differed from one another, particularly in regard to their use of space and spatial relationships. This case study asked how SS policy was actually manifested on the ground by tracing the location, construction dates, and function of camps from 1933 to 1945. Working at the continental scale, we hoped to illuminate the spatial and temporal dynamics of the system.
Our key data source was an historical GIS of the SS camps developed by USHMM staff for volume 1 of the Center’s Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, published by Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It contains all known “early camps,” 22 “main camps,” and more than 1,100 affiliated subcamps. Mapping these sites shows the diffusion of camps from Germany to other regions. Maps also reveal the camp systems’ spatial variation, from the concentration of the Dachau system in urban-industrial Munich to the more dispersed pattern of the Mauthausen and Buchenwald systems. Visualizing the tempo of camp construction highlights differences between the short-lived “early camps,” the build-up under Himmler from 1939 to 1944, and the massive increase in subcamps during the last 18 months of the war.Return to Geographies of the Holocaust »