The Emsland Camps, 1933 – 1945

From 1933 until 1938 the National Socialists (Nazis) had a total of 15 camps built in the Emsland, a remote wasteland area near the border to the Netherlands.

The 15 Emsland Camps altogether had different functions during their period of existence between 1933 to 1945. They were:
- Concentration Camps (1933-1936)
- Prison camps (1934-1945)
- Military Prison Camps (1939-1945)
- POW Camps (1939-1945)
- Subordinary Camp of Concentration Camp Neuengamme (1944-1945)

The prisoners had to suffer extremely hard and brutal trials because of the most inhuman living and working conditions in the camps. They had to cultivate the moors under most primitive conditions. From 1939 onwards they had to work for firms which produced war-material, too. From the first days of war POWs reached the camps and had to do the same jobs as the political prisoners. Members of the resistance against Nazi terror of all Western European countries were imprisoned here, too.

All together there were about 80.000 prisoners of concentration camps and prison camps and between 100.000 and 180.000 POW of all European nationalities imprisoned in the Emsland Camps. About 38.000 people died here, among them about 35.000 Russian POWs.

Nowadays the German authorities have reconstructed Camp Esterwegen and created a memorial (Gedenkstätte). This is possible because the army left the terrain in 2001.

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