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During the late 19th and early 20th century, the colonial powers of Europe were continuing their quests around the world in search of people and lands to conquer. The British were the largest power, who nobody really wanted to mess with. The Dutch had their stake in colonial Africa beginning in the 1650s, when the Dutch East India Company sent colonists to South Africa. The British were mildly involved, establishing some colonial influence in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The Dutch, known as Boers, were the first to colonize this area. In the early 1800s, the British seized parts of this land and claimed it as their own. In the mid 1800s, some Boers left the colony because they were white and did not want to be under the colonial rule of a foreign power that wasn't their own nation. They moved to the northeast into areas called the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

The Boer war was fought between the Boers and the Uitlanders (foreigners), who were mainly British subjects over the control of South Africa in the late 1880's. The Brits were defeated thanks to unconventional war tactics. Due to the discovery of gold fields in South Africa in the late 1880s, this fighting was far from over. The Orange Free State and the South African Republic both declared war on Britain in 1899, and scored some victories. The British, not being any small force to mess with, put in a full military effort and won control of the entire area. The Boers, knowing that they stood no chance against the British in a conventional war, resorted to guerrilla warfare.

This is where the concept of a concentration camp comes into play. The Nazis were not the people who came up with the idea of a concentration camp. In a guerrilla war, the civilian population plays an extremely crucial role. After all, the guerrilla's entire objective is to win the hearts and mind of the people, whether they agree with them or not. The people are the ones keeping the guerrillas supplied and hidden. So the British came up with a simple solution: Do away with the people. They will be concentrated in a camp where the guerrillas cannot reach them or use them as a resource. It is comparable to draining the water out of a fish tank so the fish can not survive. As a result of the creation of these British concentration camps, the guerrillas were defeated. The defeated republics finally surrendered in 1902, and they became British colonies. Since the people were of white European descent, nobody was seriously punished for their part in the war.

Although the word concentration camp became very common in reference to the Holocaust, the concept was not invented by the Nazis. The Nazis just used this British concept in a different way against a specific segment of the civilian population. The purpose of a concentration camp is not to kill, but to keep people isolated in a big group away from mainstream society. Although people did die in concentration camps, their intent is not to kill, but to bundle and hide away. The death camps utilized by the Nazis were used for the purpose of extermination. More often than not, Nazi camps consisted of a death camp located next to a concentration camp. For example, Auschwitz-Birkenau is the complex most well known from the Nazi era. Auschwitz was the concentration camp located next door to Birkenau, the death camp. Being sent to Auschwitz meant a good chance of death, but a very slim hope of survival. Being sent to Birkenau was as good as being shot on the spot.

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