Hitler’s Pris­ons: Legal Ter­ror in Nazi Germany

Niko­laus Wachsmann
  • Review
By – September 28, 2012
Almost every­body with even a casu­al knowl­edge of the Holo­caust knows about the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp sys­tem. The same can­not be said of Germany’s many pris­ons and work reed­u­ca­tion” cen­ters. Indeed, a fuller under­stand­ing of the role that pris­ons played in the Nazi ter­ror has been lack­ing for many years. This lacu­na has now been filled by Hitler’s Pris­ons, the most com­pre­hen­sive his­to­ry to date (at least in Eng­lish) of the var­i­ous pris­ons, camps, and facil­i­ties for tor­ture cre­at­ed by the Nazi regime. The book oper­ates along a dual track: illu­mi­nat­ing the bureau­crat­ic and insti­tu­tion­al his­to­ry of the pris­ons on the one hand, while also look­ing at the inmates and their his­to­ry as well. Orga­ni­za­tion is basi­cal­ly chrono­log­i­cal, with chap­ters and sub-chap­ters the­mat­i­cal­ly orga­nized in each peri­od. One entire chap­ter is ded­i­cat­ed to the Ver­nich­tungs durch Arbi­et” (death through labor) poli­cies relat­ing to polit­i­cal and oth­er pris­on­ers; two sub-sec­tions detail Nazi prison pol­i­cy regard­ing racial ene­mies (Poles and Jews). Jews are men­tioned in vir­tu­al­ly every chap­ter, even though this is not a book on the Final Solu­tion per se. Still, this is an impor­tant addi­tion to any library on Nazi Ger­many and the Holo­caust. It bears remem­ber­ing that Nazi pris­ons held more inmates in 1945 than did all con­cen­tra­tion camps com­bined at the height of the camp sys­tem. Bib­lio.; illus.; index; notes.
Abra­ham J. Edel­heit is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Kings­bor­ough Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege (CUNY) and the author, co-author, or edi­tor of eleven books on the Holo­caust, Zion­ism, Jew­ish and Euro­pean his­to­ry, and Mil­i­tary affairs. His most recent pub­li­ca­tion appeared in Armor mag­a­zine, the offi­cial jour­nal of the US Army Armor and Cav­al­ry Command.

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