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.