To have a better understanding of the concentration camp system, one must know that nearly all of the main concentration camps (or Stammlagers) such as Auschwitz 1, Dachau, Buchenwald, Mittelbau Dora, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Neuengamme etc. had three types of work units (or Arbeitskommandos). The Arbeitskommandos can generally be divide into three categories:
Prisoners worked within the boundaries of the main camp
Prisoners left the main camp to work and returned to camp at the end of the day
Prisoners were accommodated outside of the main camp at or near the workplace.
A sub camp can be described as a satellite camp (Aussenlager, Zweiglager or Nebenlager) or as a labour camp (Arbeitslager). Sometimes it was also referred to as an Aussenkommando (External Commando) or Sonderkommando (Special Commando). The various ways used to name the sub camps can lead to confusion in the interpretation of a sub camp.
The use of the terms such as (Aussenlager, Zweiglager, or Nebenlager) could suggest different variations of organisational structure of the sub camps in relation to the the main camp. BUut that is not the case. Former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss, said on this matter: "They were all synonyms and were used at the same time.”
What kind of work did the prisoners have to do?
The nature of the forced labour could vary from oil and chemical production, coalmining, steel works, power plants, textile works, agriculture (farming) and forestry just to name a few. Mostly the work was to support the German war machine.
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A big THANK YOU to the United States Army Center of Military History for their help in providing the input for these pages. All pages on this website are constantly being refitted with acurate data and texts and it is an ongoing process.