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Study on concentration camps in the pre-war period

Christian Goeschel spent a week at the International Tracing Service in mid-February doing research for Birkbeck University of London’s research project on pre-war concentration camps from 1933-1939. “I’m excited about the documents I was able to find here,” said the historian.

The overall picture of pre-war concentration camps has not yet been fully examined, said Goeschel. “That´s why I am working on this research project with Nik Wachsmann in England.” Both historians organized an international conference on the topic at the University in London in July 2008. A publication is being planned.

The Frankfurt native has therefore reviewed documents at the ITS in order to pose various questions. “The origins of concentration camps and the judiciary´s collaboration with the SS play a large part, as does the prisoners´ perspective,” reports Goeschel. The historian gained insight into concentration camp documents such as commandant orders and prisoners' personnel files, as well as historical or non-personal files on camp logistics. He also examined individual victims´ fates. “The advantage of the ITS archive is its collective overview. Unlike at memorials, I can track the development of different camps at the same time.”

The early concentration camps were an important instrument of terror used to intimidate the populace, according to the historian. The National Socialists imprisoned first and foremost political enemies and career criminals in concentration camps; later all excluded minorities were affected. Goeschel inspected nearly 70 detention facilities. “Torture camps and converted factory buildings were also included. The early detention facilities were significantly smaller than the concentration camps during the war years.”

The 30 year-old, who graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2006, has focused on the topic of National Socialism for many years. He recently published a book on suicide among National Socialist leadership entitled “Suicide in Nazi Germany.” Goeschel plans to use the ITS archive more intensely in the future. “It is an asset for research,” he said.