Inverting the Innocent and the Criminal in Concentration Camps

Michael Berkowitz

in The Crime of My Very Existence

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780520251120
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940680 | DOI:
Inverting the Innocent and the Criminal in Concentration Camps

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter examines the practices and rituals surrounding the Jews' supposed “criminal behavior” in the concentration camps, discussing the process of “criminal photography” in Auschwitz, which helped perpetrate the fraud that Auschwitz was a prison. Among themselves, the Nazis fostered the delusion that Auschwitz and other concentration camps were penal institutions for those who had committed crimes and therefore deserved punishment. The discussion suggests that this made it easier for some Germans to believe that what they were doing to the Jews was more palatable than it otherwise may have felt. The Jewish American POWs captured at the Battle of the Bulge who found themselves at the obscure Berga camp were profoundly shocked by the routine hangings, whereas most of the inmates seemed numb to the spectacle.

Keywords: Jewish criminality; concentration camps; criminal photography; Auschwitz; hanging; Battle of Bulge

Chapter.  15633 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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