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German History in Documents and Images
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Political Intimidation in Kassel's Opera Square: Only a Stubborn Mule Ends Up in a Concentration Camp (1933)
In the spring of 1933, Himmler, then Munich's chief of police, ordered the opening of the first concentration camp [Konzentrationslager or KZ] in nearby Dachau. The camp was to provide "protective custody" for Communists, Social Democrats, and other political opponents of the regime. Soon a network of camps stretched over all of Germany. After the war began, the network extended into Nazi occupied territories as well. The camp system was one of the most effective instruments of SS and police terror: political as well as racial and social enemies of the regime disappeared into them for days or even years without any form of legal protection. The Nazi leadership made no secret of the existence of the camps. Scenes such as the one shown below were supposed to send a message that inmates were actually to blame for their own fate. The message in this case was: “Only a stubborn mule ends up in a concentration camp.” People who followed the rules supposedly had no cause for concern. Photo by Carl Eberth.