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Concentration Camps

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64748.  Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:24 pm Reply with quote

Just posted on an outer board which you may not be monitoring:

This is from Anne Applebaum's book Gulag: A History of the German Concentration Camps:

By concentration camp, I mean camps constructed to incarcerate people not for what they have done, but for who they were. Unlike criminal prison camps, or prison-of-war camps, concentration camps were built for a particular type of non-criminal civilian prisoner, the member of an 'enemy' group, or at any rate of a category of people who, for reasons of their race or their presumed politics, were judged to be dangerous or extraneous to society.

According to this definition, the first modern concentration camps were set up not in Germany or Russia, but in colonial Cuba, in 1895. In that year, in an effort to put an end to a series of local insurgencies, imperial Spain began to prepare a policy of reconcentratión, intended to remove the Cuban peasants from their land and 'reconcentrate' them in camps, thereby depriving the insurgents of food, shelter and support. By 1900, the Spanish term reconcentratión had already been translated into English, and was used to describe a similar British project, initiated for similar reasons, during the Boer War in South Africa.

So it would seem that the common wisdom that Concentration Camps are a British invention may be (at least) inaccurate.

Do we have the makings of a General Ignorance question here, or is the subject-matter too dark, do we think?

64791.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 4:51 am Reply with quote

Here’s an ancient Mythcon on the subject, Flash. I suppose it might be a bit dark, as you say, but mainly because the Nazi extermination camps are generally, erroneously, referred to today as concentration camps. In fact, of course, they were pretending to be concentration camps, so that the western powers could pretend they didn't know what was going on in them.

A qironic note is that the first camp was in Cuba - where, today, the USians keep the modern world’s most famous concentration camp (a source tells me that BBC journalists are forbidden, on pain of dismissal, from referring to Guantanamo as a concentration camp. It’s always words, innit, my masters? Watch the words.)

<<THE MYTH: The British invented concentration camps, using them against the Boers during the Boer Wars. This story has long been popular amongst apartheid's apologists in South Africa and abroad - not least in Britain. As propaganda, it had an obvious "let he who is without sin" resonance, and is now firmly established as a Well Known Fact.

THE "TRUTH": It wasn't the wicked British who first came up with the idea of "concentrating" civilians in one place to make them easier to control - it was the wicked Spanish, just a few years earlier, fighting to maintain their ownership of Cuba. That struggle ended in defeat for Spain, and their troops began to withdraw from the island in 1898. Sadly for the Cubans, the USA swiftly took over Spain's imperial role, remaining in occupation until the Castroite revolution of 1959.

SOURCES: Principally an article by Steve Wilkinson in the Morning Star, 12 December 1998.*

DISCLAIMER: Claiming anything as an historical "first" is always risky. If you know of an earlier example of concentration camps, be assured that writing to FT about it will not result in your forcible relocation to Harlow New Town. >>

*(As Flash will have discovered, there are lots more sources for this than the one I quoted years ago).

64858.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 9:37 am Reply with quote

I think its a matter of national pride that we set this straight.

I was always under the impression that concentration camps were a british invention in the Boer war...and that we also invented barbed wire at the same time...


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