Terra incognita? The Camps for “Jewish Labor Conscription” (1938-1943) and the German Population
Labor camps for Jews were set up in Germany in 1938/39 out of pragmatic considerations. After the massive emigration and dismissals of Jews, many Jews were living on welfare; there was a demand for laborers in various emergency works; and the Gestapo was eager to exploit Jewish manpower in the retraining camps operated by the Jewish Reichsvertretung (Jewish Representative Council). In the first stage, the regime was relatively lenient. Later, in 1940/41, the confinement of Jews in barracks camps manifested the regime’s escalating policy of persecution and preparation for deportation to the East. The camp regimes grew harsher, resembling, in 1941, that of the concentration camps. The labor camps could not have gone unnoticed by the non-Jewish population, which was either connected with them or affected by their presence in numerous ways.