LABOUR CAMP 20092 / L06

A labor camp is a concentration and detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor as a form of punishment; or they are forced to engage in productive labour but under conditions that show disregard for human life.

Penal labour is one of the oldest forms of punitive concentration, practised even by ancient societies.

After their abortive Sicilian expedition (415-413BCE), the Athenians were enslaved and forced to work in the Syracuse quarry under terrible conditions.
"[7.86] The rest of their Athenian and allied captives were deposited in the quarries, this seeming the safest way of keeping them … [7.87] The prisoners in the quarries were at first hardly treated by the Syracusans. Crowded in a narrow hole, without any roof to cover them, the heat of the sun and the stifling closeness of the air tormented them during the day, and then the nights, which came on autumnal and chilly, made them ill by the violence of the change; besides, as they had to do everything in the same place for want of room, and the bodies of those who died of their wounds or from the variation in the temperature, or from similar causes, were left heaped together one upon another, intolerable stenches arose; while hunger and thirst never ceased to afflict them, each man during eight months having only half a pint of water and a pint of grain given him daily. In short, no single suffering to be apprehended by men thrust into such a place was spared them. For some seventy days they thus lived all together, after which all, except the Athenians and any native Sicilians or Italiots who had joined in the expedition, were sold. The total number of prisoners taken it would be difficult to state exactly, but it could not have been less than 7,000..." Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
Soviet GULAG = Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Labor Settlements

The GULAG system developed around three main lines of justification:

  • ideological (against the 'enemies of the revolution')
  • penal (to discipline and punish, especially petty criminals, who for a long time formed the majority of inmates)
  • economic (to translate the camp into a productive unit for the good of society)

Did the economic rationale overshadow all other functions? Do the GULAG camps even qualify as concentration camps?

From Lenin to Stalin (1917-1928)
Stalin's Five-Year Plans
Stalin's Five-Year Plans (1928 onwards)

DEKULAKISATION AND THE UKRAINIAN FAMINE (1932-33)

Five-Year Plan (1928-32), 'de-kulakisation', and the Ukrainian famine (1932-33)
Sergei Kirov, secretary of the Communist part in Leningrad, was assassinated on 1.12.1934. This was the starting point of the Great Purge, the terror regime implemented by Stalin that led to the violent removal off his political opponents and everyone else that he mistrusted
In June 1941, Nazi Germany launched a surprise attach on the Soviet Union (an ally since August 1939). The attack translated into massive territorial gains for the Nazis in the second half of 1941 and in 1942. In order to shore up his defences, Stalin ordered a general amnesty from the GULAG camp system. At the same time, however, his suspicion of certain ethnic groups resulted in the greatest wave of forced deportations, with millions displaced and a large number of casualties.
Population transfers during the Second World War
Life in the GULAG system
Anatomy of the GULAG system
Stalin's death on 5.3.1953 marked the beginning of the end for the GULAG system.
"Did the National Socialists or Hitler perhaps commit an “Asiatic” deed merely because they and their ilk considered themselves to be potential victims of an “Asiatic” deed? Was the Gulag Archipelago not primary to Auschwitz? Was the Bolshevik murder of an entire class not the logical and factual prius of the “racial murder” of National Socialism?" / ERNST NOLTE

The "Historians' Quarrel" (Historikerstreit) in Germany (1986-87)

The Historikerstreit was a debate about the singularity of the Holocaust and the impact of remembrance of Germany's Nazi past on national identity in the Federal Republic of Germany. The debate was initiated in July 1986 with the publication of the famous liberal German philosopher Juergen Habermas's article, with which he criticized supposed 'apologetic tendencies' in Ernst Nolte's and other historians' publications in the conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

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