Many different types of camp appeared during World War II, all with different purposes:
The most prevalent "concentration camps" were labor camps. These housed internees used for forced manual labor. These camps were often brutal, and the work conditions were frequently fatal. Victims, provided with little or no food, were worked to death, and then others were brought in to take their place. Some were satellites of other camps, or consisted of roving work forces tapped for all kinds of labor projects.
Transit and collection camps held people temporarily pending their removal to other camps.
Then there were the infamous extermination camps. Most Nazi camps had the capacity for mass killing, but these camps were specifically designed for wholesale genocide, with purpose-built gas chambers. Auschwitz, the most notorious extermination camp, eventually became synonymous with Hell.
Displaced Person's Camps were introduced after the war. Many of the survivors of concentration camps had nowhere to go once liberated. These camps, in the short term, provided for their basic dietary and medical needs, but they were frequently overburdened. Disease was rampant; internees suffered from scurvy, scarlet fever, typhus, and anemia, and the sheer volume of people exceeded the capacity of these camps to cope in the chaotic aftermath of the war. Many of those who survived ended up emigrating to other locations in an attempt to find better medical treatment and a new home.
Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, was founded in 1849 by two German-American cousins, Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhardt. Based in New York, the company played a major role in the development and distribution of penicillin during the 1940s.
James Baldwin (1924-1987) was an African-American writer and civil rights activist. He was a friend of William Styron, and wrote his famous novel Another Country at Styron's home. The Fire Next Time was a book of two essays published in 1963, discussing racial problems in American history.
Cracow fell one week after the invasion of Poland, which began on September 1, 1939. The invasion provoked Britain to declare war on Germany and led to the onset of World War II. It was initiated by the Fourteenth German Army, and ultimately saw Cracow become the capital of the Nazi Government in Poland.
Sachsenhausen was one of the original concentration camps established by the Nazis. Built in 1938, it was located 35 km from Berlin. It was originally designed as a holding camp for political prisoners and prisoners of war.
The practice of cruel and inhumane medical experimentation was developed within the camp. A great deal of slave labor was provided through Sachsenhausen. The camp became a training ground for future concentration camp directors, and many of the more atrocious ideas of the extermination camps were developed here.
Cracow (also spelled Krakow) has grown up around the site of a Stone Age settlement on Wawel Hill. The first written record of the city dates back to 965, when it was described as a busy trading centre. It grew quickly, becoming one of the most important cities in Poland.
Cracow also developed into a center for academic and artistic excellence, emphasising the importance of cultural and educational pursuits through the establishment of universities and other cultural centres.
During World War II, the invading Nazi military established Cracow as one of the key centers of Nazi Government outside Germany. Cracow was divided, and the Cracow Ghetto was established for the city's Jewish residents. The ghetto was eventually liquidated, and the residents were sent to extermination camps.
The Sukiennice was a center of international trade during the golden age of the Renaissance in Poland. Referred to in English as Cloth Hall or Drapers' Hall, this amazing building held the city market where international trade negotiations took place. Here highly valuable commodities such as silk, spices, and leather were traded, and negotiations for the export of salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mines were held. Today the structure is a big tourist draw. It houses the Sukiennice Museum, which holds one of the largest collections of 19th century Polish art in the world.
St. Mary's Basilica in Cracow's Main Market Square is a Gothic church, built in the 13th century.
The church has an hourly bugler, the Hejnal player. This tradition dates back to the 13th century and is based on the legend of the original Hejnal player, who was said to have spied an invading force of Mongols from the church tower. He raised the alarm by playing the Hejnal Hymn, a five-note melody repeated four times. While his heroic effort saved the city from invasion, the man lost his life, shot through the throat by a Mongol archer in mid-alarm. For this reason, to this day the Hejnal Hymn is interrupted mid-song, honoring the city's hero.
The University of Cracow is one of the oldest universities in Europe. It was originally founded under a Royal Charter issued by King Casimir III and the Papal Decree of Pope Urban V. The University, later to take on the name of Jagiellonian University, was first founded in 1364, and at the time it became the second oldest university in Poland. Incorporating a broad range of educational schools, the university is renowned particularly for its school of astronomy and physics, thanks in large part to one of its most famous students, Nicolaus Copernicus. Other notable students include Pope John Paul II, Stanislaw Lem, and Carl Menger.
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Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935) was Chief of State of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period. After a coup d'etat in 1926 he effectively became Poland's dictator, remaining as such until his death in 1935.
Residents of the ghetto were used for slave labor projects. Eventually the ghetto, established in an area that originally housed 3,000 people, rose in population to 15,000. The ghetto was surrounded by walls and the gates were guarded by military personnel.
With the subjugation of the ruling government, the next target was the local intelligentsia. On November 6, 1939, Obersturmbannführer SS Bruno Müller ordered the the faculty of the University of Krakow to assemble for a special lecture to present the Nazis' vision for Poland.
Upon arrival the faculty found themselves among the first casualties of the systematic deconstruction of the country. Codenamed the Sonderaktion Krakau, the professors were all taken into custody and deported to the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Dachau, where they were killed.