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Letter from the Head of the Security Police and the SD, Reinhard Heydrich, on the Classification of Concentration Camps (January 2, 1941)

As early as March 1933, Himmler, then police president of Munich, had ordered the creation of the first Nazi concentration camp, which was located in nearby Dachau. Political opponents of the Nazi regime (e.g., Communists, Social Democrats, labor unionists, etc.) were sent there for so-called protective custody [Schutzhaft]. Dachau served as the model for the organization of all subsequent camps. After 1933, several other concentration camps were built in Germany, including large camps such as Sachsenhausen (1936), Buchenwald (1937), Flossenbürg (1938), Mauthausen (1938), and Ravensbrück (1939). After the outbreak of war in 1939, the network of concentration camps extended quickly into newly conquered territories, particularly in the East. Camp inmates included political opponents, “enemies of the race,” criminals, homosexuals, “asocials,” and later prisoners of war as well. At the beginning of 1941, Himmler ordered the classification of all existing concentration camps, with each being graded on the basis of prisoner type and working conditions. For all intents and purposes, imprisonment in Mauthausen, a category III camp, was a sentence to “extermination through work” in its quarry. The regulations put forth in this decree, however, were not always followed. This was due above all to the fact that the number of both prisoners and camps rose sharply after the start of the war.

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Berlin 2 January 1941
The Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD)

a. Reich security headquarters
b. All state police headquarters
c. All commandants of the security police and security service

For the information of:
d. All inspectors of the security police and security service
e. The inspectors of the concentration camps (with 15 copies for the camp commandants)
f. The commanders of the security police and security service in Krakow and Prague

Subject: Classification of the concentration camps

The Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German police has approved the division of the concentration camps into various categories which take into account the personality of the prisoner as well as the degree of danger he poses to the state. Accordingly, the concentration camps will be divided into the following categories:

Category I: For all prisoners against whom only slight accusations have been made and who are definitely capable of being reformed, also for special cases and solitary confinement, the camps:
Auschwitz I
(The latter also applies in part to category II)

Category Ia: For all old prisoners and those only partially capable of work who can still be used in the medicinal herb gardens, the camp: Dachau

Category II: For prisoners against whom strong accusations have been made, but who are still qualified for re-education and correction, the camps:
Auschwitz II

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