“Concentration Camps: A Short History” by Dan Stone— A Global History

Stone, Dan. “Concentration Camps: A Short History”, Oxford University Press, 2017.

A Global History

Amos Lassen

Writer Dan Stone tells us that concentration camps are a somewhat new invention and a recurring feature of twentieth century warfare. As such, they are important to the modern global consciousness and identity. Although the most famous concentration camps are those built and used by Nazi Party, the use of concentration camps originated several decades before the Third Reich, in the Philippines and in the Boer War, and they were used in numerous locations and more recently during the genocides in Bosnia. Concentration camps have become defining symbols of humankind’s lowest point and basest and most horrible acts.

Dan Stone gives us a global history of concentration camps, and we see that it is not only “mad dictators” who set up camps, “but instead all varieties of states, including liberal democracies, that have made use of them”. If we set concentration camps against the longer history of incarceration, we see how the ability of the modern state to control populations led to their creation. Their emergence and that they are spread around the world, Stone maintains that concentration camps serve the purpose, from the point of view of the state in crisis, of removal of a “section of the population that is perceived to be threatening, traitorous, or diseased”. Stone draws his conclusions from contemporary accounts of camps, as well as from the philosophical literature surrounding them tell about the nature of the modern world as well as about specific regimes.

There is a lot of information spread out on 158 pages in this “comprehensive analytical survey that tracks the concentration camp brilliantly across the many diversities of time and place, without either flattening the concept or lessening its Third Reich connotations.”

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