Although conditions are harsh and death is common in all forced-labor concentration camps of the Communist Bloc, two categories of camps and prisons stand out for their specially-designed brutality.
Death camps are those designed for the sole purpose of mass extermination, generally while squeezing every last drop of possible work during the slow death process. These camps are similar to the Nazi death camps at such locations as Auschwitz, Poland, except that (1) the death rate in the Communist camps is typically higher, leaving virtually no survivors, and (2) the death process is intentionally slower and more torturous. The turnover in death camps is fairly rapid; the entire inmate population usually dies with a few months, by which time they have been replaced by an equal number of new prisoners. Although estimates vary, certainly tens of millions of prisoners have been genocidally annihilated in such camps during the last ninety years.
Quasi-death camps, while included in our profiles in the category forced-labor concentration camps, are camps with particularly severe conditions and unusually high death or injury rates, though not quite as absolutely genocidal as death camps:
- Facilities where the labor conditions are dangerous and the prisoners unprotected, leading to frequent injury or death (e.g., work with heavy machinery, rock quarries & lime pits, salt or copper mines, military explosives production, etc.)
- Facilities where the forced labor is extremely hazardous and the prisoners are denied even the simplest protections, leading to serious, permanent crippling or death (e.g., poisoning from lead mining, blindness from manufacture of ferrite rings, inhaling fumes of toxic industrial chemicals, etc.)
- Medical facilities some for healthy prisoners, others for prisoners physically exhausted, injured, or crippled by forced labor in other concentration camps brought to die while deliberately and systematically denied even basic medical care (including at least one facility, in Moscow, for medical experimentation on prisoners)
Certain death camps and quasi-death camps are exclusively composed of women, children, or mothers and their babies. And only a tiny fraction (estimated at no more than five percent) of prisoners are actual criminals; most are convicted of either religious beliefs, illegal economic activity (banned only under Socialism), or trumped-up charges in order to meet mass extermination quotas (the victims being chosen randomly).