In the context of the Jewish Holocaust of World War II, the camps of interest are those for which claims of mass extermination have been made. Although an argument could be made that the Soviet prisoners held in PoW camps in the temporarily German-occupied Soviet Union were subject to conditions that led to millions of them dying during the winter of 1941/42, this was not planned and premeditated mass murder. Had the Germans had enough transport capacity, temporary lodgings, clothing and food at their disposal during that winter in the East, one can expect that many if not most of these prisoners would have survived. However, this chapter of World War II, as tragic as it was, is not part of the Jewish Holocaust, so it will not be dealt with here, nor will any other PoW camp.
While there were many other categories of camps in German-controlled areas of World Warr II – voluntary labor camps, forced-labor camps, concentration camps – the orthodoxy, as a rule, does not claim any kind of systematic extermination at them. Therefore, these camps are not listed or discussed in this encyclopedia.
A condition for being included in this encyclopedia is a claim by either government authorities, historians, alleged perpetrators or witnesses that some kind of systematic extermination policy of Jews was implemented in a camp.
The orthodoxy splits camps in which systematic mass murder of Jews (as part of an alleged extermination policy) took place, into three groups of extermination camps:
- Pure extermination camps, whose only purpose was to kill inmates deported there.
- Mixed extermination and concentration/forced-labor camps.
- Auxiliary extermination camps, which were mainly concentration or forced-labor camps, where exterminations took place only as an exception and on a relatively small scale.
There is a fourth category, however, which includes concentration or forced-labor camps for which the orthodoxy accepts that no extermination took place, but where some witnesses disagree. These camps we call:
- Fraudulent or phantom extermination camps, because extermination claims about them are generally accepted to be either erroneous or fraudulent.
Holocaust skeptics contend that all extermination camps belong to the latter category, as a detailed analysis of claims about them demonstrates. For more details and a list of all four categories of extermination camps, see the entry on extermination camps.