Concentration Camps Expert Andrea Pitzer: The Trump Administration Is Running Camps at the Southern Border
Surely, the United States of America could not operate concentration camps. In the American consciousness, the term is synonymous with the Nazi death machines across the European continent that the Allies began the process of dismantling 75 years ago this month. But while the world-historical horrors of the Holocaust are unmatched, they are only the most extreme and inhuman manifestation of a concentration-camp system—which, according to Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, has a more global definition. There have been concentration camps in France, South Africa, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and—with Japanese internment—the United States. In fact, she contends we are operating such a system right now in response to a very real spike in arrivals at our southern border.
“We have what I would call a concentration camp system,” Pitzer says, “and the definition of that in my book is, mass detention of civilians without trial.”
Historians use a broader definition of concentration camps, as well.
“What’s required is a little bit of demystification of it,” says Waitman Wade Beorn, a Holocaust and genocide studies historian and a lecturer at the University of Virginia. “Things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz. Concentration camps in general have always been designed—at the most basic level—to separate one group of people from another group. Usually, because the majority group, or the creators of the camp, deem the people they’re putting in it to be dangerous or undesirable in some way.”