World War II brought up many ethical issues. One of these was the ethical treatment of prisoners. As the Allied forces pushed into Nazi territory and came upon the concentration camps, the true horrors of World War II were seen. Dachau Concentration Camp in Southeast Germany, was the first of the concentration camps built by the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei , commonly referred to as the Nazi party. At the camp, the prisoners were forced to do hard labor and were unjustly executed. The ethical problem that this situation poses is that the Nazi party made the camp prisoners less than human. They removed all basic rights, referred to the prisoners by numbers, and demeaned them in every way possible. Dachau Concentration Camp was a place of misery and cruelty, where the Nazi party did not care for ethical standards, and the prisoners were vastly mistreated.
The mistreat of prisoners under the Nazi regime is not uncommon. They established numerous camps and prisons where prisoners were subjected to cruel and subhuman circumstances. Dachau was built to hold six thousand people with two hundred living in each of the barracks. However, before the war was over there were over two hundred thousand people in the camp with two thousand living in each barrack (Timeline 1933-1945). As the war intensified so did the cruelty in the camp. The living conditions in the camp grew worse as the number of people grew.
The prisoners were no longer only political prisoners. They were Jewish, Jehovah's Witnesses, Polish, Sinti, Roma, homosexuals, emigrants, Catholic priests, and Soviet Union soldiers. Dachau was never used as an extermination camp but it did have incinerators for disposing of the dead. The work that the prisoners were forced to do was so labor intensive that many of them died there. It is estimated that forty-one thousand five hundred people died there. Although the Nazi party only reported thirty one thousand nine hundred fifty one people to have died (Timeline 1933-1945). These numbers do not include the people who died on their way to the camp, the people who died on the marches away from the camp, or the people who died from their imprisonment directly after the Allies liberated the camp.
In 1937 as the number of prisoners being sent to Dachau was increasing, the Nazi party expanded the camp. The people in the camps were forced to build the additional barracks necessary. All together there were sixty-nine barracks at Dachau. Other work that the prisoners had to do by hand was work in the armaments industry outside the camp grounds. On the escorts from the camp to the armaments work houses, the Nazi soldiers would intentionally allow a few prisoners to fall behind and then shoot them. The solider would later claim that the prisoner was trying to escape and would receive a bonus for his actions (Dachau Tour, 2012). During the winter the prisoners were forced to stand outside their barracks and freeze. Many of them did not have proper clothing and would wrap strips of cloth around their feet and legs to attempt to keep warm. Also during the winter, instead of giving the prisoners wheel barrels to move the snow, the prisoners would have to pile it onto slabs that they had to carry away on their shoulders. With the snow these slabs would weigh approximately two hundred and fifty pounds (Dachau Tour, 2012).
Dachau Concentration Camp became the model for all other camps the Nazi party built. Not only in how it was set up but how it functioned. Forced labor was done at all the camps and had the same deadly effect. Dachau was the only camp to be open for the entire twelve years that the Nazi party ruled Germany.
When looking at the atrocities committed under the Nazi party it is hard to imagine that there might be a logical reason behind their actions. Utilitarianism is the ethical theory that there is a natural way to look at things by looking at its results. Utilitarianism will use the results or...
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Dachau Tour. (2012). Dachau memorial site.
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Timeline 1933-1945. (n.d.). KZ Gedenkstaette-Dachau. Retrieved November 26, 2012, from http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/1945.html
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