The Osthofen Concentration Camp (Konzentrationslager or KZ Osthofen) was one of the first Nazi concentration camps in Germany. Soon after the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi Party) came to power in January 1933, it used the buildings of a former paper factory to imprison political opponents.
From March 1933 to July 1934, members of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), the Social Democrats (SPD), the Catholic Center Party (Zentrum) were imprisoned in Osthofen alongside trade union officials and members of religious and ethnic minorities, including Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Roma.
An example of Nazi terror
As the first concentration camp established in the “People’s State of Hesse”, KZ Osthofen serves as an example on how the Nazis sought to exclude and ultimately eliminate political opponents and whole population groups. This process began just weeks after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933.
Although no prisoners were killed during the camp’s 14 month existence, many were abused and treated inhumanely. The final closure of the camp brought no relief from persecution. Many detainees were deported to other camps, prisons and detention centers, where many would later die.
The former concentration camp today
Today the building houses the Osthofen Concentration Camp Memorial and the Rhineland-Palatinate Center for National Socialist Documentation, both managed by the State Agency For Civic Education Rhineland-Palatinate. The Center is also in charge of the Memorial Site of the SS Special Camp/Concentration Camp Hinzert.
The permanent exhibition “National-Socialism in Rhineland-Palatinate” details the history of the Concentration Camp Osthofen and the SS Special Camp/Concentration Camp Hinzert. The exhibition also focuses on the subject of “persecution and resistance” during the Nazi-Era.
In the euphemistic language of the Nazis, political prisoners were placed in “protective custody” (Schutzhaft). Imprisonment in the Osthofen Concentration Camp was usually ordered by the county authorities of the People’s State of Hesse in its three provinces of Oberhessen, Starkenburg and Rheinhessen, where Osthofen is located. People from all over the state were imprisoned in Osthofen.