Concentration camps were for the concentration of prisoners in outdoor quarters instead of in a real prison. The camps could be equated in theory to the British Open Prison system in use today, where the prisoners live in barracks and go outdoors and to work during the daytime. (Those who refuse to work in the British system are returned to real prisons.)
Concentration camps were first used by British Empire forces during the Second Boer War in South Africa to house those who were sympathetic to the Boers who were fighting for their country against the British Imperialists. As these internees included women they naturally included their children from whom the mothers would not be separated. In the prevailing appalling conditions thousands died of thirst and starvation.
National Socialist Germany became well-known for its concentration camp system (German: Konzentrationslager or KL), where prisoners were confined due to lack of real prison space. Dachau, a short distance from Munich, Bavaria, was chosen as the first camp of any note and was established as a re-education camp for social and political delinquents and criminals. Up until 1940 thousands passed through this process at Dachau and re-entered society.
Less well-known were the concentration/work camps in the Soviet Union, known as gulags, first established by Leon Trotsky and originally operated by the OGPU. Because of the nature of the communist regime, just about anyone might end up in a gulag, for serious or miniscule crime or for expressing a thought crime. These camps rapidly became a major source of forced labour for the Soviet economy and were "the largest concentration camps in European history". The Soviets also had significant prisoner-of-war camps for captured German soldiers in World War II. These were particularly gruesome camps and only about ten percent of POWs survived.
- KGB by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1990, pps:90 & 539. ISBN 0-340-48561-2