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A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons. Conditions at labor camps vary widely depending on the operators.

During the period of Stalinism, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Unionmarker were officially called "Corrective labor camps." The term labor colony; more exactly, "Corrective labor colony", (исправительно-трудовая колония, ИТК), was also in use, most notably the ones for underaged (16 years or younger) convicts and captured besprizorniki (street children, literally, "children without family care"). After the reform of Gulag, the term "corrective labor colony" essentially encompassed labor camps.

Labor camps in various countries

The Allies of World War II operated a number of work camps after the war. In the Yalta conferencemarker it was agreed that German forced labor was to be utilized as reparations. The majority of the camps were in the Soviet Union, but more than 1,000,000 Germans were forced to work in French coal-mines and British agriculture, as well as 500,000 in U.S.-run Military Labor Service Units in occupied Germany itself.

See Forced labor camps in Communist Bulgaria

The Communist Party of China has operated many labor camps for some types of crimes. Many leaders of Chinamarker were put into labor camps after purges, including Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi. As a matter of fact, hundreds - if not thousands - of labor camps and forced-labor prisons (laogai) still exist in modern day China, housing political prisoners and dissidents alongside dangerous criminals.

Beginning in November 1965, people classified as "against the government" were summoned to work camps referred to as "Military Units to Aid Production" (UMAP).

After the communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948, many forced labor camps were created. The inmates included political prisoners, clergy, kulaks, boyscouts leaders and many other groups of people that were considered enemies of the state. Most of the prisoners worked in the uranium mines. These camps lasted until mid-1950s.

During World War II the Nazis operated several categories of Arbeitslager for different categories of inmates. The largest number of them held civilians forcibly abducted in the occupied countries (see Łapanka) to provide labor in the German war industry, repair bombed railroads and bridges or work on farms. By 1944, 19.9% of all workers were foreigners, either civilians or prisoners of war.

The Nazis employed many slave laborers. They also operated concentration camps, some of which provided free forced labor for industrial and other jobs while others existed purely for the extermination of their inmates. A notable example is Mittelbau-Doramarker labor camp complex that serviced the production of the V-2 rocket. See List of German concentration camps for more.

During the early 20th century, the Empire of Japanmarker used the forced labor of millions of civilians from conquered countries and prisoners of war, especially during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, on projects such as the Death Railwaymarker. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a direct result of the overwork, malnutrition, preventable disease and violence which were commonplace on these projects.

See Creation of the camps, Great Brăila Island

North Korea is suspected of holding 154,000 of its citizens, mostly dissidents, in gulags.

Imperial Russiamarker operated a system of remote Siberianmarker forced labor camps as part of its regular judicial system, called katorga.

The Soviet Unionmarker took over the already extensive katorga system and expanded it immensely, eventually organizing the Gulag to run the camps. In 1954, a year after Stalin's death, the new Soviet government of Nikita Khrushchev began to release political prisoners and close down the camps. By the end of the 1950s, virtually all "corrective labor camps" were reorganized, mostly into the system of corrective labor colonies. Officially, the Gulag was terminated by the MVD order 20 of January 25, 1960.

The United States Army recently declassified a document that "provides guidance on establishing prison camps on [US] Army installations."

United Statesmarker prisons operate like labor camps, according to a comprehensive University of Massachusetts study.
Operating like the labor camps of communist Chinamarker, prisons in at least two states, Californiamarker and Oregonmarker, are doing "exactly what the U.S. has been lambasting China for", the report says.
It discusses the similarities in the two countries' prison labor systems.
"You might just as well call this slave labor", the report continues, explaining that U.S. prison work is not volunteer work since inmates get time deducted off their sentences for working in the prison: "If prisoners don't work, they serve longer sentences, lose privileges, and risk solitary confinement."
The report concludes that there is no "real difference between China's forced labor and that in the U.S. prison system."
The United States prison system is being called "a new form of inhumane exploitation."
Current penal labor in the U.S., it adds, "has its roots on slavery."

See Reeducation camp

Socialist Yugoslaviamarker ran the Goli otokmarker prison camp for political opponents from 1946 to 1956.

See also


  1. John Dietrich, The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (2002) ISBN 1-892941-90-2
  2. Labor camps reinforce China's totalitarian rule
  3. "A book sheds light on a dark chapter in Cuban history", El Nuevo Herald, January 19, 2003.
  4. Forced Laborers in the "Third Reich" - By Ulrich Herbert
  5. N. Korea locks up 154,000 political prisoners: lawmaker. Yonhap. October 17, 2009.
  6. See "US Army Civilian Inmate Labor Program"
  7. U.S. Hard labor camps
  8. The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery? By Vicky Pelaez. El Diario-La Prensa, New York

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