women and children in a British
-run concentration camp in South Africa (1900-1902)
The Random House Dictionary
defines the term "concentration camp" as: "a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc.", and, the American Heritage Dictionary
defines it as: "A camp where civilians, enemy aliens, political prisoners, and sometimes prisoners of war are detained and confined, typically under harsh conditions."
 Earliest usage of concentration camps and origins of the term
Polish historian Władysław Konopczyński has suggested the first concentration camps were created in Poland
in the 18th century, during the Bar Confederation
rebellion, when the Russian Empire
established three concentration camps for Polish rebel captives awaiting deportation to Siberia
The earliest of these camps may have been those set up in the United States
and other Native Americans
in the 1830s; however, the term originated in the reconcentrados
(reconcentration camps) set up by the Spanish military
during the Ten Years' War
(1868–1878) and by the United States
during the Philippine–American War
term "concentration camp" grew in prominence during the Second Boer War
(1899–1902), when they were operated by the British in South Africa.
There were a total of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children.
 Shift in meaning
Main article: Nazi concentration camps
Jewish slave laborers in the Buchenwald concentration camp
near Jena, 16 April 1945. Second row, seventh from left is Elie Wiesel
During the 20th century, the arbitrary internment of civilians by the state reached a climax with Nazi concentration camps
(1933–1945). As a result, the term "concentration camp" carries many of the connotations of "death camp" or "extermination camp", and is sometimes used synonymously.
However, even Nazi concentration camps were not necessarily death camps. For example, some camps were sources of slave labor
: the inmates were exploited rather than killed, although many were worked to death or killed for refusing to work.
Because of these negative connotations, the term "concentration camp", originally itself a euphemism, has been replaced by newer euphemisms such as internment camp
, resettlement camp
, and detention facility
, regardless of the actual circumstances of these camps,