Some Hidden Legal Aspects of Concentration Camps

By Carlos W. Porter

To the generations of people having grown up - like hot-house plants - in the suffocating atmosphere of Holocaust propaganda, it may come as a surprise to learn that concentration camps are not illegal, at least not under international law. There is nothing in international law prohibiting concentration camps, even today.[1] The following are a few quotes on the subject only:

"That, in case of general devastation, the peaceful population may be detained in so-called concentration camps there is no doubt."[2]

"The practice, resorted to during the South African War, of housing the victims of devastation in concentration camps, must be approved. The purpose of war may even oblige a belligerent to confine a population forcibly in concentration camps."[3]

"Concentration camps are practically internment camps for non-combatants. [...] Such an extreme measure is only to be justified by very extreme circumstances; in fact, by such circumstances as make concentration not only imperatively necessary for the success of the belligerent's operations, but also the lesser of two evils for the inhabitants themselves [...]" (emphasis added)[4]

"If devastation is justified, then some system of concentration is not only justified, but demanded by considerations of humanity." (emphasis added)[5]

"A similar policy of devastation was carried out by the British in the former Boer Republics. Whole regions were laid waste to prevent their being used as a base by the enemy, the non-combatant families having first removed from them and sent to concentration camps. There is no doubt that these camps were essential for the security of those deported to them, both against natives and to secure for them the means of life." (emphasis added)[6]

"Devastation on a broad scale was carried out by Spain in Cuba in 1897. The practice of 'concentrating' the civilian population in garrison towns, which accompanied the devastation, led to protests from the United States which ultimately formed part of its grounds for war. In 1901 The British armies in South Africa interned the civilian population in 'concentration camps', with the result of serious loss of life. At the same time the country was laid waste far and wide as a means of cutting off the supplies of the guerrilla forces."[7]

The same work, one of the most objective, points out the difficulties involved for a defeated power:[8]

"How could Germany, blockaded by Great Britain during the four years of the first World War, be expected, even had there been the will to do it, to feed prisoners according to the standard of its own army which had to bear the burden of the war, or even according to the standard of its factory workers whose work was essential to the winning of the war? And if prisoners revolted against the meager fare to which they were subjected, disciplinary punishment appeared to be justified."

The fact is that "concentration camps" were, and are, legal under international law, and have existed in one form or another in practically all countries. One reason why they cannot be abolished is because no objective definition of the term "concentration camp" appears possible. Note that, to J.M. Spaight, a concentration camp is an "internment camp for non-combatants," during wartime only. Whether American Civil War (more correctly: "Secession War") prison camps can be assimilated into the same category as "concentration camps" is entirely a matter of definition.

What has not changed is the spirit of American-British hypocrisy and contempt for human life. For example, had it not been for the Northern refusal to exchange prisoners, there wouldn't have been any Northern prisoners in Confederate prison camps, such as Andersonville or anywhere else in the South. Despite the fact that the problem was the North's own doing, and that the Southern armies and population were starving as a result of the blockade and Union destruction of Southern crops and infrastructures, Confederate prisoners in Northern prisons were starved deliberately, in retaliation for the alleged "deliberate" starvation of Union prisoners in the South.

The commander of Andersonville prison camp in Georgia, Commander Hartmann Wirz, was a Swiss-German who visited Europe as an official representative of the Confederacy several times during the war, running the blockade. After the war, he was indicted for "conspiring with Jeff Davis and his rebel cabinet" to "render Union prisoners unfit for service through a policy of deliberate mistreatment and starvation," and for killing a Union prisoner with a right-handed blow to the head.

(Click to enlarge)

Wirz was subjected to a medical examination during his trial. He was found to be suffering from malnutrition; and atrophy and paralysis of the right arm as the result of unrepaired fractures. Wirz was convicted and hanged with a short drop, taking 14 minutes to die.

Photographs and engravings of Union prisoners from Confederate prison camps suffering from malnutrition, diabetes, gangrene, and cancer (!), in addition to all the usual contagious diseases, were then printed by Congress and widely distributed for 30 years after the war to keep the Republican Party in power. This was known as "waving the bloody shirt." Since one lie requires another, and since Andersonville provides a perfect explanation for what happened at German camps in 1945, the more irresponsible of the Holocaustians have now come full circle, and are referring to Andersonville as "America's Auschwitz."[9]

Concentration camps in their modern form are generally thought to have been invented by General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, a Spanish General in Cuba, in 1897. Weyler was Spanish, but of Prussian descent, leading to the myth that such camps were a "Prussian invention."

The Cuban War of Independence was fought with enormous destruction of property on both sides. Rebel guerrillas moving along the length of the island burned Spanish sugar plantations and other property in an attempt to render the island valueless to Spain; Weyler moved all "loyal" Cubans into "campos de reconcentramiento," announcing that all civilians outside the camps would be treated as guerrillas and shot on sight. The intention was to cut the island in two and hamper the movements of the guerrillas.

The camps were shut as a result of American protests, and Weyler was recalled to Spain, a concession which failed to satisfy American greed for Spanish overseas possessions. Weyler served as Minister of War three times and died in 1930; there is a monument to him in Madrid. Modern Cuban sources estimate 25,000 deaths in the camps, down from a propaganda figure of 250,000.

The Spanish point of view is somewhat different. They argue that the strategy of the Cuban rebels, under the leadership of Máximo Gómez, was to drive all civilians unwilling to cooperate with the guerrillas into the towns, which were then to be deprived of food through the destruction of crops. Weyler simply reversed a situation created by the rebels: all civilians unwilling to cooperate with the Spanish were to be driven into the countryside, after which the countryside was to be deprived of food by the same methods. The rebels could never have defeated the Spanish and never even tried; their only hope was to involve the United States.

Following the Spanish-American War, Cuba was granted its independence, while all other Spanish overseas possessions were retained. Following Filipino defeat in regular warfare intended to free the country from its American "liberators," guerrillas under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo continued the war using irregular tactics. At this point, the Americans imitated the tactics of "Butcher" Weyler, building concentration camps on the island of Mindanao, "to protect non-combatant civilians." The number of civilian deaths in these camps is unknown.

If, as is usually estimated, 28,000 Boer women and children died in British concentration camps during the Second Boer War, this amounts to a death rate of 10-20% of the total civilian population in enemy occupant "death camps." The only historical parallel to concentration camp mortality on this scale must be sought in Stalinist policies in the Baltic States. Special taxes were levied upon "loyal Boers" to enable the British to pay the costs of interning their relatives. The population of the camps amounted to virtually every woman and child in the Transvaal and Orange Free States; the western Transvaal, in J.M. Spaight's own words, was turned into a "smoking desert" on the grounds of "military necessity."

In 1914, with the invasion of Belgium, Britain became the champion of the "independence and neutrality of small nations," a chief propaganda aim of the First World War.

The 1944 Edition of Wheaton's International Law (published in London) alleges that the South African Republics "warred against Great Britain" (p. 99), and that the British went to war to defend the rights of British subjects abroad (a right never conceded to National Socialists where ethnic Germans in Poland were concerned).

At Nuremberg, concentration camps were held to be "criminal" (as long as they were German), while members of resistance groups were held to be patriots and heroes; shooting or imprisoning them ("Night and Fog") was held to be "criminal."

With the advent of alleged Al-Quaida prisoners at Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Air Force Base in Cuba in 2002, it was once again discovered (by the idealistic Americans) that concentration camps are "legal" and that irregular combatants are "criminals." Where was this knowledge at Nuremberg?

Since Camp X-Ray is "not on American soil," and since the inmates are "not U.S. citizens," they are not protected by U.S. law; but since it is a "domestic matter," they are not protected by "international law" either. How very convenient.

The manner in which international conventions are intentionally drafted in vague language permitting interpretation in any manner one likes, has been brilliantly described by G. Lowe Dickenson in The International Anarchy 1904-1914.[10]

That the same is increasingly true of almost all law is probably obvious to anyone who has ever been involved in legal proceedings.

Thus, like "weapons of mass destruction" (another undefined term), "concentration camps" are illegal, immoral, and emaciating only when possessed by our enemies; our own concentration camps are perfectly legal, lawful, and laudable.

All nations intern enemy aliens during wartime. The Fifth Hague Convention even requires the internment of belligerent troops on neutral soil. How are they to be interned, if not in "camps"?

That the Jews were "enemy aliens" resident in National Socialist Germany is apparent from their own many "declarations of war" against Germany, beginning on March 24, 1933. Yet only a minority of all Jews were ever interned, even during wartime (the highest percentage occurring in Holland as the result of fears of an Allied invasion) - a degree of moderation never imitated by the United States, Britain, Australia, or Soviet Russia.

It appears to me that, far more important than the nomenclature of the penal institution in which one is incarcerated, are the procedures and rules of evidence according to which one is imprisoned, and the conditions of confinement. American prison conditions, despite expensive infrastructures, are among the worst in the world.[11] When Americans solve their own problems, they will be qualified to preach to the rest of the world.

Why exclusive attention should be focused on Jewish "suffering" in German prison camps 60 years ago, is something only the Jews can explain, particularly in view of the fact that their complaints of hardship are neither unique, nor, in many respects, even true.

Further Reading

Disclaimer:

I expressly repudiate any and all philosophical or moral conclusions which may appear to arise from the above article. I merely describe the legal situation as it exists. If British actions during the Boer War - traveling six thousand miles to invade the Boer Republics in order to steal their gold mines of the Transvaal, murdering 10-20% of the total white population of the country in concentration camps in so doing, etc. etc. - were not, and are not, illegal under international law, then "international law" is a mockery and a cynical farce. We would be far better off if there were no such thing as "international law," because, in that case, there would no basis whatsoever upon which to make fraudulent, sanctimonious and hypocritical accusations against the Germans in 1933-45, or at any other time.

© June 10. 2003


Notes

[1]To verify the truth of this statement, go to
europa.eu.int/eurodicautom/Controller click "Source Language: English," "Target Language: English," "Hit List Only" or "All Fields" (it makes no difference), and search for "convention concentration camps," "treaty concentration camps," or any combination of these words, for example, "convention concentration," or "treaty camps." The Eurodicautom is an official dictionary for use by the European Commission, and lists hundreds of treaties and conventions. For example, if you search for "convention concentration," you will find many international conventions relating to concentrations of food additives, etc. But you will find nothing under "internment camps" or "concentration camps," and nothing under "camps." Try the same with "Treaty."
[2]L. Oppenheim, International Law, Vol. II: Disputes, War and Neutrality, 5th ed., Longmans, Green and Co., London, September 1935, footnote 2, p. 289.
[3]Ibid., p. 332.
[4]J.M. Spaight, War Rights in Land, McMillan and Co., London 1911, pp 307. It should be noted that WAR RIGHTS ON LAND, a classic of international law, was written only 4 years after the Second Hague Conference, which - in the form of the Fourth Hague Convention on Land Warfare of October 18, 1907 - formed the basis for nearly all the so-called violations of "international law" invoked to hang the defendants at Nuremberg.
[5]Ibid., p 310.
[6]Wheaton's International Law, 7th English ed., Stevens and Sons, London 1944, Vol. 2: WAR, p. 214.
[7]Chas. G. Fenwick, International Law, 3rd ed., Appleton-Century Crofts, Inc., New York 1948, p. 567.
[8]Ibid., p. 575.
[9]See for example www.crimelibrary.com/notoriousmurders/classics/andersonville/1.html
[10]Century, New York 1926; for example, the Hague Conferences were never expected to produce any practical results and were ridiculed privately by all the statesmen involved, pp. 347-358.
[11]See No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons, a 378-page report from Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 1018-3299, USA, also available from www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/report.html; see also Haywood Patterson, Scottsboro Boy, Bantam Paperback, 1952, a book which, in many respects - forced sodomy, prison rackets, slave labor for outside private commercial firms - could have been written yesterday, describing almost any prison in America. If anything, the situation is far worse as a result of the inversion of racial roles and the abolition of segregated prisons.

Source: The Revisionist 2(2) (2004), pp. 165-167.


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