Popular knowledge

The abuse of prisoners was no secret in 1933. Germany was full of rumours about what really went on inside the early camps. Many Germans heard stories of terror and torture, often from released prisoners themselves, who defied threats to re-arrest them if they told the truth. These attempts by the regime to silence critics were even reflected in popular jokes at the time.

009 – German joke about Dachau concentration camp, 1930s

Two men meet [on the street].

“Nice to see you’re free again. How was it in the concentration camp?”

Secret photo of Dachau prisoners marching thorough town (1933/4)

KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau

“Great! Breakfast in bed, a choice of coffee or chocolate. Then some sport. For lunch we got soup, meat and dessert. And we played games in the afternoon before getting coffee and cakes. Then a little snooze and we watched movies after dinner.”

The man was astonished: “That’s great! I recently spoke to Meyer, who was also locked up there. He told me a different story.”

The other man nods gravely and says: “Yes, well, that’s why they’ve picked him up again.”

Source: P. Moore, “German Popular Opinion on the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933–1939”, Ph.D. dissertation, Birkbeck, University of London, 2010, pp. 110–11