It is no surprise at all that the number of executions in Germany in 1933 increased tenfold compared to the previous year (see Figure). Practically all death sentences were handed out for political crimes (mostly for “high treason”) by the newly established People’s Court and other special political courts.
To put this increase in the proper perspective, it is necessary to note that during the last six decades on Russian Empire there were about nine executions each year. All for political crime – there was no death penalty for common criminals in Russia, even for murder. Which is no surprise either – in Russia a human life was always far less valuable than in civilized Europe.
After Bolsheviks came to power and won the Civil War, went up about 46 times – almost five times more than in Germany when Nazis came to power. The next year six times more individuals were executed. Although Bolsheviks made aggravated murder punishable by death, most of the death sentences were meted out for “political crimes” (i.e., to real or perceived opponents of the Nazi regime).
The first chart provides a solid support to a statement that Nazis used concentration camps as the tool to “reprogram” political opponents into a loyal supporters of the Nazi regime.
In 1933, political police arrested thousands of political opponents of the Nazis (left-wing, right-wing and centrists) and sent them to concentration camps to be “re-educated” (i.e. transformed into a loyal supporters of the Nazi state).
After spending about three months on average, over 90% of inmates were released as they were no longer considered a threat to the regime. Unfortunately, some of the inmates died (during or after incarceration), committed suicide, were executed or outright murdered by the SS guards. Which, obviously, made the Nazis concentration camp system a very much criminal enterprise.
A 62% increase in the number of concentration camp inmates in 1937 happened most likely to increased persecution of Jews and Catholics (after the famous Mit brennender Sorge – the only papal encyclical published in German – was issued by Pope Pius XI on March 10th, 1937).
A 6.5 times increase means that Nazis did in Austria (after Anschluss), Sudetenland and occupied Czechoslovakia exactly the same thing that they did in Germany five years earlier – rounded up thousands of political opponents (and potential Resistance activists) and sent them to concentration camps. After the majority of them were “re-educated” (or simply neutralized as a threat), the number of inmates predictably dropped 2.5 times. But still remained high due to mass incarceration of the Jews after Kristallnacht and Czech nationals.
The KL/GULAG comparison charts prove beyond the reasonable doubt that before World War II Stalin’s Bolshevist regime in the Soviet Union was far more repressive and murderous that the Nazi one (even when adjusted for the difference in population between Germany and Russia).
Actually, it would be safe to say that prior to the outbreak of the Second World War there was only one mass murderer in Europe – Joseph Stalin. Which makes the decision of His Majesty’s Government to partner with Stalin against Hitler (instead of the other way around) totally and completely bizarre.
* on September 1st, 1939 (i.e. before the outbreak of World War II)
Sources SS Camps: Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany: The New Histories edited by Jane Caplan & Nikolaus Wachsmann; Nikolaus Wachsmann: KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps; Richard J. Evans: Third Reich in Power.
Sources GULAG: Земсков В. Н. ГУЛАГ (историко-социологический аспект) // Социологические исследования. — 1991. — № 6—7.