What is the difference between a concentration camp and an extermination camp as utilized by the NAZI's in WWII?

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crmhaske eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is often very little difference between the two, and frequently concentration camps over time turn into extermination camps.  Semantically speaking, a concentration camp is a compound set up by a government in which person's who meet a set of criteria are sent to.  They got their name because they are a concentration of people who share something in common.  They are typically based on race or political affiliation and they are started when that race or political affiliation feels like a threat to a large portion of a population.  Concentration camps are meant to separate these people from society in general.  Living conditions are usually extremely sub-par, and residents are not in-frequently abused within their walls.  Herein lies the main difference between a concentration camp and an extermination camp.  Semantically speaking, no-one is to be killed at a concentration camp, they are just to be kept separate.  At an extermination cam however, the purpose is to commit the mass murder of a population of people that society feels threatened by.  Extermination camp is a colloquial term that refers to the "concentration camps" for Jews in Nazi Germany where people literally went to die.