Internment is the imprisonment of people, commonly in large groups, without charges or intent to file charges, and thus no trial. The term is especially used for the confinement "of enemy citizens in wartime or of terrorism suspects". Thus, while it can simply mean imprisonment, it tends to refer to preventive confinement rather than confinement after having been convicted of some crime. Use of these terms is subject to debate and political sensitivities.
Interned persons may be held in prisons or in facilities known as internment camps, also known as concentration camps. This involves internment generally, as distinct from the subset, the Nazi extermination camps, popularly referred to as death camps.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term concentration camp as: "A camp where persons are confined, usually without hearings and typically under harsh conditions, often as a result of their membership in a group which the government has identified as dangerous or undesirable."
During the 20th century, the arbitrary internment of civilians by the state reached its most extreme forms in the SovietGulag system of concentration camps (1918-1991) and the Nazi concentration camps (1933-45). The Soviet system was the first applied by a government on its own citizens. The Gulag consisted in over 30,000 camps for most of its existence (1918-1991) and detained some 18 million from 1929 until 1953, which is only a third of its 73 year lifespan. The Nazi concentration camp system was extensive, with as many as 15,000 camps and at least 715,000 simultaneous internees. The total number of casualties in these camps is difficult to determine, but the deliberate policy of extermination through labor in many of the camps was designed to ensure that the inmates would die of starvation, untreated disease and summary executions within set periods of time. Moreover, Nazi Germany established six extermination camps, specifically designed to kill millions, primarily by gassing.
As a result, the term "concentration camp" is sometimes conflated with the concept of an "extermination camp" and historians debate whether the term "concentration camp" or the term "internment camp" should be used to describe other examples of civilian internment.
^Lowry, David (1976). Human Rights Vol. 5, No. 3 "INTERNMENT: DENTENTION WITHOUT TRIAL IN NORTHERN IRELAND". American Bar Association: ABA Publishing. p. 261. JSTOR27879033. The essence of internment lies in incarceration without charge or trial.
^Concentration Camp Listing Sourced from Van Eck, Ludo Le livre des Camps. Belgium: Editions Kritak; and Gilbert, Martin Atlas of the Holocaust. New York: William Morrow 1993 ISBN0-688-12364-3. In this online site are the names of 149 camps and 814 subcamps, organized by country.