German soldiers react to footage of concentration camps, 1945.

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I originally wrote this comment in reply to /u/Zincktank’s comment comparing the two, but he deleted his so I’ll post it here instead, because it’s just a applicable:

This is a false comparison for several reasons. Lets contrast Guantanamo Bay to Buchenwald, for example:

Guantanamo Bay

* Not only is it not on US soil, but it’s on an island nation that US citizens are legally prohibited from traveling to, making the number of civilians that would be aware it exists before it was publicized rather small. Prisoners, who were most often foreign citizens, are transported in secret and often individually on military transports.

Buchenwald

* Buchenwald was one of dozens of concentration camps, and there were satellite camps numbering in the thousands for logistics, transport, etc of people sent there. The scent of the bodies being burned in the ones with crematoriums would sometimes travel for miles around them. The prisoners, who were often from the very same region the camp was in, were loaded in broad daylight into civilian cattle cars en masse with no supplies or amenities, some wouldn’t even survive the trip.

Guantanamo Bay

* A full fledged Naval Base that controls 45 miles of area around it, so it’s not like you can walk up to a fence and see the prisoners. And the actual part where the torture took place is in a detention facility WITHIN the naval base. When was the last time you wandered onto a military base your country ran?

Buchenwald

* An 8km trip from the center of Wiemar. That’s less than a 30 minute bike ride.

Guantanamo Bay

* 779 prisoners have been held at Guantanamo Bay, 9 of which died. That’s a death toll of around 1% over about 13 years.

Buchenwald

* **A quarter of a million people** (240,000 to be specific) passed through Buchenwald. That’s more people every 2 weeks, on average, than Guantanamo Bay saw in its entire existence. Over 56,000 people died there during that time as well. That’s an **annual death toll** of more than 7x the total number of Gitmo inmates, living and dead, ever. Never mind the fact that Gitmo has had less than a dozen inmates killed. Than means that of the Buchenwald inmates, something like 23% died over 8 years, which is just shy of half as long as Guantanamo Bay’s entire operating time.

And that’s a single camp. The crazy thing is, Buchenwald wasn’t even considered one of the “extermination camps.” Those were mostly built in Poland, and Auschwitz alone killed over a million people in just 5 years.

I think that what the US did at Guantanamo Bay is inexcusable, and a travesty to everything the country claims to stand for. Everyone involved should be brought up on war crimes as far as I’m concerned.

But let me be clear, comparing Guantanamo Bay to a concentration camp does two things: first, it exaggerates what went on there significantly, and second, it diminishes what happened at the actual concentration camps, which was so many orders of magnitude higher in horror and scale that it’s literally incomparable in my opinion. To argue that one was somehow just as apparent and visible as the other is to ignore the reality of the way both were handled as well as the incalculable difference in scale.

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