A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons. Conditions at labor camps vary widely depending on the operators.
The Allies of World War II operated a number of work camps after the war. In the Yalta conference it was agreed that German forced labor was to be utilized as reparations. The majority of the camps were in the Soviet Union, but more than 1,000,000 Germans were forced to work in French coal-mines and British agriculture, as well as 500,000 in U.S.-run Military Labor Service Units in occupied Germany itself. See Forced labor of Germans after World War II.
The Communist Party of China has operated many labor camps for some types of crimes. Many leaders of China were put into labor camps after purges, including Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi. May Seventh Cadre Schools are an example of Cultural Revolution-era labor camps. As a matter of fact, hundreds - if not thousands - of labor camps and forced-labor prisons (laogai) still exist in modern day China, housing political prisoners and dissidents alongside dangerous criminals.
After the communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948, many forced labor camps were created. The inmates included political prisoners, clergy, kulaks, Boy Scouts leaders and many other groups of people that were considered enemies of the state. Most of the prisoners worked in the uranium mines. These camps lasted until the mid-1950s.
During World War II the Nazis operated several categories of Arbeitslager (Labor Camps) for different categories of inmates. The largest number of them held Jewish civilians forcibly abducted in the occupied countries (see Łapanka) to provide labor in the German war industry, repair bombed railroads and bridges or work on farms. By 1944, 19.9% of all workers were foreigners, either civilians or prisoners of war.
The Nazis employed many slave laborers. They also operated concentration camps, some of which provided free forced labor for industrial and other jobs while others existed purely for the extermination of their inmates. A notable example is the Mittelbau-Dora labor camp complex that serviced the production of the V-2 rocket. See List of German concentration camps for more.
The Nazi camps played a key role in the extermination of six million European Jews.
During the early 20th century, the Empire of Japan used the forced labor of millions of civilians from conquered countries and prisoners of war, especially during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, on projects such as the Death Railway. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a direct result of the overwork, malnutrition, preventable disease and violence which were commonplace on these projects.
See also: Japanese war crimes.
North Korea is known to operate six camps with prison-labor colonies in remote mountain valleys. The total number of prisoners in the Kwan-li-so is 150,000 – 200,000. Once condemned as political criminal in North Korea, the defendant and his family are incarcerated for lifetime in one of the camps without trial and cut off from all outside contact.
See also: The North Korean prison system
See Creation of the camps, Great Brăila Island
The Soviet Union took over the already extensive katorga system and expanded it immensely, eventually organizing the Gulag to run the camps. In 1954, a year after Stalin's death, the new Soviet government of Nikita Khrushchev began to release political prisoners and close down the camps. By the end of the 1950s, virtually all "corrective labor camps" were reorganized, mostly into the system of corrective labor colonies. Officially, the Gulag was terminated by the MVD order 20 of January 25, 1960.
During the period of Stalinism, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Union were officially called "Corrective labor camps." The term "labor colony"; more exactly, "Corrective labor colony", (Russian: исправительно-трудовая колония, abbr. ИТК), was also in use, most notably the ones for underaged (16 years or younger) convicts and captured besprizorniki (street children, literally, "children without family care"). After the reformation of the camps into the Gulag, the term "corrective labor colony" essentially encompassed labor camps.
See Reeducation camp