Trending: concentration camp

Lookups spiked 15,000% on June 18, 2019

Why are people looking up concentration camp?

Concentration camp was our top lookup on June 18th, 2019, following the use of the word by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and subsequent contretemps over whether such was appropriate or not.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal freshman Democrat from New York who has made fighting for immigrants’ rights a signature issue, on Tuesday described the Trump administration’s border detention facilities as “concentration camps,” provoking backlash from Republicans who said she was minimizing the Holocaust.
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, 18 Jun. 2019

What does concentration camp mean?

A short definition of concentration camp is “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard —used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners.”

Where does concentration camp come from?

Some of the response to Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the word appears to be based on the belief that concentration camp should rightfully apply to the victims of the Holocaust. While those of Nazi Germany are the most notorious (particularly Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau, and Buchenwald), concentration camps have existed in a variety of other countries, and during a number of wars other than the Second World War.

Other examples include those run by Britain during the South Africa War (1899 to 1902), internment camps for Japanese Americans between 1942 and 1945, and Dutch civilians in the Dutch East Indies, imprisoned by the Japanese during the Second World War. There are some differences between many of these; Auschwitz was an extermination camp, while others, such as the British camp in South Africa and the Manzanar Relocation Center in the US were not created for the explicit purpose of killing prisoners. These varied camps share certain characteristics; confining political prisoners, members of national groups for ostensible reasons of security or punishment; the prisoners tend to be chosen by executive decree or military order, and all have been widely referred to as concentration camps.

Our earliest record of the term predates the Holocaust, dating from the 19th century. The use of concentration camp became considerably more widespread following the defeat of Germany in the Second World War.


Finally, further order was given that where new concentration camps are created they must be along the railroad lines or the main roads.
Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 Jun. 1897

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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