How many subcamps did the Dachau concentration camp have?

In the historical sources there is no uniform designation used for the subcamps (sometimes they are called work details, labor camps, external work details, subcamps and sub work details). Recent studies have established the term “subcamp” as a uniform designation for those locations outside the grounds of a concentration camp where prisoners were accommodated and forced to work. In contrast, when prisoners had to march to a specific site to work, but returned to the main camp in the evening, research now speaks of a “work detail”.

The subcamps attached to the main Dachau concentration camp were extremely divergent: there were very small camps with just one or two prisoners, but also large subcamps for several thousand prisoners. The historian Sabine Schalm has therefore proposed a further conceptual differentiation:

She calls camps with fewer than 500 prisoners “external work details”. They did not have any complex camp structure, important administrative procedures were organized and carried out by the main camp office. The prisoners and guards were under the command of a single detail leader. Prisoner accommodation was provisional in character, often the prisoners were housed in existing factory buildings, garages, or huts.

In contrast, Schalm calls camps with more than 500 prisoners “subcamps”: they had a complex administration structures and offices, meaning that, unlike the external work details, they could be administered directly on site with a relatively large amount of autonomy. They had their own command staff, headed by a camp leader, who reported directly to the commandant of the main camp and had several detail leaders under his command. The prisoners were accommodated in structures especially built for this purpose and located within a guarded enclosure.

Literature tip: Sabine Schalm, Überleben durch Arbeit? Außenkommandos und Außenlager des KZ Dachau 1933 – 1945, Berlin 2012 (second revised edition).