Can the migrant detention centres employed by the Trump administration on the US/Mexico border be legitimately labelled “concentration camps”? Earlier this year, the New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made that claim in an Instagram video, and what resulted was a firestorm of controversy. Among the voices of protest was that of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In a remarkable statement that never mentioned Ocasio-Cortez by name, the Museum “unequivocally reject[ed] efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary”.

So what is a concentration camp? In what circumstances are the use of the phrase legitimate, and when does it obscure more than it reveals? Historian Dan Stone, author of Concentration Camps: a Very Short Introduction, explores those questions in this episode of the History Workshop podcast.

Second Boer War – Bloemfontein Concentration Camp. Image courtesy The National Archives UK.

Produced by Marybeth Hamilto

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