In order to consider why concentration camps are so important to modern consciousness and identity, we need to understand what they are and how they have developed. ‘What is a concentration camp?’ provides a working definition: it is an isolated, circumscribed site with fixed structures designed to incarcerate civilians. The Holocaust has confused our understanding of concentration camps in that a concentration camp is not normally a death camp. They are the consequences of large numbers of opponents, far too many for the discipline, order, and expense of prisons. When the concentration camp becomes a permanency, it is the sign of a regime that knows it cannot command national support or even tolerance.