Holocaust Survivor: N. Korean Political Prisons Worse Than Nazi Camps

“I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps.”

Warning: The content below may be distressing

The United Nations Security Council and the International Bar Association discussed human rights abuses in North Korean political prison camps and determined they were “terrible, or even worse” than in Nazi concentration camps.

Thomas Buergenthal, an Auschwitz survivor and now a jurist tapped by the International Bar Association to record statements from North Korean guards and prisoners, said Kim was guilty of 10 out of 11 internationally recognized war crimes.

“I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field,” Buergenthal told The Washington Post.

The hermit kingdom’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un oversees a system of political prisons that are rampant with sexual violence, murder and enslavement. In fact, the only crime the reclusive government hasn’t committed is apartheid.

According to the testimonies, as many as 130,000 North Koreans are serving sentences in prison camps, mostly devoid of food, warmth or clothing. Prisoners are forced to work 20 hours a day and some die from overwork and malnutrition. Women are also raped and forced to abort their fetuses, sometimes resulting in the women’s death.

One survivor, who is a doctor, said he was caught while trying to escape to China and was stripped, hung upside down, beaten, tortured with fire and water and had hot pepper poured into his nose and mouth.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the lack of access to North Korea makes it challenging to monitor the situation there but said human right abuses were rampant in “almost every aspect of people’s lives.”


Al Hussein also condemned China for returning defectors, stating they are subjected to many forms of torture, including “invasive body searches” on women which tantamount to rape. He said his office received 70 such defectors who were sent back to the hermit kingdom by China and escaped again.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has also condemned the violations.

“The systematic human rights violations and abuses of the North Korean government are more than the cause of its people’s suffering. They are a means to a single end: Keeping the Kim Jong-Un regime in power,” she said. “Defectors have reported that all North Koreans age 12 and older are required to attend public executions—a graphic reminder of consequences of disobedience of the government.”

A North Korean defector and activist, Ji Hyeon-A, said she tried to escape the country three times and detailed the horrors she had to endure when she was caught each time. She spent months in “reeducation” center where she was forced into an abortion and where everyone was subjected to harsh labor and had to resort to eating rotten cabbages, raw locusts and skinned rats and frogs, CNN reported. People developed diarrhea because of the terrible food, dehydrated and died — and then ended being fed to the dogs.

The U.N. commissioner Al Hussein said sanctions on North Korea, including controls over international banking transfer, have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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