Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Berlin
There is a lot of information and there are exhibits and detailed accounts and explanations in both German and English.... although some of these you may not wish to read - especially the experiments involving children.
There is a visitors information centre and it is possible to get a translated map and information sheet (I think it cost €0.50 and VERY worth it).
There are toilet facilities in several places which is just as well because it is a large site... wear sensible shoes!
As you walk down Camp Street, with the wall, the barbed wire and the towers you will start to get a more somber feeling.
Metal marks the ground where the missing barracks would have been and from this you can get quite the perspective as to the size of this camp, especially if you see the 3-tiered bunk that is one of the exhibits.
The pathology building and cellar mortuary are still in place - evil emits from the door and it is quite a disturbing place to visit.
The prisoner kitchen is quite interesting with some glass protected original paintings on the walls. There is a good exhibition hall here.
*it is possible to arrange a tour if you are in a group. I think it would be very interesting to have a proper tour of Sachsenhausen. Apparently they cost €15 - for groups of up to 15 people and €25 for groups of up to 30 people. (a surcharge of €25 for this service in a foreign language)
Audio tours are also possible - I think they were €3
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
was built in 1936, predominantly by prison labour. It was the first camp to be established and was viewed as the perfect model for all following concentration camps. In the early days the prisoners was mostly political - which was generally anybody seen to be or perceived to be an opponent of the Nazi regime. However it wasn't long before all prisoners were sent here because of their crimes for being racially and/or biologically 'incorrrect' and they were followed by citizens of occupied countries.
Over 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. The conditions were appalling, the treatment terrifying, disease was rife and the labour and experiments prisoners were subjected to questions the very fibre of 'humanity' - there as no humanity. Besides this prisoners were routinely and systematically murdered by the SS.
At the end of the war prisoners, malnourished and weak were rounded up and evacuated from the concentration camp on a death march. Tens of thousands of prisoners died along the way. The infirmed, approximately 3000 were left at Sachsenhausen, along with some doctors and assistants, to die. On 22nd April 1945 they were 'liberated' by the Soviets.
Liberation by the Soviets meant that the camp's name changed from Sachsenhausen to the Soviet Special Camp, was run by the NKVD (secret service of the Soviet Union) and, by 1948 was the largest of 3 camps in the Soviet zone of occupation! The prisoners were not just former Nazi party members. Anybody could be imprisoned here for a variety of reasons and thus the camp continued to hold undesirables; children, old people, women and men. Any Red Army soldiers who had been captured by the Nazi's were considered to be traitors and therefore enemies of the Soviet state, Russian women raped by Germans faced the same fate.... the idiocy, paranoia and demand for total dedication to one self-selected supreme government continued. By March 1950 when the camp finally closed, 60,000 people had been imprisoned - 12,000 of whom died because of malnutrition and disease.
Sachsenhausen is now a memorial and museum. The ethos behind this is to educate people about history where the history happened.
As a memorial and museum Sachsenhausen is free.
It is open from 8.30am.
15 March - 14th October it closes at 6pm
15 October - 14 March it closes at 4.30pm
I think a 'tip' on a site, such as this, that evokes an emotional response requires a personal comment to help the potential visitor gather some perspective:
I consider myself to have travelled quite extensively and I have been to many destinations and sites that one could associate with the darker side of tourism of morbid fascination. I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is a historian (in Berlin) and have had access to sites that the general public are not usually allowed in...and some of these places have been, for want of a better word, frightening. However, Sachsenhausen stirred something in me which, a week after my visit I have not been able to shake. It is the feeling of deep sickness and an incomprehensible despair at what really is totally incomprehensible. Never before has a place disturbed me like this - and I am genuinely shocked that I have had a reaction like I have. My husband has not has the same reaction as me. It is therefore personal to me. My advice however is, should you go, do not presume you will not have a strong reaction, emotionally. Perhaps when the weather is more clement, the sun is shining and there are more visitors it is not quite as bleak, unforgiving and desolate as it seemed on the icy, snowy, empty day that we visited.
Children: I have been to Berlin many times but have never been to Sachsenhausen before because I did not think it appropriate to take my children. However, this time, with my eldest (13 years) having just studied the Holocaust at school and my youngest (11.5 years) just about to study it, I decided to take them. I will point out they have been to many sites before, just not an actual camp (my point being they were not total novices to an evil site). I would not wish to take any children who are younger than this or who do not have a mature understanding. At 13 my son was silent. My other son, not liking it, dealt with it by distancing himself from where he was.
I hope my personal 'tip' is not inappropriate as usually my tips deal specifically with facts. The majority of people would go here with some understanding and probably don;t need my opinion. However, I feel strongly that some people may appreciate a more personal knowledge, especially those who are trying to determine if their children are old enough to visit.
Visiting this camp was a truly moving experience. I have been interested in what happened in ww2 for as long as I can remember and always wanted to visit a concentration camp. You can really get the feel of what it must have been like for the unfortunate souls who wound up here and the guide filled us in on the terrible things that happened here. The whole experience was very moving and made me feel how lucky we are compared to the people who suffered and died here. It was good to see so many young people visiting the camp as I believe the younger generation should know what went on in these places.
Our trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp began on Wednesday morning, we all left our apartment with a spring in our step, the children with snowballs in their hands to pelt poor Sean (as usual). We took the U-bahn from Birkenstrasse to Humboldthain, there we changed to the S-Bahn train (You can get an S-bahn train to Oranienburg from a number of stations in Berlin like Friedrichstrasse station) to the town of Oranienburg. Oranienburg is about 35km from Berlin. It takes about 40 minutes to reach Oranienburg station on the train. At the station we decided to take the bus 804 that stops right in front of the station because it was snowing and it would have been a bit to long of a walk with all the children, it is about 2km to the camp from the station but for all those who would prefer the walk it is well sign posted. The route from the train station to the concentration camp is the same route that thousands of prisoners had walked when they first arrived. You walk along Stralsunder Strasse, then turn right on to Bernauer Strasse, then left on to Strasse der Einheit and then you turn right on to Strasse der Nationnen. It will take you about 25 minutes to walk to the camp,
At the camp there is a reception area where you can buy books or take a guided tour of the camp. Admission to the concentration camp Memorial Site is free, but you will need the Information Leaflet which has a map of the camp and costs about Euro 0.25 cents.
15 March until 14 October: daily 8:30 - 18.00
15 October until 14 March: daily 8:30 - 16:30
At the concentration camp we all felt the eerie feeling that you get from places like this and with the snow falling heavily it was an uncomfortable eerie stillness but an experience not to be missed, as it is an education in itself to be in a place were so much sufferance has taken place, to think that 100,000 people were killed according to the Russians who conducted the war crimes tribunal in which the Commandant and 12 members of his ss staff confessed to mass murder of the prisoners at the camp.
At the entrance to the camp Memorial Site, you will see a sign that points the way to the Mass Graves, which are located near the northwest exit of the concentration camp. These graves are not of the murdered prisoners, as you would expect; but of 12,000 German prisoners who died in the camp from disease and starvation when the Soviet occupation forces took over the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at the end of the war in 1945 they called it Special Camp No. 7, in this new concentration camp of the Soviets some 60,000 German citizens were imprisoned without a trial, sometime things never change
See my page on Oranienburg ("Sachsenhausen.")
A 45 min rail trip from Freidrickstrasse station to Oranienberg station either on the S-Bahn S1 or regional train RB12 about 45min from Berlin. The museum is about a further 15min walk on a reasonably well sign posted route via Stralsunder Strasse, right on Bernauer Strasse, left on Strasse der Einheit and then right on Strasse der Nationen
click arrow at bottom of S-Bahn road map shown on website below
This Concentration Camp is only a short trip (about 35 kilometres) out of Berlin and is an interesting look at the deplorable things the Jewish population had to put up with during World War II. You can get an audio guide for a few euros and this gives you a lot of information including first hand accounts of the prisoners.
You can book a tour of the camp from Berlin, they will pick you up from your hotel and drive you there as well for around €18.
If you go there yourself it only costs about €4. You should allow a couple of hours at the least to see the whole camp. You could spend a lot more time if you wanted to see everything, I would recommend at least four or more hours. It's also a good idea to take your own lunch with you, it's quite a walk to the cafe outside and there's not much else in the area.
Catch the S1 to Oranienburg, then bus number 804 to the camp.
The website below shows an excerpt from the trial of the former commandant of Sachsenhausen Death Camp. WARNING: This site also has graphic pictures of some of the prisoners of the camp.
History of the camp from 1945 and beyond:
In 1945 the war was going badly for the Nazis - Soviet soldiers were approaching Berlin. At the end of April that year the SS ordered the camp to be evacuated. Thousands of prisoners were sent on "death marches" to the Baltic Sea to the north. The intention was to kill all of the witnesses who knew what had happened in the camps.
Instead of destroying the camp or preserving it as a memorial, the Soviets decided to use Sachsenhausen as their own concentration camp. Former Nazi officials & political prisoners were imprisoned here. About 60,000 Germans were imprisoned here between 1945 and 1950, of whom over 12,000 died from hunger and disease. The camp was finally closed in March 1950, after which it was used by the East German army and police. In 1961 the site was turned into a National Memorial: at that time it was used by the communist regime as a symbol of the "victory of anti-fascism over fascism".
It won't take you too long to see the whole place so they recommend to reserve a half day to complete this visit. That should be more than enough, and you can grab something to eat at the nearby town.
Although this might not be the favorite kind of tour for many people, it apparently is quite popular among people who visit Berlin.
Sachsenhausen concentration camp is located very close to Berlin and is easily reachable by metro/train (approx. 1 hour away). There are guided tours but I visited it on my own with my friend Vero who hosted me during my stay in Berlin and who had visited it previsouly. She was a very good tourist guide for this visit.
The camp itself doesn't tell you much -- I think you have to use your imagination to get the picture of what things used to be like in this place, even though I think such thing is rather depressing. The barracks for example are re-built, so they are not the original ones. The crematories are just remainders - rocks and bricks in an open area - of the originals. So it is not as impressive as I thought it would be. Here is a little history about the camp which I think is pretty interesting and might help to appreciate the visit even better:
"In 1933 a concentration camp was set up in an empty factory building in the middle of the town of Oranienburg. The prisoners were mainly people from Berlin who were opposed to the takeover of power by the Nazis. Construction of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp took place during 1936. The new camp was built further away from the town and the main roads. It was used as a model for other concentration camps, and was also a training centre for the guards. The camp was for male prisoners.
Between 1936 and 1945 over 200,000 prisoners were kept at Sachsenhausen. At first these were mainly political prisoners or trade unionists. Later they were joined by groups which the Nazis decided were "inferior" (Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and religious leaders). Among the people who were brought to Sachsenhausen were those who were suspected of taking part in the attempt to assassinate Hitler on 20th July 1944....."
(continued in the next tip)