Sachsenhausen was the earliest concentration camp constructed during the Third Reich and it is in Oranienburg, north of Berlin. It was a prototype for later more notorious camps such as Auschwitz, and was later used by the Soviet Union as a prison camp. It is a truly powerful and moving experience to walk the grounds, and there are handheld listening devices that can be purchased at the entrance booth to guide you along. Two museums detailing the site's history, original barracks, the original entry gate and watchtowers are also there. There is a small historical marker along the route to the camp dedicated in memory of the April 1945 "Todesmarsch."
It was the first such place built in Germany, in 1936 and then more than 200,000 people were imprisoned in the there from its completion to 1945. First most prisoners were "political" people against the Nazis like certain philosophical people and educational people, religious people, but then came the ones the Nazis considered inferior or bad: Gypsies, Jews, Jeohovah´s Witnesses, and others. Because of its close place to Berlin is what also one of the camps with the most barbaric and unbelievable medical experiments.
People from all over parts of Europe Germans had invaded were sent here. Most died from cruelty, starvation, torture and mistreatment. It was a horrible place and time, inhumanity to humans by those who thought it was right and honorable to do so. Those that didnt die there were marched to death, but some did survive. Some left behind during the Death Marches were liberated Russian and Poles armies.
Its a long link but its a great page to learn more about this place and see much better fotos then mine.
Along the walk to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp museum, I came across the monument dedicated in memory of the Todesmarsch, or the forced march of camp prisoners away from the advancing Allies in the closing weeks of World War II.
‘Arbeit macht frei’, ‘Work makes (one) free’. A slogan used by the Nazis at some of their concentration camps including Sachsenhausen, normally set into the gates. The slogam was first used at the original camp in Orainenburg and was ordered put up by Theodor Eicke. Under the Nazis it did not matter how hard you worked it certainly was not a way out of the concentration camps. It was meant as a spirital freedom through endless work.
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was liberated by a unit of the 47th Soviet Army and Polish Forces on April 22nd, 1945. The Soviet soldiers found only 3,000 survivors in the camp. This number included 1,400 women. Most of them were starving, ill and too weak to welcome their liberators. Like in several other camps, and despite of the medical cares they received, many inmates died in the days following the liberation.
The Soviet Special Camp Museum is just outside the main camp and is close to the Special Camp. For some reason it is either missed by visitors or not very popular as I was the only visitor. It is an excellent modern museum that covers the history of Special Camp No. 7. Another reason for visiting is to use the public toilets tucked away in the building.
The new visitors information centre was opened in 2004 in former workshops that were used for the maintenance of weapons. I would recommend paying it a visit to obtain guide books, leaflets and audio aids. Unfortunately it must have been a bad day for the staff when I visited as the reception was slightly icy. The site is open daily from 0830-1800 between 15th March until 14th October and daily from 0830-1630 between 15th October until 14th March. The visitor centre & toilets, book shop, cinema and cafes are the only buildings open on Mondays.
Outside of the visitor's centre is a model of camp. To the left of centre is the triangle shape of the camp which forms only a small part of the total area of the whole camp.
The new museum charts certain parts of the history of the camp. This includes the early history of the camp when it was located at a brewery in Oranienburg between 1933/34. The museum also covers the history of the camp during the period 1950/90. If you find you can't gain access at the front of the museum, try walking around the back as you may be able to gain access there. There are a self service food and drinks machines, a seating area and books in German relating to the camp located at the rear entrance.
As you walk along the original camp drive from the Visitors’ Centre to the entrance of the camp you can see on the right a green wooden building. The building was built in 1937 by the prisoners and was later called the green monster or the casino. It stood on the central axis with the main camp. It had a concrete basement and the wooden building was only meant to be a temporary structure before a permanent construction. It was used by SS Guards as a canteen or as the main place to socialise but not to gamble. Inmates from the camp who were known as 'Schwung' or move-on, were used to serve the SS guards. This was just one building of a much larger training camp where the SS Guards learnt their sadistic trade. The building was used by the Soviets after the war followed by the GDR People's Police and then the National People's Army. The building was abandoned in the 1980's and was left to the elements to fall down. Recently the situation has changed and the building is being renovated to preserve it but no access will be allowed to visitors when the work is complete. The work has now been completed and the fence removed so you can have a close up view of the building.
Towards the end of the WW2 there were 5 hospital barracks at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, of which 2 still remain and they contain an exhibition called medicine and crime with over 1000 exhibits. Close by is the Pathology Building and the copse cellar. Post mortems were carried out in the building to give some legitimacy to the camp but the death had to be caused by one of only eight causes. Post mortems were also an excuse to remove gold teeth and other hidden valuables.
After the camp was liberated by the Soviets 1945 they decided to continue to use it as a concentration camp until 1950. The camp was used by the NKVD and became Special Camp No 7. During this time 60,000 people were imprisoned of which 12,000 died.
It is quite chilling, especially as I went on such a cold bleak winters day. You can imagine what it must have been like for the inmates here especially knowing that they faced a certain unpleasant death!
I will not go into detail as I suggest you visit yourself.
Operation Bernhard, named after SS Major Bernhard Krüger was an attempt by the Nazis to destabilise the currencies of the UK and USA during WW2. During the autumn of 1942 a small number of Jewish prisoners and printing equipment were moved into Barracks 19 at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp to work in isolation from the rest of the camp. This was gradually increased and Barracks 18 was also included in the operation so that 2 years later there were about 140 prisoners working on counterfeiting £5 notes. The prisoners were isolated from the rest of the camp by fencing and painted out windows on the buildings. £134,000,000 (worth 3 billion today) of counterfeit notes were produced and work started on trying to counterfeit US dollar notes. Other items such as stamps and travel documents were also produced. The prisoners were not treated as harshly as the other inmates due to the nature of their special skills and the majority survived the war. The prisoners were allowed to wear their own clothes and grow their hair. The barracks were heated and thy received larger portions of food. The prisoners had to work 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week, early in 1944 a night shift was also introduced. The secret was kept for many years but has emerged in recent years with books and the Oscar winning film ‘The Counterfeiters’. Unlike the film the prisoners were told to pack everything up in February 1945 and were moved to Austria. There is a small exhibition in the old laundry, building 21.
Photos from exhibition
If you walk to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, before you turn off down the road to the camp you will notice a small memorial set in a very small park. This is to commemorate the Todesmarsch or Death March. As the Second World was coming to an end in Europe prisoners from different concentration camps were forced by the SS to march under extreme conditions away from the invading armies.
The death march from Sachsenhausen started on the morning of the 21st April 1945, when between 30,000 and 45,000 prisoners were lead off in columns of 500. The plan was to take the prisoners to the Bay of Lubeck, force them onto barges which were to be sunk. 3,000 very sick prisoners were left behind and they were liberated the 22nd of April. The prisoners were forced to march 20-40 kms a day and sleep without cover outside. The prisoners were also forced to drag carts containing the possessions of the guards. The death march ended on the 3rd of May when the guards realising the war was about to end suddenly disappeared leaving the prisoners behind. During the march approximately 6,000 to 7,000 prisoners died dues to the conditions, illness, starvation or being shot.
There are 6 mass graves at this location each containing 50 bodies. Unfortunatley though the camp was liberated on the 22nd April 1945 prisoners continuing dying in the Infirmary Barracks. Over the passage of time the graves were forgotton but in recent time ex-prisoners help with locating the graves that have now been marked out with granite blocks.
200,000 prisoners passed through Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp during the years 1936 t0 1945. Half of these never survived. The Nazis called this area Station Z. It was a sight of execution. A small gas chamber and crematorium were added at a later date. The area has been changed from the 1st & 3rd photos and the sight has been given more protection from the elements which is now shown in the 4th photo.