The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was designed by the SS architects and founded in 1936 by prisoners from the Emsland camps. It was conceived as a model extermination camp, where the ideas of the National Socialism were to be projected and the SS could subject their power on the convicts.
Between 1936 and 1945 over 200,000 prisoners were locked away in the camp. The first people sent to the Death Camp were political opponents of the Nazi regime. However, in the following years, the Nazis put away anyone they believed to be racially or biologically inferior.
Thousands of prisoners died due to illnesses, forced labour and starvation. Many others were victims of the SS extermination techniques.
At the end of the war, on 22 and 23 April 1945, the Soviet and Polish soldiers freed over 3,000 suffering prisoners, nurses and doctors.
From Concentration Camp to Soviet Special Camp
In August 1945, Sachsenhausen became a Soviet Special Camp. Three months after World War II ended, when Europe was finally free from the intimidation of the Nazis, the Soviet secret service moved the Soviet Special Camp no.7 to Sachsenhausen.
The Camp was used to lock Nazi prisoners and political prisoners who did not agree with the Soviet Union ideals and other many who were arbitrarily detained.
The special camp became the largest in the area until it was dismantled in 1950.
Approximately 60,000 prisoners were held in the camp of which 12,000 died.
In 1961, it was inaugurated as a National Memorial by the People’s National Army of the G.D.R. and the People’s Police.
During the visit to the Concentration Camp, you will visit all the areas that were most used by the Nazis and Soviets. As you discover the facility, you’ll feel a shiver as you find out about the atrocities committed by both parties in the large death camp.
Some of the most relevant areas are the following:
- Barrack 38: Located in the “Small Camp” area, Barrack 38 is where the Nazis would cram the Jews together between 1938 and 1942. Barrack 38 is a museum that reflects the life of Jewish prisoners at the Camp. You’ll notice that it still smells of burnt as it was set fire to by anti-Semitics in 1992.
- Prison: The Gestapo used these blocks to lock up those who tried to escape the Camp or prominent figures. The prisoners were tortured and killed without any mercy.
- Infirmary Barracks: In Sachsenhausen, like in other death camps, prisoners were used for medical experiments, for example by sterilizing them or killing the weakest captives.
A moving experience
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp will not leave any of its visitors indifferent. While you explore the death camp and its barracks, you’ll come face to face with the dreadful conditions the prisoners were subject to. The grimmest parts include the Infirmary Barracks, where many women and men were subjected to terrible experiments, and the patio, where the detainees were made to queue for hours either in the freezing cold or in the scorching heat.
Although it is not necessary to book a guided tour for many of Berlin's landmarks, we strongly suggest you join a guided tour at Sachsenhausen. Most of the buildings of the Death Camp are no longer standing and most of the facilities are empty, so you won't get a good idea of the terrible past of this concentration camp without a professional guide.
15 March - 14 October: every day from 8:30 am to 6 pm.
15 October - 14 March: every day from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Audio guide: € 3 (US$ 3.40)
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Tour € 18 (US$ 20.30)
Train: Oranienburg, lines RE5, RB12 and S1.
You can either walk 20 minutes from the Train Station or take the bus 804.