Visiting sachsenhausen concentration camp



Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Sachsenhausen is a concentration camp that was used from 1936 to 1945 located near Berlin in Germany. Around 36 kilometres away in Oranienburg.



This is a hard post to write as this place is a place of evil and the crimes committed here are somewhat unspeakable but we must let people know what happened there so we can educate future generations.

I will talk about my visit here and some of the history.


Image Roger Veringmeier 



Warning this is an extremely sad story and there are descriptions
which may upset you so use caution because some of the horrors committed at this camp can be disturbing to read.



My history

Some of my ancestors were in some of these concentration camps. 

I am not sure which camps I remember my grandmother telling me some of her family were in some of the camps some of them escaped before the war started. 

But other members of the family stayed in Europe I am guessing she meant Russia. 

She told me some of her family were sent to the death camps and were killed by the Nazis. She told me this story when I was young. 

When I was old enough to fully understand what she meant she had passed away so I could never find out any more information from her. 

It Wasn't until recently that I started to try to find my family history looking at documents online.  

I realized I had Jewish DNA heritage after having the My Heritage DNA test. 

I had DNA matches with people that had lost relatives in the camps so there was some link there but I am trying to find more information but it can be hard without paper records.



History of the camp

The camp prisoners included Jews, homosexuals, Roma , Jehovah's Witnesses,soviet civilians,political opponents even Joseph Stalin's oldest son Yakov Dzhugashvili, was held at the camp.

During the war the camp held more or less any person that The Third Reich hated and wanted dead.

In the photo below you can see German political prisoners arriving at the camp.




One of the camp's prisoners was Pastor Martin Niemöller,
many of us will know his poem.

Horrors

At least 100,000 people died at this camp by 1945 there were up to 50,000 prisoners there the camp was originally designed to hold up to 10,000 prisoners.

The camp was used as a testing station by the Nazis drugs were forcibly tested on prisoners experimental drugs were often used to test the effectiveness on humans some were designed to increase stamina and endurance of Luftwaffe pilots in missions but these were tested on prisoners first to see if they had any side effects which often they did. 

The prisoners would be given experimental drugs and then made to run around 40km each day with heavy backpacks to test military shoes designed for the German army.

There were also experiments testing deadly weapons such as mustard gas on the prisoners.




Experiments

The cruel SS doctors would perform dissections on live prisoners, sterilizations, castrations.

Other horrible medical torture methods included infecting prisoners with hepatitis and other deadly diseases and testing the effects of potassium cyanide and other deadly toxins on the prisoners.

Most of the prisoners would die from these horrible experiments; those who did survive would forever suffer from the effects for the rest of their life.

One of the morgue tables


Executions

Photo below shows the head of the SS Heinrich Himmler touring the camp he was an overseer of the Nazi genocidal programs and one of the most evil and powerful men in The Third Reich he was one of the main architects of the holocaust and responsible for the extermination of millions of people.

Himmler The Butcher of Prague


Around 13,000 red army (Russian) prisoners were executed by being shot in the back of the neck they were told they were going to be measured for a uniform. 

The Russian soldiers would be told to stand in a small room with music playing but then they was shot in the back of the neck from an hidden hole in the wall behind them by a cowardly camp guard.

When I was visiting the site a tour guide told me they would shoot the prisoners in the back of the neck
and shown me the brick ruins of part of the wall of the building she said they would execute the prisoners so they could extract the gold from the teeth fillings and the victims teeth were used as well for the Third Reich dental sector .

I hate writing about this because it makes me angry thinking how much monsters the Third Reich was but I feel I have to write this post to get this story more known.


The next step

The evil guards found the method of executing the prisoners one by one by shooting them to be to time consuming so would make prisoners dig a trench there own grave basically then the guards standing above the trench would shoot the prisoners in the trench seen in the (below photo). 
    
Death trench


The trench method was causing disruption in the camp and the guards were worried it may cause the prisoners to revolt so they wanted to hide the killings from the other prisoners. 

Finally in 1943 they moved on to using a newly built gas chamber they would gas the prisoners and would then cremate the body's of the victims in ovens (Photo below)

Remains of ovens

After the cremations there was that much human ash from the cremated bodies that The Third Reich camp sold the cremated ash to local construction companies to create concrete.

Remains of ovens


Around 12,500 bodies were found when excavations took place at the camp many were children,women and elderly people these were the early victims of the camp.

If a prisoner got to ill they were either killed or transported to other camps.

Tortured

Torture was a common occurrence prisoners were locked in Solitary confinement.
Many prisoners were taken to other parts of the camp to be killed and tortured so the other prisoners could not see.

In one of the solitary confinement cells one was used to hold a British Prisoner who was shot by the SS.




As a former soldier myself I remember seeing the Union flag (British flag) in the cell I stood there thinking sad but also proud knowing my country and the men and women and even some of my family stood up and fought in the war against the evil of the Nazi regime and Hitler.






Sachsenhausen salute

The cruel guards would make prisoners squat and stand with their hands outright for over 8 hours
we would call it a stress position these days but it got the name Sachsenhausen salute in the camp.

Prisoners would often be whipped and beaten with iron truncheons like the drawing shows below this was drawn by an inmate who witnessed prisoners being whipped until bleeding and then salt would be rubbed into the open wounds to cause terrible pain to the prisoner.

When a prisoner would scream stop in terrible pain the guards would laugh and start again.

SS officers torturing prisoner



In the camp

Walking around the camp was strange it is a quiet place no birds or anything it.

What I mean is when you go places you may see birds fly above etc and hear other noise cars and people talking etc but here there was nothing just a strange silence.



It was like the animals (Birds) felt an evil presence here so avoided the area.
There are some places you can go and even if you know no history of the place you get a strange feeling like something bad happened here this is that kind of place.




Barrack 39




I went into one of the cabins known as (Barrack 39) this cabin mainly housed Jewish prisoners in crammed conditions.

It was quite a strange experience. I was the only person there my girlfriend stayed outside she said she felt uncomfortable going in the cabin. 

So I went in on my own as I was walking. 

My footsteps was creaking on the old wooden floor it seemed to echo and it was like other people were walking in there but it was just me was a strange experience.







Slave labor

The camp was used to create fake currency; this was one of The Third Reich's biggest 
currency counterfeiting operations. 

Prisoner's with artistic skills were used to forge fake notes that would be used to try and destroy the British and American economy with fake notes.

The plan was to drop the notes over London by plane to weaken the economy.

Other labour was used in a nearby brick factory to make bricks for Third Reich building projects.

The prisoners would be worked to death if they were too weak then they would be shot.
(Photo below) shows the prisoners return to the camp after a day of labour.




There are also reports that the workers were used to build the Heinkel He 177 bomber plane.

Many of these crashed in the war for unknown reasons so many historians have said maybe the prisoners in a heroic last act of defiance sabotaged the planes to help the war effort. 

Heinkel He 177 bomber 



Conditions

The prisoners were fed rations of food the more the population of the camp increased the harder it would become for the prisoners as food would be more scarce and more infectious diseases spread rapidly throughout the camp as well as lice. 





Many would suffer starvation and other medical problems, an open wound for example in poor hygiene conditions with lack of water and antiseptic would likely turn gangrene.

With no medical care ever being provided prisoners would die and those who were too ill to work or had disabilities were killed.


Escaping

There were a few successful escapes but the security on the camp was high, any prisoners going near the gravel pit also known as the death strip seen below were shot sometime's the guards would tell prisoners to walk on the pit or they would be shot then the guards would shoot them anyway.

It has been said the camp guards who shot prisoners escaping would get extra leave days as a bonus.
So you can imagine they would tell prisoners to go on the strip shoot them then say they tried to escape.
 


The camp had regular patrols with guards and guard dogs and even had an electric fence to prevent escape and an 8 feet high stone wall around the camp as well as 9 guard towers.

One of the guard towers had an MG 08 machine gun which is a deadly weapon that could fire 500 bullets per minute.




You can imagine the prisoners had little energy due to lack of food so escape would be very difficult.

When I visited the camp I thought to myself how could you escape from here it would be near to impossible the area was surrounded with guard towers and open ground so any movement would be spotted.



The human eye and brain are programmed to detect movement that is why when you are looking for something and your eyes immediately notice a squirrel running across a tree.

If a prisoner was caught trying to escape they would be hanged in front of the other prisoners to make an example to other prisoners thinking of trying to escape.


Here is a drawing from a prisoner who witnessed the below happening.
The prisoners would be left hanging from these wooden poles for hours.


The actual poles I saw in the camp were a little strange being up so close to them to be honest knowing people were strung up on them and died if them wooden posts could talk. 

I think they would scream the horrors they had seen.
The prisoners would be tied up on the posts this would cause bone dislocation and a slow painful death.



Liberation


As Soviet forces closed in on the camps position the SS guards were terrified
it is a well known fact during the war the Soviet army would have no mercy on any captured Nazis most would be executed on the spot with no trials.

Many of the Russians had seen their homeland
pillaged by the German army when Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union so many of the Soviet forces would be judge, jury and executioner to a captured Third Reich soldier.

The SS evacuated 33,000 prisoners on foot; the ones who were too weak to walk were left behind to die in the camp and any prisoner who had military training was killed. 

The prisoners who still had a little energy were marched on a death march (Photo Below).



This is a sign post near to the camp it is in German but I have used google to translate
I hope I translated the writing correctly.


The sign says;

More than 6,000 inmates of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp were murdered on this march by the SS.

(TODESMARSCH)
DEATH MARCH


(IHR VERMACHTNIS LEBT IN UNSEREN TATEN FORT)
YOUR LEGACY LIVES IN OUR DEEDS



Russians.

Around a week later from the camp evacuation April 22th, 1945 the Russian army liberated the camp but sadly many prisoners still died even when the Russian army provided food and medical treatment.

Russian army talking to prisoners

It is said as the Russian army was closing in on the camps position the camp SS guards dumped 9 tons of human ash in the nearby canal that was left over from cremating prisoners body's. 

Dumping the human ash was an attempt to try and hide the crimes they had committed at the camp so we will never know the full scale of how many people were killed at the camp but we know from records kept that at least
100,000 people were victims of the Third Reich at the camp.

    
Russian soldier statue with POWS




How to get there from Berlin

You can take the S1 train from Berlin station to Oranienburg central station.
it is around 31km and takes about 40 minutes.

Once you arrive at Oranienburg station
you could get a bus from the station to near the camp. 

Myself and my girlfriend walked from the station to the camp. It took us about 25 minutes there were a few sign posts along the way with directions but these days we all have google on our cellphone so it's much easier to find.

Here is the address of the camp:

Sachsenhausen concentration camp address
Str. der Nationen 22, 16515 Oranienburg, Germany


Berlin central train station
Hauptbahnhof, Europaplatz 1, 10557 Berlin, Germany


Oranienburg train station near to camp 
16515 Oranienburg, Germany


Map below showing the camp address.



Here is a simple map showing the direction and distance from Oranienburg train station to the camp google says it is 2.2km and takes around 27 minutes to walk.

Admission to the camp is free but you can pay a fee for an audio guide and a map.

You could book a guide tour group basically they walk you around and show you the parts of the camp and tell you what happened at each part. 

You would need to book the tour yourself as the camp did not offer that when I went I have added a few tour guide links above that offer tours to the camp. 

If you visit the camp it may be worth going on a tour as you will find out more history this way and be shown around. 

I would also take an umbrella as there is no cover above at the camp and some water and snacks may be useful as I am not sure there is anywhere to get any. 

There was a nearby cafe but they only sold drinks but that may of change now have a look at some of the links above for more info.



Images
Big thank you to the below organisations and people for letting me use the images in this blog post.
Frederick John  http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/
@AdrianPHerrera twitter
Trip advisor



Past and future

We must not forget the past of World War II if we forget the horrors of world war II then it could happen again in parts of the world. 

We all know the signs of dictatorship so we need to act again if we see this happening.

Germany is well worth a visit and I found Berlin a great city the food was amazing and there was a lot of places to visit.

The German people were very welcoming while I went about Berlin I had a few conversations
with cafe owners and they would just ask about England and were friendly. 

So as I always say when you go abroad you are a guest so just be careful not to offend the locals with what you say .

I noticed when talking to many of the locals they don't really like to talk of the past they seem to get off the subject when they asked me where I had visited today etc and I told them the Concentration camp.

I understand they want to forget the past and think of the future now I kind of understand that as they may be ashamed of their country's history. 

But again we can not forget history so we have to talk about it. 


Future generations must know what country's stood up to evil and what people perished in the war and most importantly the horrors of the Third Reich and the evilness of Hitler must be known.

The Holocaust should be taught in schools there is still many people who are unaware of the full scale of what happened even when I was in school there was no history on any conflicts.

An estimated 6 million people died in the holocaust
and around 85 million in World war II.

I would recommend the Steven Spielberg ,Movie (Schindler's List)
it is a very sad true film but is a must watch to understand the Holocaust and the life of Oscar Schindler
he saved more then a 1100 Jewish peoples life during the Holocaust.

There is an old quote I quite like and it makes sense.

(The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing)

The world stood up to the monster (Hitler) and he was defeated. 
Good will always prevail over evil.

I am here alive now thanks to my ancestors. If Hitler would have won the war then I would not be here as my ancestors would not be.

This is all that remains of the monster's bunker where he ended his own life blaming the German people for losing the war.

It is now a car park in Berlin. 
You would not know it was there except for the sign post in the photo below.

Remains of Hitler's bunker



If you found this post interesting then please share on social media etc 
to get the story more known it is the least we can do for all the people that died in the camp and at the hands of the Third Reich.
Share buttons are below




2 comments:

  1. It is so important that we learn and never forget about what has happened in the past to avoid making the same mistakes. It is always interesting to learn about your ancestor's stories and even finding those who are long lost relatives. Everything that has happened during this period is not easy to stomach. Thank you for sharing so much information about this. I found Schindler's List being an amazing film. Thank you for sharing this knowledge!

    Nancy ✨ exquisitely.me

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Nancy I had to write this as you say it is not easy to stomach reading it. But I wanted to make the story more known for people to be more aware I went to camp and only knew a little myself I only recently started to realize what happened there to the full extent

    ReplyDelete

Egypt my holiday bad luck or the pharaoh's curse?

My strange experiences of going on holiday to Egypt Little did I know there would be a lot but make your own mind up and see if you would ha...