Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and Museum originally written July 22nd in Berlin, Germany
Many of you have probably heard of Station Z if not of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp – Station Z is part of Sachsenhausen. As I have been traveling, I have run into quite a few people that do not want to see the inside of a concentration camp – I think this in an important part of history we can’t ignore and each person who sees for themselves what a horrible place this was when we visit, we do justice for the victims. However, please do not go the camps if it is only to tell people you went and really have no interest – it makes it a harder experience for the rest of us who want to actually learn. I had a couple of people in my tour taking selfies in the camp and a woman wearing a dress that would be more appropriate for South Beach, Miami then a concentration camp.
Our tour started out by taking a train on the same tracks the victims would have gone on from Berlin, going through the same train station and taking almost the same walk to the camp. On the walk, we passed some former SS military houses – people live in them today.
Sachsenhausen was a labor camp – the intention of the camp was to work the victims as hard as they could, give them as a little food as possible to keep them alive and put as many as possible in the barracks – lower overhead meant more profit. What was particularly disturbing about this piece was that factories around town used the victims of the camp as part of their workforce too.
As everyone knows about concentration camps, I’ll keep my post about what make Sachsenhausen different. Sachsenhausen had a boot-testing track where the Nazi’s would get boots from boot manufacturers and have the victim’s test to see how long the boots would last by putting the boots on them, giving them a heavy pack to wear and making them walk along a track of various ground and rock. The prisoners would walk about a marathon everyday and were given drugs to keep them going. A boot-tester would last on average 6 days before passing away.
Right before the liberation of the camp, the Nazi’s introduced Station Z. Station A was the first stop when you came in so Station Z was the last stop. This is where the Nazi’s first began shooting the victims face-to-face in the gallows, then that became to hard for the soldiers, so they introduced a device and system in order to shoot the victims in their backs before moving on to the gas chambers. The Nazi’s would give the victims a “medical exam” before bringing them to Station Z for: 1) to make the victims relaxed, why would you give someone a medical exam and then kill them? 2) to check to see if they had gold teeth, the Nazi’s would remove the gold teeth after the gas chamber and before the crematorium.
Sachsenhausen was liberated by the Russians and then used by the Russians after WWII up until 1950. The Russians housed war criminals and political enemies in the camp – 60,000 people were imprisoned there and 12,000 people died in between 1945 and 1950.
Visiting Sachsenhausen was emotionally draining and physically tiring as it was hot and it was a long tour, about 6 hours. It feels wrong to complain about how tired you got while visiting a concentration camp as it can not compare to the experience of living in the sheer terror of a concentration camp.
I needed to get something to eat after the tour – perfect, a guy with a grill attached to him!
My mind was racing from the tour, so once I got back to the hostel, I changed my clothes and went on a walk through a neighborhood James suggested to me. Walking helped me calm down and this was a local neighborhood more so than a touristy neighborhood. I stopped and got a beer at a beirgarten, then kept walking.
I had dinner at a german restaurant – this time wienerschnitzel – it was good, but I’ve had just as good in the mid-west.
I was hoping I would feel up to going out as I don’t have to worry about getting up tomorrow morning, but I just wasn’t feeling it and headed back to the hostel to get some sleep.