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Berlin: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

22 March 2014

On my second full day in London, I joined the New Berlin Tours' Sachsenhausen Memorial tour which  was being led by Rob Shaw. Admission to the concentration camp is free to the public but the tour was well worth the 13 Euros (students' cost) because of the knowledgable tour guide and opportunity to connect with other visitors.
All my life, I have had a fascination with history and in particular World War Two so I have studied my dad's TIME © series, read books upon books, seen films and more films, visited memorials, spoken to survivors, and now had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of those who came before.  That being said, a concentration camp, even this many years after it was last used, is no light experience nor should they be ignored lest we forget.
An ABC transit ticket is required to get from central Berlin to Sachsenhausen.  The tour group met at 11 a.m. at the Brandenburg Gate and we arrived at the concentration camp at approximately 12:30. Part of the journey time included a brief talk about the Second World War from Rob Shaw (a knowledgable and well-read guy from Manchester, UK) which was great for those who don't know much about the historical background and even I learned a few new details.
"Work Makes You Free" gate
 After another brief history lesson from Rob at the camp entrance, we walked through the overwhelming gates that infamously reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" which in German means "Work Makes You Free". Can you imagine being a prisoner, especially one who has done nothing wrong, and walking through those gates asking themselves what possibly they could do?
Along one side there of the yard next to the gates was an electrical fence where numerous suicides were attempted. One of the most famous victims of the Sachsenhausen camp was Stalin's own sonYakov Dzhugashvili, who is reported to have thrown himself against the electric fence.  It got so bad that a "neutral zone" was created by the fence and anyone who crossed into the zone could and would be shot without warning.
A couple of the original huts have been refurbished and created into exhibits displaying beds, toilets and washrooms for visitors to better grasp the realities of living at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.  About 200,000 prisoners passed through the gates between 1936 and 1945.
Flowers were found around the camp in memory of former prisoners.
The camp also had a prison and several of those cells were on exhibit.
One of the infamous methods of torture at Sachsenhausen was the circular marching strip made up of different materials (including rocks and stones).  Prisoners, in particular homosexual men, were forced to run daily marathons with weight strapped on their back to test shoes.
Also on exhibit was the camp's kitchen.
And lastly the remains of the camp's crematorium were hauntingly on display.
Thanks for sharing this experience with me and I hope it has helped you to appreciate the horrors of the past and seek a path so we never repeat history.

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Thanks so much for sharing with me! Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated!
x Joy

 

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