A Glimpse of WW2 - Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

29 January 2015 Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, Germany

I've been writing a lot about my trip to Berlin lately, and in every post, i've mentioned how Berlin was scared/impacted by World War 2. Here's a final post to amp it up and conclude my Berlin trip. The last day I was in Berlin, J and I decided to take a tour of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
I know, it all seems a little bit dark and depressing talking about the war, but honestly, Berlin is one of the most interesting cities i've been to.

Sachenhausen Work will set you free gate

Going to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is a surreal experience. When you first get to the Concentration Camp, you see this BIG Letterings on the gate that says "Work will set you free". And we now know, that work never set the prisoners of Sachsenhausen free. Standing in front of the gate, you can almost imagine the tiny sliver of hope given to the prisoners, and knowing the facts of today just increases your empathy level.

Sachenhausen uniform

Before we entered, our guide shared with us a brief background of the camp, he told us about the different type of prisoners and different triangles sewed on their uniform to represent the different crimes they were arrested for. Some were prisoners because they committed a crime or an offence, however, some people were just thrown in and labeled under "OTHERS" with the black triangle because there may not have been a legitimate reason to arrest them. The jews were tagged with an additional yellow triangle to single them out from the other prisoners.
It was like they were branded and marked, instead of being people, they were known by triangles and numbers.

Sachenhausen concentration camp main areaFlurries snow in sachsenhausen

After entering the camp grounds, we stood in the centre of what would be the place where the head counts were done several times in a day. I can almost imagine the entire place filled with people in neat rows and standing at attention whilst the guards slowly number them off. The wind was so strong in december, and it started to snow after a while. My face was hurting from the pelting snow and it was JUST FREAKING COLD. The guide made us stand outside as he told us more about the lives of the people in the camp, referencing different things along the way.
There was one statement he said that I couldn't forget. He said, "The prisoners stood out here at times for hours and hours with just their pyjamas on. And in January, the weather gets even colder." What I felt at that point in time was not even 20% of what the prisoners were made to go through.
Standing still out in the cold with pyjamas alone during head count is a torture itself. It was absolutely heartbreaking to imagine what those people had to endure.

Sachsenhausen Concetration CampFaces Sachsenhausen

The concentration camp looked extremely bare, apart from a few barracks that were left behind and preserved after the war. I could almost imagine the entire space being filled with container looking rows of the same shed where the prisoners lived and worked. In the old living quarters that were left behind, we could walk in and take a peak at what would be a prisoner's bunker at that time. It really does reflect some of the scenes in the German Film, The Counterfeiters, that has scenes resembling Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Sachsenhausen BarracksSachsenhausen bunkers Sachsenhausen concentration camp bunksSachsenhausen camp living areasbunk interiors sachsenhausen

Apart from showing the different sights, there is also a museum with artefacts and pictures giving more information to the visitors of the camp. You also get to see a remake of the triple decked beds that were used in the camp.

Hiding ground sachsenhausenDetails of sachsenhausen camp
In the camp, was a mini "site plan" that the guides could use to illustrate the process where by people were brought from one room to another, to be shot, and how they decided to hide the victims face from the guards and only revealing the neck, so as to prevent the guards from being traumatised/feeling the after effects of shooting someone alive. Prisoners were told to line up against the wall as if to measure their height, and at that moment, they'd be shot in the neck, their body disposed and water will run to wash away the blood stains. The prisoners were deluded into thinking they were there for a health check up or something normal, and the next prisoner would always be unaware of what just happened in the room when they stepped in.

Sachsenhausen hanging poles
Another punishment tool used on prisoners to hang them by their limbs if they disobeyed.
Barbed Wire of Sachsenhausen

Since the entire time, the snow was getting heavier and I was not dressed warm enough, I was either shocked and horrified by the stories told, or trying to imagine how prisoners would be living in the winter without sufficiently warm clothes. I couldn't get the image of them standing out in the cold and having to be completely still whilst the head count was going on, especially as the number of prisoners grew larger and larger.

backview stairs sachsenhausen

It all sounds very morbid doesn't it? But I must say the 4 days I spent around Berlin was unlike any other city that I've been to in Europe. The culture and history is so rich, there are so many more day trips to various memorials and concentration camps, that this is nothing but the tip of the iceberg.
It was an extremely educational 4 days, and I'm so so glad to have began my trip there.

It is one of those places that will be remembered for a really long time.
Not having travelled to Europe (before 2014) I was never really well-versed in European history. Especially not about the effects of World War 2 on them. I'm glad they have such memorials and tours to share with other visitors their culture, their past, and allow us to understand and experience history from a different perspective.

Its akin to stepping into a historical book and getting a glimpse of the different events unfold. It was the best 12euros I paid. 12 Euros for a tour like this, i'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Tour information:
SANDERMANs New Berlin Tours
Sachsenhausen Memorial - You get 1 Euros off when you buy it whilst on their free walking tour.
Click HERE for more information

If you're ever in Berlin, and especially if you've never been to a concentration camp, do visit the Sachsenhausen Camp. It's so informative, and you really get to understand and imagine how its like in the past, which is way more valuable than what you learn in books.

Or, if you don't have the opportunity to visit Europe, I hope you enjoyed my pictures and that it managed to bring you on the journey I had. Hopefully the stories allowed you to see a different side of traveling, and that it can also be interesting to go on cultural/historical tours like these when we travel to new places.
Let me know your thoughts down in the comments section below!

*This is NOT a sponsored post

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