Why visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Experience first hand the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp and Soviet gulag in one location. Sachsenhausen museum offers a glimpse of what life was like in both these camps as well as describes their chilling history on the spots where it happened. As you wander between the original buildings and touching memorials, you will learn the story of the camp, about its famous inhabitants and the fate of its 260,000 prisoners. Easily accessible by train from Berlin, Sachsenhausen gives an indepth insight into political persecution and stands as a reminder of Germany’s darker days.

An important thing to do when you are in Berlin. A train journey and then 15 minute walk gets you there easily. The museum is free but I wasn't able to get an audio tour guide as they wouldn't give me one without leaving credit card. Very thought provoking and worth a visit.

Jeffery C, 11 Oct 2012, Australia
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Free tour

Sachsenhausen Memorial Tour

A chilling look into life as a prisoners under the Nazi’s and under the Soviets, this ex concentration camp is haunted by political ghosts. The expert guides who run this half day tour will take you back to experience Germany’s dark past.


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp history

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp under the Nazi’s

While the Nazi’s hosted the Olympic Games in 1936, construction began on a new camp with the possibility of war in mind. Opened in Oranienburg just outside Berlin in 1938, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was used primarily for political prisoners and Soviet POWs. Its location lent the camp a critical role, being the administrative hub for all Nazi concentration camps and the training center for SS officers, including the infamous Rudolf Höß, who became the camp commandant of Aus...

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Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp under the Nazi’s

While the Nazi’s hosted the Olympic Games in 1936, construction began on a new camp with the possibility of war in mind. Opened in Oranienburg just outside Berlin in 1938, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was used primarily for political prisoners and Soviet POWs. Its location lent the camp a critical role, being the administrative hub for all Nazi concentration camps and the training center for SS officers, including the infamous Rudolf Höß, who became the camp commandant of Auschwitz.

There was a great need for prisoner labourers in the nearby brickworks to execute Hitler’s plan for World Capital Germania, for aircraft manufacturer Heinkel and for the largest counterfeiting operation in history. Over one billion pounds worth of banknotes were forged at Sachsenhausen camp for the scheme to undermine the Allies economies. While the planned drop of the notes over London by plane was never achieved, some of the currency did make it into circulation in 1943 although very few were found.

The prisoners usefulness meant that while many died at Sachsenhausen, it was not intended as an extermination camp. Those marked for murder, the vast majority being Jewish, were sent to camps in the East. However, this did not prevent 12,000 Soviet prisoners being shot in 1941, followed by the construction of a small gas chamber and crematorium at Station Z in 1943 (a joke as the entrance to the camp was through Building A and Station Z the exit).

Special Prison Barracks

Sachsenhausen camp included a special prison barracks with isolation cells and interrogation facilities for difficult cases. One such inmate was Pastor Martin Niemöller, who famously stated “First they came...” in regards to the inactivity of German citizens during the purging of Nazi target groups. Another internee of note was Stalin’s oldest son Yakov, who was shot by a guard for refusing to obey orders.

The other special barracks was the infirmary, where medical experiments and vivisection (dissection of live victims) were carried out. At one point, Dr Werner Fischer conducted experiment to try prove Gypsy and Jewish blood with different from Aryan blood.

The Approach of the Red Army

With the Red Army advancing, Sachsenhausen was evacuated on the 20th April 1945. A death march was ordered northeast for 33,000 inmates, over 6000 of whom did not survive. The camps remaining 3,000 inmates were liberated 2 days afterwards by the Soviet Army. Of the 200,000 people who passed through the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp gates, it is estimated only half survived.

Soviet Special Camp No. 7 at Sachsenhausen

Sachsenhausen concentration camp fell under Soviet control and became “Special Camp No. 7” in August 1945. Ironically, Nazi officers and functionaries were now its inhabitants, along with anti-communists and political prisoners. Renamed “Special Camp No. 1” in 1948, Sachsenhausen was largest of the three Special Camps, with 60,000 inmates over 5 year. When the camp were handed over the the GDR in 1950 and closed, over 12,500 victims had died of hunger and disease.

Sachsenhausen Museum and Memorial

Sachsenhausen was inaugurated by the GDR in 1961 as a national memorial to the atrocities committed by the Nazi. Many of the original building were removed and monuments constructed heavily focussing on the political prisoners who suffered inside its walls, symbolising the victory over fascism. After German reunification, Sachsenhausen museum was opened on the site, featuring artworks created by inmates and other artifacts illustration camp life. Following the discovery of the Soviet mass graves in 1990, the Sachsenhausen memorial was expanded again with a new museum to document the camps Soviet era history.

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Opening hours

Daily 8:30 - 16:30

Time to visit

6 hours

Transport

S1, RE5, RB12 to Oranienburg

Address

Straße der Nationen 22, 16515 Oranienburg, Germany