Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Oranienburg, Germany

Sachsenhausen was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950. The remaining buildings and grounds are now open to the public as a museum.

The SS established the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as the principal concentration camp for the Berlin area. Located near Oranienburg, north of Berlin, the Sachsenhausen camp opened on July 12, 1936, when the SS transferred 50 prisoners from the Esterwegen concentration camp to begin construction of the camp.

In the early stage of the camp"s existence the SS and police incarcerated mainly political opponents and real or perceived criminal offenders in Sachsenhausen. By the end of 1936, the camp held 1,600 prisoners. Between 1936 and 1945, however, Sachsenhausen also held Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah"s Witnesses, 'asocials', and, later, Soviet civilians. Prominent figures interned in Sachsenhausen included Pastor Martin Niemöller, former Austrian chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, Georg Elser, Herschel Grynszpan, and Joseph Stalin"s son, Iakov Dzhugashvili.

The number of Jewish prisoners in Sachsenhausen varied over the course of the camp"s existence, but ranged from 21 at the beginning of 1937 to 11,100 at the beginning of 1945. During the nationwide Kristallnacht ('Night of Broken Glass') pogrom of November 1938, Reichsführer SS (SS chief) and Chief of German Police Heinrich Himmler ordered the arrest of up to 30,000 Jews. The SS transported those arrested to Sachsenhausen, Dachau, and Buchenwald concentration camps. Almost 6,000 Jews arrived in Sachsenhausen in the days following the Kristallnacht riots.

In the following months, the number of Jews at Sachsenhausen steadily decreased, as SS authorities released Jewish prisoners, often in exchange for a stated intent to emigrate. By the end of 1938, Sachsenhausen held 1,345 Jews.

There was another marked increase in the number of Jewish prisoners when, in mid-September 1939, shortly after World War II began, German authorities arrested Jews holding Polish citizenship and stateless Jews, most of whom were living in the greater Berlin area, and incarcerated them in Sachsenhausen. Thereafter, the number of Jewish prisoners decreased again, as SS authorities deported them from Sachsenhausen to other concentration camps in occupied Poland, most often Auschwitz, in an effort to make the so-called German Reich 'free of Jews' (judenfrei).

By autumn of 1942 there were few Jewish prisoners still in Sachsenhausen, and their numbers remained low until 1944. In the spring of 1944, SS authorities began to bring thousands of Hungarian and Polish Jews from ghettos and other concentration camps to Sachsenhausen as the need for forced laborers in Sachsenhausen and its subcamps increased. Many of these new Jewish prisoners were women. By the beginning of 1945 the number of Jewish prisoners had risen to 11,100.

Following anti-German demonstrations in Prague in November 1939, German authorities incarcerated some 1,200 Czech university students in Sachsenhausen. In total, German authorities deported over 6,000 people from the annexed Czech provinces to Sachsenhausen.

German forces in Poland shot or deported to concentration camps thousands of Poles, especially teachers, priests, government officials, and other national and community leaders, in an attempt to eliminate the Polish educated elite and thereby prevent organized resistance to German rule in Poland. The German authorities sent some of these Poles to Sachsenhausen. On May 3, 1940, for example, 1,200 Polish prisoners arrived in Sachsenhausen from the Pawiak prison in Warsaw. The prisoners included many juveniles, Catholic priests, army officers, professors, teachers, doctors, and minor government officials.

The first group of Soviet prisoners of war arrived in Sachsenhausen at the end of August 1941. By the end of October 1941, the SS had deported about 12,000 Soviet prisoners of war to Sachsenhausen. Camp authorities shot thousands of the Soviet POWs shortly after they arrived in the camp. Estimates of Soviet POWs killed at Sachsenhausen range from 11,000-18,000.

In August 1945 the Soviet Special Camp No. 7 was moved to the area of the former concentration camp. Nazi functionaries were held in the camp, as were political prisoners and inmates sentenced by Soviet Military Tribunals. By 1948, Sachsenhausen, now renamed 'Special Camp No. 1', was the largest of three special camps in the Soviet Occupation Zone. The 60,000 people interned over five years included 6,000 German officers transferred from Western Allied camps. Others were Nazi functionaries, anti-Communists and Russians, including Nazi collaborators.

One of the camp"s commandants was Roman Rudenko, the Soviet Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. By the time the camp was closed in the spring of 1950, at least 12,000 had died of malnutrition and disease. By the time the camp was closed in the spring of 1950, at least 12,000 had died of malnutrition and disease. With the fall of the communist East Germany it was possible to do excavations in the former camps. At Sachsenhausen, the bodies of 12,500 victims were found, most were children, adolescents and elderly people.

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Founded: 1936
Category:
Historical period: Nazi Germany (Germany)

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Arun Natessan (2 years ago)
A humbling experience. A must visit place of one is in town. An entire day is required if one wishes to cover the entire place, without hurrying. It'd take one 4 - 5 hours. The place is extensive and be prepared to walk quite a bit. There is a small cafe but serves a very limited menu.
Antonio Tavares (2 years ago)
If you are in Berlin, I highly recommend visiting. It's a short train ride away, I went with an Aussie Sandeman tour guide and she was great. It was really worth it. It's not got many of the original buildings in it, but the feeling that it gives you is something that hopefully enriches you.
Alindwa Ongoya (2 years ago)
NOT for the fainthearted. Was quite emotional for me given I'm black. It's great for historians and those interested in anything to do with history. Quite touching.... Properly going through the place will take at least 2 hours, so wear comfy shoes and in Winter, dress warmly. Buses operate on weekdays every half hour or so, but it's a walking distance from the main station in Oranienburg.
Stephen Fraser (2 years ago)
A horrible but worthwhile place to visit. We drove from Berlin and it took us ~40 minutes from the city centre. There is plenty of parking. We didn't use the audio tour and I don't think it is necessary, there is plenty of information presented in English and German in each of the important sites
Jack Cummins (3 years ago)
This place truly shook me as a human being. The effort that has been taken to preserve the memory of the people who passed through here and the things which were done to them has been done with the utmost care. It's a short train ride out of central Berlin but worth the effort. If you follow Google maps to the entrance on foot it will direct you to pass through the police university. Don't do that. They don't like it.
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