Monday, 23 January 2017

A Mini Trip to Berlin - Part Two; Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp; Arbeit Macht Frei
When we first decided to go to Berlin, the original idea was so that Chris could go to a whole variety of different Christmas markets. Unfortunately for him, they don't actually hold my attention for all that long, and as we were both interested in the historical side of things we decided to take a trip to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, just a short train journey away from the city centre.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp; Educational information
 Until we started planning our trip, Sachsenhausen wasn't a camp that I had heard of before. I was therefore surprised to hear about what an important camp it had been to the Nazis, and indeed, what an absolutely massive complex it was.

  It was the first time either of us had visited a concentration camp, and we weren't really sure what to expect. We used the services of a guide whilst there, who told us interesting stories about events that had occurred throughout and about some of the famous people who had stayed there.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp entrance

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp barbed wire fence
 The wires that kept the prisoners inside - although really, the chances of anyone actually getting to those fences was unlikely, due to the fact that the moment you stepped onto the darker patch you would be shot by someone within a guard tower.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp cabin
 Some of the structures contained original pieces from the camps, allowing you an insight into how it would have been to live there. These were the parts that were particularly interesting to me, as seeing something in person is always much more poignant than seeing it in photos. Additionally, some of the structures acted as museums which seemed very well laid out and interesting - we unfortunately did not have enough time to fully look through everything, but if you had planned more of a day here then they definitely seemed worth a read.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp bathroom
 The toilets that would have been used by the prisoners.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp bed

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp wall and guard tower

 I do not think I can mention enough how absolutely freezing this place was. It was awful. I was wearing thermals, multiple layers, the hood from my jumper, a wooly hat and the hood from my coat over the top of that and I was still frozen solid - towards the end it was really pushing it for us and as interested as we were we wanted to just go and sit in a boiling hot bath until we felt human again! Despite how unpleasant it was, we concluded that we wouldn't really want to visit the camp under any other circumstances - I had heard from people who had visited Auschwitz on pleasant days that they felt uncomfortable with the experience as it didn't feel to them like a place with such an awful history should still have sunny days, blooming flowers and singing birds. It also made the experience much more real for us - if we were that cold with so many layers on and the ability to eat as much food as we wanted, how horrendous must it have been for the prisoners?

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp torture poles
 Three posts that had been used for torture purposes. It was described to us how a prisoner would have their hands handcuffed behind their back and then be hung from these posts, which is just such a horrible image that I still cringe thinking about it.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp guard tower

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
 In all cases, these pebbled blocks represent where a building once stood.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp kitchen building

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp kitchen
 The inside of what would once have been the kitchen.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp kitchen

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp victims

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Station Z
 Of course, the most infamous area of the camp - Station Z, a small gas chamber and an execution room. The idea when entering this area was that the prisoners would have absolutely no idea what was going to happen to them, and that they would be under the impression that they were in the station in order to have a medical examination. Prisoners would enter part of the area and strip, before going into a doctor's room where they would be examined with notes made if they had any gold teeth or fillings. They would then enter a different room and stand against a measuring rod as if to have their height recorded - however, the room next to this one contained an SS officer who would take this opportunity to shoot the prisoner in the neck through a hole in the wall.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp execution room

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp memorial
 A memorial to those that died in the camp.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp medical room
The final area we looked at was a medical ward - more famously known for it's human experimentation. This is one of the rooms that I really regretted not being able to spend more time in. It was our last stop so we were in a bit of a rush, but this is actually the part that I'd be the most interested in. Experiments undertaken on the prisoners included castrations, sterilisations, and injecting the prisoner with various infections and chemicals.

Overall, we both found the trip extremely interesting. And, though it sounds terrible to say it, we both considered the tour to be the highlight of our trip as we learned so much there. If you're in Berlin and would like to take a visit there I really do recommend it, especially if you go with a guide - entrance is free, and it's just a short train journey away from the city centre.
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