Some destinations leave you with more to think about than others. Our excursion to the Holocaust Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen was one of the most moving tours I have experienced in the recent past.
It’s Sunday and we planned to visit the Holocaust Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg. It’s drizzling; somehow we find that very fitting for the occasion.
We picked up a map of the complex for 0.50€ in the visitor centre. Entry is free and we didn’t want to join one of the guided tours.
We started walking down a footpath that used to be the main road through and around the concentration camp. This is the exact path the inmates would have walked down upon arrival. Info panels were placed along the footpath that runs along the exterior walls of the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen. Those are well worth a read.
Visitors enter the former concentration camp through the gate in “Tower A”.
What you see next could at first glance pass as a generous open space with only s few buildings dotted around. A closer look, however, reveals massive gravel patches with coloured borders. Each of those coloured gravel patches stands for a former building, specifically a barrack for the inmates. If one now thinks that there were buildings on all the gravel patches the available space immediately looks far less spacious and open. Especially come to think of how many people were forced into each barrack. As an example of what they looked like visitors can step inside the sleeping quarters in one of the remaining barracks.
Right next to the sickbay, which now houses the exhibition, was the pathology barrack and morgue. A suffocating space that still holds a lot of its terror, impactfully visualised on info panels in the room. Visitors can view the pathologist’s workstations and the morgue.
I was just as uncomfortable as we stepped through a gate in the outer wall leading past mass graves to a trench where death squads would execute inmates. Right next to that is a memorial for the victims of the concentration camp; the uncomfortable feeling remained. This is the central memorial of the complex and it lies next to the old foundation of the crematorium and the extermination barracks which can also be viewed and are further explained on info panels.
We continued further along the wall. Watchtowers were placed along the wall and near one of them, Tower E which can also be viewed, visitors can cross into a different section of the complex. This is the area that held the Soviet special camp and its respective barracks.
Between 1945 and 1950 the Soviet secret service imprisoned around 6000 people here. A museum explains the history of this camp and the fate of the inmates.
The remains and visualisations of the concentration camp that is now the Holocaust Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen gave us plenty to reflect on. We took many pictures, did research afterwards and had conversations about what we experienced on site. Many of the pictures do reflect the horror of the camp but I don’t think this blog post is the right space for them.
I recommend making this experience for oneself and in person.
We viewed this as the chance to combine our old schoolbook knowledge with actual visuals and we are grateful that we got to subject ourselves to this learning experience as adults and not just because we had to as kids in school.
Straße der Nationen 22,
15th of March to 14th of October
daily 08.30 – 18.00
15th of October to 14th of March
daily 08.30 – 16.30
The museums are closed on Mondays during the winter months. The outdoor exhibition “Murder and mass murder in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp”, the “Station Z” memorial, as well as the visitor centre, are open.