The EastSeven Berlin Hostel recommends a visit to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built in the summer of 1936 by concentration camp prisoners from the Emsland camps. It was the first new camp to be established after Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was appointed Chief of the German Police in 1936. The design of the grounds was conceived by the SS architects as the ideal concentration camp setting, giving architectural expression to the SS worldview, and symbolically subjugating the prisoners to the absolute power of the SS. As a model for other camps, and in view of its location just outside the Reich capital, Sachsenhausen acquired a special role in the National Socialist concentration camp system. This was reinforced in 1938 when the Concentration Camp Inspection Office, the administrative headquarters for all concentration camps within the German sphere of influence, was transferred from Berlin to Oranienburg.
More than 200,000 people were imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp between 1936 and 1945. At first the prisoners were mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime. However, increasing numbers of members of groups defined by the National Socialists as racially or biologically inferior were later included. By 1939 large numbers of citizens from the occupied European states arrived. Tens of thousands of people died of starvation, disease, forced labor and mistreatment, or were victims of the systematic extermination operations of the SS. Thousands of other prisoners died during the death marches following the evacuation of the camp at the end of April 1945. Approximately 3,000 sick prisoners, along with the doctors and nurses who had stayed behind in the camp, were liberated by Soviet an Polish soldiers.
In August 1945 the Soviet Special Camp No. 7 was moved to the area of the former protective custody camp. Most of the buildings, with the exception of the crematoria and extermination facilities, were still used for the same purposes. Nazi functionaries were held in the camp, as were political undesirables, arbitrarily arrested prisoners and inmates sentenced by the Soviet military tribunal. By 1948 Sachsenhausen, now upgraded to Special Camp No. 1, was the largest of three special camps in the Soviet Zone of Occupation. By the closing of the camp in the spring of 1950, there had been approximately 60,000 people imprisoned there, at least 12,000 of whom died of malnutrition and disease.
In 1956, after the grounds and barracks had been used for years by the Soviet Army, the People’s Police and the People’s National Army of the G.D.R., plans were prepared for the establishment of the Sachsenhausen National Memorial, which was inaugurated on April 22, 1961. Instead of just choosing to preserve the remaining original structures, the planners decided on a memorial site that would symbolize the “victory of anti-fascism over fascism”. It was incorporated into the few remaining original buildings and later reconstructions of historical buildings.
As a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum has, since January 1993, been part of the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation. This is a public trust, funded equally by the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Brandenburg. The Museum of the Death March, located in Below Forest, near Wittstock, is also administered by the Memorial. In these woods, 18,000 prisoners, who had been taken on forced marches by the SS in the direction of Schwerin, stayed for a number of days in late April and early May of 1945.
The original buildings and remaining structures of the concentration camp are “guarantors of memory.” As soon as the Foundation had been established, extensive rehabilitation and remodelling work began. The inherited state of the memorial is characterised by the thorough transformation of its historical topography into the memorial complex installed in the time of the GDR. The shift of emphasis towards the camp relics from the Nazi period brings with it a re-evaluation of the various historical layers. The implementation of key rehabilitation projects is funded by a federal government special investment programme.
The redesign of Sachsenhausen Memorial is based on a decentralised concept, which aims to communicate history to visitors in very places where it happened. Thirteen exhibitions on different sites examine the particular history of each and link it to a thematic presentation that sets it in a wider context. These are complemented by temporary exhibitions, held in the New Museum. There are also exhibitions by school groups, resulting from educational projects, as well as workshop exhibitions to present new acquisitions from the archives and depot. After completion of the remodelling work, Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum remains a place of mourning and remembrance in a European context, while facing up to the tasks of a modern museum of history.
15 March until 14 October: daily 8:30 – 18.00
15 October until 14 March: daily 8:30 – 16:30
The museums, visitors service and the book shop are all closed on Mondays. Please note that dogs are not allowed on any part of the memorial.
The tours are especially popular with school classes. Prices are €15 for groups of up to 15 people and €25 for groups of up to 30 people. In our opinion groups should not consist of more than 30 people. For tours in foreign languages there is an extra charge of €25 per group. Tours with special themes: €2,50 (reduced €1,50)
How to reach us (From the cente of Berlin)
S-Bahn line S1 (Wansee to Oranienburg) until Oranienburg station. This is the trains last stop and the journey time from Berlin-Friedrichstrasse is 50 minutes. S-Bahn Line S26 (Lichtenrade to Birkenwerde), change in Birkenwerder for the S1. Regional train: RE5 from Berlin-Stadtbahn until Oranienburg station. Journey time from Berlin-Zoologischer Garten is 45 minutes. Regional train RB12 from Berlin-Lichtenberg until Oranienburg station. Journey time 30 minutes.
From Oranienburg train station.
Bus number 804 from the station in the direction of Malz until the Gedenkstätte or follow the sign posts for 20 minutes.