What can Sachsenhausen teach us about the past, and how effective is the site as a source?
I didn't think it would be right to leave Germany without visiting a concentration camp. Luckily during the Berlin culture and language trip, we were able to do so. On my second day in Berlin, we boarded a coach to go to Sachsenhausen. You can also take the S-Barn from to Oranienburg, and from there, it is a 20-minute walk to the former camp. Similar to the past few days in Germany, it was a dreary and cold day and the weather set the tone before I even made my way past the concrete barrier that acted as an entry to Sachsenhausen.
We were told the tour could take 2-3 hours, and it wasn't hard to see why. However, it only lasted about an hour.
Here is a background on Sachsenhausen:
It was built in 1936
More than 200,000 people were imprisoned here by the Nazis
Depending on which report you read, between 30,000 and 50,000 people died or were killed here
Sachsenhausen became a model for other concentration camps and the administrative center for all German concentration camps
Sachsenhausen was a work camp, not a death camp- it was initially home to political opponents, unlike Auschwitz which practiced racial genocide (later Sachsenhausen would also include 'inferior' groups such as Jews, homosexuals, and religious leaders).
The camp was secure and there were few successful escapes. The perimeter consisted of a 3-metre-high (9.8 ft) stone wall on the outside. Within that there was a space that was patrolled by guards and dogs; it was bordered on the inside by a lethal electric fence; inside that was gravel "death strip" forbidden to the prisoners. The guards without warning would shoot any prisoner...