About Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (KZ-Sachsenhausen) was used by the Nazis between 1936 and 1945.
History of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Sachsenhausen was originally founded as a prototype concentration camp in 1936: despite this being pre-war, it was still built by prisoners. Its prime location near Berlin ensured that Sachsenhausen was an important camp and it served as a template for other concentration camps. Estimates put the number of Sachsenhausen casualties at between 30,000 and 35,000, many of whom were shot, hung or exterminated in a specially built room in its infirmary. Around 200,000 prisoners are thought to have passed through Sachsenhausen in its 9 year life span.
The camp’s primary function was for the imprisonment and execution – or extermination – of Jews and political dissidents, including many Dutch freedom fighters, Russian prisoners of war and even some political leaders from invaded countries. Conditions in this concentration camp, as in others, were terrible, with many prisoners dying of starvation or disease.
Sachsenhausen was infamous for being the site where the Nazis tried and ‘perfected’ their killing technique.
Those who enter Sachsenhausen can still see the chilling words “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work will set you free” emblazoned on its iron gates. Much of Sachsenhausen was destroyed during and after its liberation by Soviet and Polish troops on 22 April 1945. Over 10,000 Soviet POWS were executed at Sachsenhausen, adding an extra degree of emotional resonance to the site.
The camp was rebuilt and used by the Soviets as a concentration camp briefly before being turned into barracks and later a memorial and museum.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp today
The reconstructed Sachsenhausen draws many visitors: it’s an easy day trip from Berlin. You’ll gain a detailed insight into life at Sachsenhausen and see, amongst other things, the crematory ovens, the surviving buildings, pictures, documents and scale models of the camp. There’s particular detail on some of the horrifying medical experiments. Look out for the display boards talking about some of Sachsenhausen’s more famous political prisoners.
There’s a lot of material to read and the camp itself is large – expect to spend at least half a day there. Audio guides are available too. The museum aspects are closed on Mondays in the winter, so avoid visiting then.
There’s very little by way of amenities at the camp itself, but plenty of cafes and shops in Orianenburg itself.
Getting to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Sachsenhausen is about 30km out of Berlin – expect the journey to take an hour or so in total. The S1 runs three times an hour from central Berlin stations to Oranienburg (45 minutes) or the regional RE5/RB12 services run from Hauptbahnhof (30 minutes). From Oranienburg station, it’s about a 2km walk to the camp through town.
If you’re driving, head up the A10/A114/L21/L211 – the drive takes just under an hour. On street parking can be found in the streets surrounding Sachsenhausen.