Backpacking Europe-Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

October 26, 2015

Sachsenhausen concentration camp is located just outside Berlin and offers a 6 hour guided tour.  The camp was built by slave laborers in 1936 and became the model for all other camps during World War II.  They used this site to train guards for positions at other camps so it was referred to as a ‘school of brutality’.  It wasn’t originally intended to be a death camp, but rather a workers camp.  However, the installation of a gas chamber and shooting yard and crematorium changed this in 1942.  By the end of the war over 50,000 people had died there.  Sachsenhausen continued to be used by the Communist occupiers from 1945 to 1950 who secretly used the camp to detain political enemies.  Thousands more perished during this time.

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that in my Amsterdam post, I talked about the importance of visiting historical sites such as these, even though it’s emotional devastating.  It’s important that we remember the worst times of our world’s history.  With that said, this post has specifics about the camp and the lives that were lost there.  It should not be easy to read.

Map of the camp layout:

Map of layout_2167563870096713974



Clock that is stopped at the time of liberation:

Clock-stopped at time of Liberation_2745268340096713974

Original barrack where soldiers had dances and nice dinners.  They were served by the inmates at the camp:

Original Soldiers Barrack_2826926240096713974

The grounds where the barracks used to be.  They were torn down by the Soviets:

Ground where Barracks used to be_2622048240096713974

The barbed wire fences.  This was called the ‘death zone’ because it was impossible to escape, those who tried would always be killed:

Barbed Wire Fences-Death Zone_2735958760096713974

Original barracks, this was an extra zone for the Jews because they had to expand because there wasn’t enough room in the original camp:

Original Barracks_2508179530096713974


The places where barracks used to be are now marked by stone:

Stone Markings where barracks used to be_2788166720096713974

Inside original barracks; the washroom and toilets:

Inside Original Barracks-Toilets_2385211940096713974      Inside Origianl Barracks-Washroom_2976151010096713974

A ‘generous’ replica: they didn’t really have bunks in these specific barracks because there were too many people.  They were forced to lie on top of each other on the floor:

Gernous Replica-didn't really have bunks_2361644800096713974

Remnants of items found when liberated:

Remnants of items found when liberated_2381175240096713974

Monument created by the Soviets.  The red triangle represents the communists.  Originally this monument was only for communist victims:

Monument created by Soviets_2383474580096713974

Foundations of the cells:

Foundations of the cells_2520041050096713974

Original building:

Original building_2736636850096713974

Stakes to hang people-they cuffed their hands behind their back and hung them from their wrists which would dislocate their shoulders:

Stakes to hang people_2800990400096713974

A cell:


Solitary confinement-would drop prisoners in a well-type hole for weeks at a time as punishment:

Solitary Confinement_2328091900096713974

Track where prisoners were forced to try out boots for soldiers.  They had to run 8 km (~5 miles) at the beginning until they decided it wasn’t enough so they were forced to run 24 km (~15 miles) in each pair of new boots to see how well they were made:


Walls of photos/bios:

Wall of photos-bios_2780440870096713974      Walls of photos-bios_2138208900096713974

Shooting area:

Shooting Area_2514490270096713974      Shooting Area_2337032410096713974

Mound where bodies were found during liberation.  It’s now a memorial where visitors place rocks for those that lost their lives:

Mound where bodies were found during liberation-Memorial_2819118330096713974

Memorial of Liberation:

Sachsenhausen_2525536950096713974      Memorial of Liberation_2388868100096713974

Gas chamber foundations-they also used to kill people by having them sit in a chair for a ‘medical exam’ and then would shoot them in the back of the head:

Sachsenhausen_2246556930096713974      Gas Chamber_2342296590096713974

Original furnace to burn bodies:

Original Furnace to burn bodies_2759006490096713974



Original building for autopsies.  People weren’t trained to do the autopsy.  They only made a few incisions and then stitched them:

Original Autopsy Building_2927795360096713974

Original autopsy tables:

Original Autopsy Tables_2929723240096713974

Memorial: at the end of the war there were 36,000 people in this camp.  6,000 were left in the camp too weak to leave, while the other 30,000 were forced to march to ships so that they could be drowned.  This memorial is for those who died either along the way or during liberation – 3,000 in total.  Many died from their first meal because their bodied couldn’t handle the food:


This was my first experience at a Concentration Camp.  Standing in the ‘death zone’, seeing the track and the stakes that were used to hang people are things that I will never forget.  It’s so hard to imagine people living in those circumstances.  The idea of being trapped against your will and wanting so desperately to get free that you would try almost anything, including an impossible escape: it makes me very grateful for everything that I have and the life that I’ve been able to live.

After my time at Sachsenhausen, I decided to change my travel plans.  Getting to Greece was turning out to be an issue with transportation and time (I had to get back to the United States 6 weeks before my job started so that I could get my visa and get back to Spain. (I will do another post on the amazing process of moving overseas later.)  Being at the workers camp made me realize that I really wanted to visit a death camp while I was in Europe, so I decided to cut Greece from my itinerary and make a stop in Munich later in my trip so that I could also visit Dachau.

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