Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

 

Margie Hofman 

 

© Copyright 2012 by Margie Hofman
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Photo of a memorial at Sachsenhausen.


My children and my grandson live in Berlin. Because my daughter works I sometimes go over during school holidays to keep an eye on him – he is 13 and ‘everything is boring’

My son said “I know you are interested in war time history. There is a camp 22 miles north of Berlin. Get away from the city as it is so hot. The train system is good and it is a part of Berlin you have never seen. – Well you can say that again.

I am fascinated with the history of the Second World War and have read many books, but this place I did not know too much about. My son bought us tickets to the station called Oranienburg and that brought a flicker of recognition that I had heard of this town before. Came out of the station and there was a signpost to SACHSENHAUSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP

We caught the bus and passed large houses with beautiful gardens. Got to the old camp and passed through the main gates, The information centre described the set up of this vast came with huge SS buildings and accommodation before entering the camp proper.

It did not start out as a death camp but a camp for political dissidents those who opposed Hitler and priests who were brave enough to stand in front of their congregations and denounce this terrible evil. Martin Niemoller was one brave man. Also rounded up were trade unionists and communist leaders, politicians who questioned the way politics were taking a turn, none of them survived.

Sachsenhausen, unlike Auschwitz was not a death camp where people went in and were killed the same day. There were no children in Sachsenhausen, mainly men. Russian prisoners of war who were shot in their thousands. Brave English commandos who were caught including John Godwin of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who somehow managed to shoot dead the commander of his execution party. Hitler had given an order that all commandos captured were to be shot.

Memorials are all around the grounds. One plaque is for 100 Dutch resistance members and another for French miners. The ,prison cells are still as they are and people throw flowers in them. The prison cells of the British have Union Jacks on the wall and some visitors have thrown in English coins with the Queen’s head upwards.

Apart from detaining important prisoners, hundreds of Germans were brought here. Sachsenhausen was a place of torment. Called out in the morning on the huge parade ground, some, during the winter, dropped down and died as they were kept there for hours while they were being counted. Some prisoners were made to test army boots and made to walk a circuit of some 15 to 20 miles a day – all this with very little food.

One uplifting thought of this terrible place is the amount of young Germans who visit and see this haunting memory of their history and also youngsters from all over Europe.

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