Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Berlin Travel Blog

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Today was spent mostly at the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp about 45 minutes north of Berlin in a town called Oranienburg.  It was one of the first concentration camps for the Nazis and Himmler called it a model camp, one that others would later be based on.  It was not an extermination camp until into the 1940s, but that certainly didn't mean a good number of people didn't die there.  Oops, double negatives!  My bad... 

Honestly, I think I was expecting something more.  More awful.  Something more like an Aushewietz or Belsen or Dachau, like as one sees in documentaries.  But I honestly think most were more like this...still extremely awful, but not as huge.  I only took one photo as I thought most of the people taking photos were douchebags and acting more like photographers than respectful mourners.  We spent about 6 hours there and were very hungry, which was the reason why we ended up having to leave.  One of the more horrible things that I found out there had very little to do with the camp itself.  In 1992, the Prime Minister of Isreal was invited to see the new memorial of the Jewish Barracks at the Camp.  The next day a group of neo-Nazis burnt the barracks to the ground.  The people of Berlin rallied around this and about 60,000 went to Oranienburg to protest against the far far-right wing and the Neo-Nazis.  The memorial now cases a charred wall from this attack to remind people that the same way of thinking that caused WWII in the first place still exists today.  There was another smaller attack in the early 2000s (I think it was 2003) and there was hardly a murmmer heard in protest against it.  The thought is that random incidents from Neo-Nazis are becoming more common and the realities of WWII are becoming more removed that people are no longer moved to protest.  This is obviously a bad thing.  Something to think about anyway...

I really liked an exhibit  they had on a Protestant Pastor who was the other person comdemned to the Concentration camps personally by Hitler. He was at Sachsenhausen.  No one knew how to treat him as no one had ever been sent directly as an order from Hitler.  They did not beat him unless directly ordered, but he was in solitary confinement for some 5 years with little contact with anyone else.  His story was amazing.  The SS tried to secretly convert him to Catholocism so to ruin his reputation as a martyr of sorts for the Protestant people.  It almost worked, but didn't.  I dunno... I thought the story of his life was amazing.  He survived the war, but did not feel triumphant.  He is the one who was quoted to say, "They came for the Communists, but I said nothing for I was not a Communist.  They then came for the Social Democrats, but I said nothing for I was not a Social Democrat.  Then they came for the unionizers, but I said nothing for I was not a unionizer.  They then came for me and there was no one left to speak up for me."

The whole experience was very moving, but (gladly?) not as heartwrenchingly depressing as I feared it would be.  We didn't do much else.  We're thinking of going out tonight to celebrate our last night in Berlin, but I wouldn't be surprised if we just wet the bed and go to sleep early.  We did get a moving van though....for 1250 dollars.  ARGH!  Tomorrow we will be in Rotterdam, The Netherlands... I hope it treats us well.  :)
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photo by: CFD