Recommended as private guide in
Rick Steves' 'snapshot Berlin':
" enthusiastic historian who grew up behind the Wall..."

before and after


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp



In 1936—during the Olympic Games—prisoners of a camp north of Berlin started building a bigger camp. It ultimately became the model for many more concentration camps to come. Because of its location close to Berlin, it became a place where people were sent who resisted the Nazi government, and where they were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. Here many Jews were transported after the pogrom called Reichkristallnacht (Crystal Night).

The place may still be seen in its original ground plan. A few barracks are left too, along with station Z, where more than 10,000 Soviet POWs were murdered. This is a place that you should not see simply because you are looking for entertainment value. This is a touching place. I believe that everybody must see this camp.

The little camp

Although Sachsenhausen was mainly a camp for political prisoners, Jewish citizens were imprisoned...
here too. Especially after the pogrom night of November 9, 1938, many of them were brought to Sachsenhausen. For these people, a special, so-called little camp was attached to the existing ground plan. There are still two barracks that you can visit today, and they convey an impression of what life was like here.

Shoe testing track

Just a few years ago, historians found out about the very active role of the shoe industry in
Sachsenhausen. World-famous companies like Salamander used the inmates of the camp as subjects for testing new materials that they were developing for shoes, not just military boots but mainly civilian shoes. Still visible today is a track on which the inmates were supposed to walk and run the whole day while the SS beat them.


The prison

There would seem to be no reason to have a prison inside a concentration camp since the camp itself is nothing but...
a big prison. The SS, though, wanted to hide prominent prisoners or lock away inside an extra prison those people who were accused of being not obedient enough. Surrounded by an extra wall and shaped like a huge “T,” it witnessed the torture of many. Today, one wing is still standing, and each cell tells a story.


Soviet special camp

After 1945, the camp was not destroyed. The People’s Office for Interior (NKWD; Soviet Secret Service) used this place...
to detain former Nazis as well as many people who opposed the new regime in East Germany. Comparisons between the Nazis and the Communists seem to be obvious—you’d better be careful, though! Even though the death rates can be compared, the wickedness of each of the two versions of Camp Sachsenhausen was unique. The memorial site today shows how the Communists recalled the past. They had a rather selective way of doing so. It is fascinating to see how politics shape the way a society looks at its history....


Station Z

The name of this place is very cynical. The SS shot thousands of Soviet POWs here, so they named it with the last letter of...
the alphabet. The crematories are still here and also the foundations of the buildings. While the camp in general was a labor camp, the sole purpose of Station Z was to kill as many people as possible.


Few of the ways inmates who died in the camp required any investigation into the cause of their death. Still, the SS...
followed German law when they went so far as to build an extra mortuary at which they pretended to clarify the cause of death. The tiles are still on the walls, and the building is well preserved.



For many inmates, the infirmary was a safe harbor. Before they broke down physically in...
the camp, they might go there to rest for a few hours. The SS raided the place frequently. Part of the infirmary was also the place where Nazi doctors did all types of medical testing and experiments. There is an exhibition that gives detailed information about these atrocities. I tend to say nothing when I bring visitors here.


Tower A

Every new prisoner entered the camp for the first time through Tower A. Therefore, the gate of...
the tower symbolizes the border between two worlds and is a vivid place in the memories of many former inmates. Also, from the top of the tower, guards could control the whole camp with a heavy machine gun. Tower A symbolizes the beginning of the Jews’ and other prisoners’ suffering as well as the Nazi regime’s total control.

  Friedrichgold4 © Bernhard