Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp/Gedänkstätte/Memorial

disclaimer: this post was actually written at the beginning of the year in a notebook that I recently found, so has some “extras” about flat searching and meeting new friends in Berlin which was very much part of being new here and my beginnings. I’m not sure the end bit is particularly relevant to Sachsenhausen but I’ve italicised the parts about the museum if that’s what you came for! 🙂

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An unfittingly beautiful sunny day. Standing in front of the monument in the centre of the vast former concentration camp.
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Jewish survivor portraits projected on a screen in memorial

Today I went with Thomas’s family to the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp way up in Oranienburg, just outside of Berlin, which is now a Memorial and Museum. We collected audioguides which I optimistically requested to be in German… far too fast for me to take anything in I quickly switched! Sorry

It was a fantastic although harrowing tour of what was the biggest concentration camp of the Third Reich, and had so many personal stories from survivors whose photographs were projected on screens inside the barracks. As we went through the front entrance gates it felt unreal to look at the infamous words “Arbeit Macht Frei (work is freedom) in amongst the bars. What struck me the most when going in was the sheer size of it. It was hard to envision the people going for roll call and living and working under the terrible conditions described by the guide. I learned that about 200,000 people were admitted to Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945. There was also heavy security to ensure minimal escape from prisoners, within the walls were guards and dogs and a border of electric fence and a gravel “death strip”.

The museum was particularly interesting as I’d just read “Maus” by Art Spiegelmann, which is a brilliant and moving book about life in the concentration camps. He often runs into complications trying to represent such a horrific event, so attempts to do so with a comic strip, representing Nazis as cats and Jews as mice. Sachsenhausen was one of the camps in the comic and I believe it gave me a good imaginative memory which I think can really help when looking at abstract places and memorials in general.

An excerpt from Art Spiegelmann’s “Maus”. Read it if you get the chance. It’s stunning and you will cry.

Afterwards we stopped for a kebab shop (which are everywhere by the way) and I got yet another currywurst… I know. We got the train and went for ice cream in Kreuzberg and I went back to the pub to recover my lost phone… phones and I do not mix well together. I then hopped off to Neukölln to search for more flats. I sat in a little internet cafe and spent a solid 2 hours applying for flats and was called for a viewing! An awkward moment then ensued when another girl came in who looked almost exactly the same as me (nose piercing, black clothes, long hair!) but we became friends on the train home! She told me she was from Melbourne and we chatted for a while about Tim Minchin and British comedy and our shared love of QI and Peep Show. I love Berlin in moments like this! It was a long journey back as usual but I was beginning to get used to the BVG (German transport system).

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In memory of all who opposed Hitler and his regime
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