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German Exchange: Sachsenhausen

A few weeks ago, I shared one of the best visits I made while on my German exchange – the Reichstag. Today I am sharing another one of those important days that taught me so much.

The visit of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

It was a visit organised by our programme – so one afternoon after school, we met up with one of our chaperon from Quebec and headed to the camp. It is very accessible since it is in a direct line from the central station of Friedrichstrasse.

HISTORY

The camp was originally set in Oranienburg in 1933 before being resettled in Sachsenhausen in 1936, where it stayed open until the end of the war in 1945. More than 200,000 people were imprisoned there during WWII. It was never meant as an extermination camp – as it was so close to the capital – but tens of thousands died of exhaustion, disease, malnutrition, as well as executions. However, halfway through the war thousands were transferred to Auschwitz.

It was established as a memorial in the 1960s and the memorial and museum was opened in the early 1990s.

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I won’t say much more about this visit, except that visiting a concentration camp is very touching and almost gruesome. However, I think it was interesting that they scheduled this visit during our stay in Berlin because it is eye-opening and really makes you realise the mistakes of the past that must never happen again.

Ever visited a camp? What did you think?xx

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  • Sachsenhausen was the first concentration camp I visited. It’s really sad to think that humans can do that to other humans…

    • I completely agree – it’s just insane when you visit one and you realise how true and how disgusting the world can be.

  • Wow even the pictures are harrowing and moving. I’ve never been to a camp but I think it’s important that people visit and not forget. I went to Anne Franks house and had some strong reactions. I think it brings us back to what has happened, what can happen and hopefully, inspires us to be better human beings.

    • I thought I would let the photos speak for themselves – they show a lot by themselves. It is crazy to think that this all happened. Oh yes, I visited Anne Frank’s house and it was a weird experience as well.

  • Is that the house used in the movie, The Boy In The Stripes Pajamas? Going to a concentration camp can for sure be a moving experience. I read that book with one of my students years ago, and then she asked me if we could both watch the movie over the weekend and talk about it on Monday. I cried the entire movie. I can not imagine going there and actually seeing everything. Moving experience I am sure.

    • Oh I actually do not know if it is – very interesting point! I never even thought of it! I can only imagine about watching that movie! The experience of going to a concentration camp hits you in a different way since there is nothing happening in front of you, and yet it’s harrowing to know you’re on these grounds and between walls that probably witnessed so much!

  • I’ve never visited a concentration camp, but I have been to the Holocaust Museum in DC. I went when I was 11 or 12 so the experience was burned pretty deeply into my memory. We got a booklet at the entrance, each with the identity and details of a different victim. The clearest memory I have of that trip was a room full of the shoes of those who’d been killed, all piled on top of one another. That was incredibly disturbing to me. I can’t imagine visiting a camp, but I’m sure you learned a great deal! Probably an experience everyone should have.

    • Oh my gosh – I have been to that one as well, back when I was 15-16 and it is also burnt into my memory! I find the idea of the cards you pick at the beginning so amazing and yet shocking since, your person has died or not, and really it could have happened to anyone! A camp is disturbing in other ways – because they don’t really keep mementos, etc. but it’s a place that is just so dreadful to be in!

  • I have been to Auschwitz and the only way I can describe it is chilling. A couple of my best friends went here a month or so ago.. they said it was very harrowing.. I can’t even fathom

    • Oh wow – I kind of never want to visit Auschwitz. I saw models of it in museums in Berlin and it was shocking enough. Harrowing truly is the right word to describe visits like these!

  • I visited Dachau when I was in Munich, and there aren’t quite words to describe the experience. As a Jew myself, to be able to walk into the gas chamber and be alive to walk out the other side… I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

    • I can only imagine! Oh my gosh – it’s already a harrowing experience when you’re so far from that reality, but having that in common with so many people who were killed. It’s crazy. I remember I had a similar feeling when I was visiting the Holocaust museum in DC. To leave you need to walk through this train car in which they transported people and walking through it was just so …yeah there aren’t really words to explain!

  • I’ve never visited something like this, but I can imagine the experience is quite harrowing and eye opening. Last summer we visited Ieper, where they have the WWII memorial and then commonwealth graves and just standing under the archway where they had all the names of the fallen soldiers was an experience and made me feel quite small and naive. I can imagine it being even greater in places like this.

    • I feel the same way in front of memorials or museums like these – like I was stupid to think they were just stories of so long ago, when the remnants of it are right here and still being felt throughout the world.

  • I’ve always been quite interested in this sad part of history. I’d love to visit and pay respect.

    • I’m also kind of fascinated with it and yet I just can’t handle it sometimes… it’s a scary part of our history!

  • Joanna

    I’ve never been to Sachsenhausen. Just read about it. I’ve been to Stutthof (twice or three times even) and Auschwitz, though. Apart from the buildings, there are also actual movies from the times being shown. And being there, seeing the movie in that place where it happened… I can’t even describe what it felt like. Stutthof is not that known as Auschwitz, hence probably less people visit the place and it is often so deserted. You can feel that you’re there alone…at least the only one alive. Auschwitz is different. There are thousands of people there. And some…don’t even know how to behave in places like that. Taking selfies or other “strange looking” pictures. I don’t know, but it felt so wrong. So inappropriate. Seeing that, I didn’t even want to take my camera out, although I was planning to take landscape type of pictures to share with others, to show, to remember. People should visit, should remember, but it’s all with all due respect.
    Joanna from http://me-and-my-itchy-feet.blogspot.com

    • I completely agree – I think even I took some inappropriate photos to be honest, I was about 17-18 when I went. The concept of it seems so foreign – so far back in history. But when the visit started and they started informing us of the history, it really hit me. I think it must have been very weird at Stutthof, to be alone, to feel how it must have been to be stuck there. Horrible.

  • I’ve visited Dachau and some other memorials related to the Holocaust and WWII crimes. Tough visits but it is important to visit these sites to remind us of how far things can go and that humans are capable of such horrible things….I like the “always remember” signs at these sites.

    • I agree very much, Jessica! They are tough to get through – just so unbelievable – and yet it’s so important to remember!

  • It breaks my heart, but I think these places are so so important for all of us to visit and learn from