It sounds morbid to say that I've always wanted to go to a concentration camp, but I have, and yesterday we went with Nicole and Andy to Oranienburg to visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
Oranienburg is only about 20 mins away from Gesundbrunnen station, maybe 30 from Hauptbahnhof on the S1 line. From the station it's a short bus ride or 15/20 minute walk to the camp itself. When we arrived it was grey, windy, and drizzling rain but it all seemed rather appropriate to the mood. We picked up audio guides and started walking.
The audio guide voice was so straightforward and she spoke for ages so the information almost drowned out the reality. When I think about it and look at my pictures I really do feel the horror of this place... To know how many people suffered and to think of the strategic planning that went into working people to death and systematically murdering 'enemies' of the regime.
Most of the actual bunkers are destroyed but a few remain. The execution trench, main gate, industrial work zone, infirmary and crematoriums still stand.
Facts: Initially Sachsenhausen was a work camp, that is, it wasn't planned as an extermination camp. Prisoners worked in the industrial area making bricks, developing chemicals, helping build airplanes and arms and--for prisoners with special graphic skills--making counterfeit American and British currency. Those who were too ill to work were forced to stand all day. There was also a 'boot testing track' with various surfaces that prisoners were forced to walk around endlessly, to test sole material durability for army boots.
Station Z and the Prison bunker were the places I felt super strange in. In the prison bunker are still cells where people were tortured and murdered. Outside are hanging posts where they would hang prisoners by their hands and beat them. Station Z is a reference to the final station of the concentration camp - by the time you get to Station Z you are dead.
At the end of our visit, the clouds were racing past and the sun broke through. It felt even stranger to see this place in the bright sun, remembering that life is going on like normal outside the walls. In a way that brought the reality of the camp straight through to me.