Sachsenhausen was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used from 1936 until it was liberated on 22 April 1945. It was a labor camp outfitted with several subcamps, a gas chamber, and a medical experimentation area. Prisoners were treated harshly, fed sparingly, and killed openly. Those held captive in Sachsenhausen were the men and women which the Third Reich wanted dead, not just because of their religion, but because of their political beliefs and their power over those who listened to them.
"For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing".
History, definition and facts about Sachsenhausen
Sachsenhausen was a concentration camp near Oranienburg during World War II, about 35 kilometers north of Berlin. The camp was built in the summer of 1936 by prisoners from the Esterwegen camps as a model and training camp for the SS near the state capital Berlin. It was the first camp to be built after the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler was appointed chief of the German police. Before the outbreak of WW, there were no Soviet prisoners of War in Sachsenhausen. In November 1938 after the events of Kristallnacht more than 6.000 Jews were jailed in Sachsenhausen and about 450 of them were subquently murdered in the following weeks.
At the start of the war, the number of deaths in Sachsenhausen increased dramatically. In 1939 more than 800 prisoners died there, but in 1940 this number increased to nearly 4.000.
From 1939 to 1945, approximately 200.000 people were imprisoned in this camp. The first POW’s from the Soviet Union came in late summer 1941. From September to November 10,000 of them were shot, the largest mass murder that took place in Sachsenhausen. Between 30.000 and 35.000 people died from hunger, disease, forced labor and abuse. The gas chamber with crematorium was opened in May 1942, during which 250 Jewish prisoners were shot in the neck. From 1942 there was an increasing demand for cheap labor, large numbers of prisoners were used for this. At the height of forced labor, there were about a hundred outside camps and outside commandos.
Notorious was the forced labor at the brick factory at the Lehnitz lock in Oranienburg where the prisoners built the harbor and built the factory. In these brick factories the enormous stones were manufactured intended for the buildings of Albert Speer. During the transports of 5 and 6 September 1944, 2.850 men were transported from camp Vught (in The Netherlands) to Sachsenhausen. More than half would not return.
On April 20, 1945, when the Red Army and the Polish Units approached the camp, 33.000 prisoners (including women and children) were driven northwest by the SS on foot in groups of five hundred. The prisoners had to march to death, the camp commanders had decided. On April 23, 1945, 16.000 Sachsenhausen prisoners remained without food in a field camp in the "Belower Wald" north of Wittstock. One hundred and thirty-two prisoners died there. On April 29 the column left this camp and marched on. During this "Death March" more than 1,000 prisoners died or were shot by the SS. On May 3, 1945, the "Death March" came to an end when the prisoners encountered American and Russian troops between Parchim and Schwerin.
On April 22 the Sachsenhausen camp was liberated by Russian and Polish units of the Red Army. The camp housed 3.000 critically ill prisoners of which 300 died of exhaustion after the liberation. From August 1945 to the spring of 1950, the Sachsenhausen camp was used by the Red Army. Inmates of the Soviet Sepcial Camp No. 7 (from 1948 No. 1) mainly were members of Nazi organsations, prisoners of war and opponents of the Soviet regime.
On April 22, 1961, the camp became a national memorial and from January 1993, the Sachsenhausen camp has been a memorial and museum.
Real eyewitness testimonies
Hans J. Arons - Sachsenhausen survivor
"A warm thank you to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for their willingness to help in allowing their testimonies to be featured on my website.
Arbeit macht frei
The camp specifications
July 1936 - 22 April 1945
Tens of thousands of
Polish Army's 2nd Infantry Division
Liberated on: 22 April 1945
"None of us who entered the camp had any warning what so ever of what we were about to see".