We decided to visit Sachsenhausen concentration camp while we were in Berlin. The camp is located about an hour’s train ride outside of Berlin, and was free to visit. We went on a freezing cold, grey day, which made the whole experience extra bleak but seemed appropriate given the nature of the camp. It made it that much harder to imagine people surviving as we experienced the cold.
The camp itself was used as a concentration camp from the late 1930’s, and after the war ended it continued to be used into the early 1950’s by the occupying Russian forces. We spent about four hours walking through the camp, seeing the former barracks, watchtowers, medical rooms and site of the gas chambers. I had expected to feel very sad, but I actually felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. There was way too much to read – in 4 hours we probably read a quarter of the displays and information – and I would have found it easier to absorb had there been less information. It’s definitely worth visiting a camp while in Germany, but I’m not sure if this was the best one to visit in terms of understanding.
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemoller, imprisoned at Sachsenhausen