Sachsenhausen

Its Christmas Eve in Berlin.  The Christmas markets are open, people outside singing carols, Santa sitting on his perch.  Bri and I thought it best to take this opportunity to travel 40 miles to see a concentration camp memorial.  Its rainy, cold, and windy, and we haven’t yet arrived at the train station – 3 miles away from the hotel.  Safely on the train, traveling to the camp, I can’t help but wonder if these are the same tracks that were used to transport prisoners to the camp 70 years ago.  After arriving at the station, we had a couple mile walk ahead of us to get to the camp.

Luckily at this point it was only cold and windy. We walked around and noticed holiday directions set up in peoples houses, taking special note of Hanukkah decorations so close to such tragedy.  When we arrived, it was one of the most eerie feelings that I have experienced.  It seemed abandoned in time out front.  The offices were closed due to the holiday, but we continued into the camp, which was open to the general public.  Walking along the outside walls, you can see hollowed out watch towers, looking in on the camp, towering above the already 10-15 foot walls.

We entered the main gates, and approached the main camp area.  I couldn’t help but imagine, looking around at the grounds, what it was like being surrounded by thousands of prisoners, violence, and death.  The emptiness of the facility reinforced the eeriness of the site, especially as you go around an inner prison wall and enter one of a few memorial buildings.  This memorial in particular shows the remnants/foundations of the building that housed the camps hospital and some execution rooms.  The diorama displays the function of each room.  From behind the barrier, you can visualise yourself walking through the narrow corridors of the building, as the room foundation structure is still intact.  The display discusses the extermination methods, and how the Nazi regime would transport the dead away from the site.  It wasn’t until a transport truck was involved in an accident within the village nearby, exposing corpses, that a local crematory was built.  

Most of the prisoner housing seemed to have been since removed, replaced with subtle memorials that demonstrated the immensity of the camp.  Most of the housing that did remain was specific for Russian prisoners of the state, separated from the general population.  It was a very powerful experience.  Even though it was not the most festive of Christmas Eve activities, it was one that made an impact on me personally.  It forces you to remember how your life is not always as bad as it seems – that someone has had or does have it much worse.  As we walked back to the train station, it began to rain heavier.  Combined with the wind and the plummeting temperatures, it seemed unbearable.  But then again….we had coats, hats, shoes, socks – a far cry from simple striped prisoner uniforms.