Monday, June 20, 2016

Berlin, Germany - Day 3 Part 1: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

     We began day 3 by waking up super early and taking the train out to Oranienburg.  By this time, I've totally fallen in love with the public transportation system here.  You can basically get anywhere on the train, and it is AWESOME.  Why do we not have this type of system all over America????

Don't slip and fall?

     We made it to the end of the rail line at Oranienburg.  From here, we could have taken the bus or done a 20ish minute walk to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.  We opted to walk so that we could see the surrounding neighborhood.  I'll be honest, I expected Sachsenhausen to just be this place out in the middle of nowhere, and maybe it was at one point, but now there are homes and a bustling neighborhood adjacent to it. 

     Even in new construction,  the architecture of buildings is quintessentially European. 

     For all you "How I Met Your Mother" fans, the sign on this door totally reminded me of that one episode.  You know which one I'm talking about. :)

     The mood immediately started to become solemn once we saw this. This particular pathway was part of the path into Sachsenhausen.

     There are homes along the road that lead to the camp.  They were all very picturesque and some ornately decorated such as this one.  Considering the amount of tourists that come through this area, the area is peacefully quiet and serene. 

     There were a group of police officers in training that were being given a tour of the camp. 

     The long pathway to the gates.

     The entrance.

     Right after the gates above, immediately to the left is a wooded area where they have some hidden speakers playing narratives from people recounting their experience at the camp.  It was sad and eerie. 

     The majority of the buildings that held people captive here have been torn down.  There are large rectangular areas filled with rocks that represent where the buildings used to be.  The camp is vast. You could easily spend a full day here exploring the existing buildings and all the artifacts from when the camp was in use. 

     There are several memorials at Sachsenhausen.  This one was the largest and most prominent.  I don't remember the exact dates of each memorial, but they have withstood the test of time and were quite weathered.  

     Near these rocks was an area with a path that sloped down to where many bodies were buried/disposed of.  The markings here were not very prominent.  I found it too morbid to take photos, and I'm glad I decided not to walk down the path because there was a very small sign on the ground that said not to cross over the border that was on the ground.  I can easily see tourists missing this sign, and was surprised they didn't take better measures to make sure people didn't wander where they shouldn't.  

     This memorial was next to the original ovens that were used to cremate bodies.  Again, very morbid, and I chose not to take photos of those. 

     We came across this more modern structure and wondered what it was.  There was an automatic sliding glass door that let us in.  Once inside, you are greeted with the fact that there is NO air conditioning in the structure.  It was very warm and slightly humid inside.  I imagined what it would be like when there were tons of tourists around, and was immediately glad we got an early start on this day. This place housed interesting artifacts such as letters, personal items, and photos. 

     This was a sad start to our day, but I'm glad we came here.  One of the conversations we had was how people could live in the surrounding area near Sachsenhausen.  Apparently, Germany is very open about its history, and acknowledges what happened during the Holocaust.  Despite its grim past, I think they've preserved the camp well and hopefully people use it to learn from the past and not let history repeat itself.

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