(Source: Insider Tour )
Not at the top of all of our destinations, but an essential stop to pause and reflect
After 3 full days in Berlin, we packed up the van and drove to Sachsenhausen. Peter (our friend and guide), thought it was important for us to see what a concentration camp was like, and what people had to go through.
You ever go into a situation thinking you already knew the worst, but then its way worse than you thought? That was my experience while visiting a concentration camp for the first time. On the way there, I thought I was fully prepared to experience what I was about to see (and smell). That feeling in the van didn’t last long.
Pulling up to the entrance seemed okay, I seemed to be relatively collected. It was really overcast and there was a little bit of rain. Whatever, I shouldn’t expect it to be sunny all the time. We paid the entrance fee (by donation), and got some handheld speakers so we could go through the camp ourselves. Right outside the info centre was the map of the camp. Okay, seems like something I have already learned about.
Everything was fine until I turned the corner to walk down the street to the entrance of the camp. As I was walking along the outer wall, I felt my mood deteriorating. I turned once again to face the main entrance, seeing the sign built into the gate saying “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work makes you free). There were graves on the left side of the entrance as well. Chills. All senses of freedom were gone.
As I made my way through the gate, I was immediately drawn to the track where prisoners were forced to run on and test boots for military officers. They were forced to do so for hours on end in multiple terrains. Next, I went through some smaller buildings that were used to hold enemies of the state.
While it seemed like poor conditions, it paled in comparison to the bunk houses that were used to hold the rest of the prisoners. The moment you walk into one of the bunk houses your heart will drop completely. They did a great job preserving the buildings, including the glass on the inside to separate the public from the bunks. Despite the glass, I was overwhelmed by the smells associated with them. That probably hasn’t changed in over 80 years. I don’t think I spent more than a minute in there.
There were other aspects I didn’t mind seeing. In one building, they have done a good job of tracking where some of the prisoners had come from, who their families were, and how they ended up there. I also stuck around to see some testimonials from relatives of the prisoners. They did a really good job putting a face to some of the families. Other parts of the camp included watchtowers, an obelisk/memorial, and furnace rooms located underground. I think I was the only one that didn’t go down to see them.
The only other thing that got to me was the people constantly stopping to take pictured of everything they saw. As if their stories wouldn’t be believable enough. This was the only place where I didn’t take any pictures. Should you find yourself visiting a camp, I suggest leaving your devices in a safe place. Go inside and really learn about what happened. I can still recall the various feelings I had crossing the gate, smelling the bunk houses, and learning about the families. You aren’t there to take pictures for Instagram.
I could have talked about facts from Sachsenhausen for a while, but you can easily read up on it. If you find yourself near a camp, I suggest you go and pay your respects.
***Chloe Travels sums up the camp a little more and she includes more pictures.