The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Most people, when asked about Nazi camps, would point East – to the extermination camps that gained notoriety through the Holocaust: to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek etc.
The truth is, however, that these camps came relatively late in the history of the Third Reich. Their predecessors – the concentration camps – such as Sachsenhausen, were constructed within Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Devised as a so-called ‘protective custody camp’ to house political prisoners, Sachsenhausen grew to become not only the nucleus of the entire Nazi concentration camp industry; but also a proving ground for the methods and practices that would lead to the ultimate horror of industrial mass murder and genocide.
Despite the passage of time, the Tower A entrance to the Sachsenhausen Camp Memorial – emblazoned with its infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” lettering – still stands as a threshold to another domain.
Missing are the sights, sounds, and smells of casual brutality. Instead of the cramped suffocating architecture of totalitarianism, a vast open field graced with rows of stone markers – where barracks houses once stood – exists in its place.
Constructed by the Nazis, inherited by the Soviet authorities, and transformed into a memorial by the East German government –Sachsenhausen is a startling example of how different regimes chose to use the same land for purposes of punishment and propaganda.
Writer Hannah Arendt referred to the concentration camp as the ‘true central institution of totalitarian organizational power’ – designed for the systematised dehumanisation and destruction of human personality. The ‘theory and practice of hell’ materialised.
A thought-provoking and often uncomfortable journey –the former Nazi concentration camp of Sachsenhausen stands as a warning from the past and a recommended excursion from Berlin to all interested in learning more about the conditions where gratuitous cruelty flourished and experiments to cultivate inhumanity succeeded.
Sachsenhausen now is a place to pay respects, to reflect, and to bear witness. To observe the preservation of memory as a vital tool against the tyranny of forgetting what humanity is capable of in its darkest moments.
Not only does this private guided tour of Sachsenhausen consider the lives of the 200,000 prisoners who passed through the gates of this Nazi concentration camp – including designated ‘special prisoners’ such as Joseph Stalin’s son, the man who almost killed Adolf Hitler – Georg Elser – and pastor Martin Niemöller – but also the camp conditions, the framework of camp life, and the biographies of the guards and staff who for whom serving here was a matter of duty and honour.
We will also discuss how following the liberation of Sachsenhausen, the camp was redesignated as an NKVD/KGB detention center housing Nazi functionaries, political prisoners and inmates sentenced by the Soviet military tribunals.
While stressing the historical importance of the years of the camp’s operation, it is also vital to assess how in 1961 the East German government chose to open this site as a memorial – and what significance this location holds today as a part of Germany’s culture of remembrance.
We will not only examine what remains of the Sachsenhausen camp in its current form as a memorial and museum site but also deal with the important issues associated with this hugely significant location and its tragic history.
And much more…
650€ for a 5 hour private van tour – maximum 6 person group
includes 19% VAT, guide fee, booking fee, admin fee, transportation and driver costs, and mandatory German tourism insurances
(*prices in non-Euro currency calculated based on market rate at time of booking)
All vehicles are recent model Mercedes Benz V-class/Volkswagen Caravelle vans suitable for up to six people.
For larger groups we also provide mini-vans and buses (up to 60 people).
Member of the Berlin Guides Association – Bündnis Berliner Stadtführer e.V.
Our payments are securely processed using Stripe/PayPal invoicing – all major credit cards accepted.
All tours conducted in accordance with current German government Covid-19 precautions and guidelines.
All reservations can be cancelled via email up to one month before the first tour date – subject to a 25% cancellation fee.
Starting from either your accommodation or a designated location in Berlin, this tour includes a 45 minute drive through the countryside of Brandenburg to the memorial location 35km north of the German capital.
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