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Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

A former concentration camp used during the Third Reich to hold political prisoners.

Saxon's House

Sachsenhausen - 'Saxon's Houses' - is in Orianenburg, a town 35 kilometres north of Berlin. Orianenburg was the administrative centre for all Nazi concentration camps, and it was here that one of the first camps was built in 1933; this was taken over by the SS in 1934, who closed it down and replaced it with Sachsenhausen.

Sachsenhausen was used as a training ground for SS officers, many of whom would go on to oversee other camps. Although it was not constructed as an extermination camp, many executions took place here: prisoners were initially shot or hanged in a trench, but many more were later killed after the camp commandant installed a gas chamber and ovens in 1943.

Prisoners were placed in a descending hierarchy of criminals, Communists, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Jews, differentiated by labelling them with differently coloured triangles. This was a grimly effective camp, intended as a template for others: very few prisoners escaped, and around 50,000 died here, either executed or due to the poor living conditions. Over 10,000 Red Army prisoners of war were executed in the camp in a device called a 'Genickschussanlage' - they were shot in the back of the neck through a hidden aperture while being measured for a uniform.


Nazi nerve centre

This was also the site of Operation Bernhard, an enormous counterfeiting operation whereby inmates were forced to manufacture fake American and British currency as part of a mission to undermine the British and United States' economies - the Germans planned to drop forged British pounds over London by plane. Prisoners were also forced to march miles a day over a variety of surfaces to test military footwear.

The camp was evacuated as the Soviets approached in 1945, and the remaining inmates were liberated by the Red Army and the Polish Army's 2nd Infantry Division. The Soviets held many senior Nazi prisoners here over the following years. It was then used as a police training centre by East Germany, before it was inaugurated as a national memorial in 1961. After German Reunification, the camp was opened as a museum: the exhibits include documents, artifacts and photographs, artwork by inmates, and a chilling 30-centimetre high pile of gold teeth extracted from prisoners. Long hidden behind the Iron Curtain, Sachsenhausen is less well known than Auschwitz or Dachau, but visiting is a valuable experience for anyone who wants to understand the atrocities that took place.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Berlin
Berlin Wall
Along the East Side Gallery, this iconic moment between Brezhnev and Honecker is now one of the most visited parts of what remains of the Berlin Wall.
Palace of Tears
Outstanding in its historical depth, this museum illustrates life under the East-West divide.
Museum Otto Weidt
A 1940s factory owned by Otto Weidt, who aimed to protect Jewish people from Nazi persecution.
New Synagogue
The main synagogue of Berlin's Jewish community is built in splendid Moorish style, with a magnificent golden dome.
Stolpersteine Stumbling Stones
Cobblestone-sized memorials for individual victims of Nazism, created by artist Gunter Demnig.
Beer
Simple, traditional, and perfectly balanced, with clean, wholesome flavours, beers like Schneider-Weisse and Augustiner Helles are the product of 800 years of brewing history.

Related Tours

Private Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Tour
In this fascinating tour, you will gain a first-hand experience of the former concentration camp used during the Third Reich for political, ethnic and religious prisoners. 

  • Learn about the significance and history of Sachsenhausen.
  • Find out about the terrible hardships the prisoners faced at the camp.
  • Hear the appalling methods and experiments used to formulate a perfect ‘Aryan’ race. 
  • Hear how the Soviets adopted the camp after the War, to house 60,000 political prisoners 
Located just outside Berlin’s city limits, Sachsenhausen Memorial was of paramount importance to Hitler’s network of concentration camps, imprisoning around 200,000 people that the Nazi party thought were dangerous to political stability.  The nearby town of Oranienburg became the administrative centre of all concentration camps across the Reich.  

Due to missing records and the destruction of evidence, the official number of people murdered here is simply unknown. But estimates suggest that tens of thousands of people died of starvation, disease, mistreatment and murder throughout its use. The construction of gas chambers and ovens later in the War cements this view. 

Today, Sachsenhausen is a reminder of the atrocities of the past and powerful monument for the people who lost their lives there. Now a centre of a thriving Jewish community, Berlin successfully encapsulates the brave fight against oppression and is a true beacon of hope for the future. Accompanied by your expert city guide, you will explore the memorial that stands today.
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