The Regal Princess docked in Warnemunde, Germany this morning, and it was an early departure with a three-hour train ride each way into the German capital of Berlin. Upon arrival, we were met by our guide who took us to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, just outside of Berlin. Established in 1936, Sachsenhausen was one of the most notorious death camps of the Nazi empire and a training center for SS soldiers.
The sign at the entrance gate promised prisioners that if they worked, they would be free, but that wasn’t the case. It was an absolutely abhorrent place made even more eery by the gray skies, light drizzle of rain and cool breeze rustling the leaves of the trees. Approximately 200,000 people were imprisoned there—all men—but only 100,000 survived.
Many of the barracks have been destroyed, but some are still available to tour as are the kitchen (which featured paintings by the inmates on the walls) and the gas chambers, crematorium, and the building where autopsies were conducted. There is a track with different types of terrain where those who broke even minor rules, such as going to the lavatory out of the scheduled time, were forced to walk for hours, testing the soles of army boots. There was also an infirmary where the wounded and ill were experimented upon. Sachsenhausen was liberated by the allied troops in 1945.
Today, Sachsenhausen serves as both a memorial to the victims who were killed and tortured here, as well as a decentralized museum, which aims to communicate history to visitors in the very places where it happened. Thirteen exhibitions on different sites examine the particular history of each and link ti to a thematic presentation that sets in a wider context. These are complemented by temporary exhibitions, held in the New Museum. There are also workshop exhibitions to present new acquisitions from the archives and depot. After completion of the remodeling work, Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum remains a place of mourning and remembrance in an international context, while facing up to the tasks of a modern museum of history.