Published: February 16th 2011February 16th 2011
Day 2- we decided to check out a tour of the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. We knew it would be a tough day but also an experience we thought imperative. I think it was the best 10 euro I ever spent. When you're standing in the middle of it and the tour guide is telling you stories of the most horrendous living conditions and the fear you really can feel this horrible pang in the pit of your stomach. I can't say it means I understand even a fraction of what people went through in this time but I wanted to be there knowing that these things really happened and they happened to normal innocent people. Sometimes it's a bit hard to fully grasp that from a history textbook.
They took us on the train and we got off at the station where they brought in those who were forced to live and work in the camps during the war. We walked the path they took to the camp but were told during their walk people from the town came to line up and throw tomatoes and other things at them to shame them for their behaviour. Many of them had
committed the "crime" of being political activists, Jews, or homosexuals. There is question as to whether the townspeople knew what was going on at the camps, although many believe so as you could see and smell the smoke stack for the crematorium from most of their houses.
The front gates of the camp had “work will set you free” in German but we were told none of the men who entered the camp were under the illusion that this was even on its way to being true. They were all classified by coloured triangles according to the “crime” they had committed. The highest ranking men were criminals which could be anything from pedophiles to rapists to murderers. The lowest ranking were homosexuals. The criminals were often appointed the heads of the houses because their ethics could be so easily manipulated. These men chose sex slaves that were often young boys also living at the camps (somehow acceptable despite the fact that many men were there for being homosexual). The whole thing was just unbelievable.
The men constantly dressed in stripe cotton pyjamas and wooden shoes. The day we visited I had a jacket, gloves, hat and boots
on and I was frozen so I truly cant imagine what it must have felt like. The men were often tortured or killed for absolutely no reason despite the fact that it was a labour camp. We visited a trench where they’d line men up to shoot them as well as the crematorium. It was all a lot to take. It’s hard to write all the details here and truly relay the gravity of it all...
When we got to the medical building where they performed medical experiments and autopsies, our tour guide who has done the tour hundreds of times told us about the building but that he couldn’t enter with us because of how horrible it is. I gotta say he’s right. I went in and found it tough to breathe. Two white medical tables in a tiled room with drains everywhere. It was just awful. The basement is where they kept bodies and even the SS officers wouldn’t go down there alone. I think I stayed about a minute until I saw stains on the floor and had to get out.
I’m really glad I went. There is a quote our tour guide told
Typical cotton pyjamas
Every prisoner was issued a pair of these pyjamas. They usually got a thin pair for summer and a thicker pair for winter but sometimes just the summer ones. I can tell you it was seriously cold there...this would not have been enough
us at the end of the tour that really stayed with me. It is by Martin Niemoeller and it goes “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
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