Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
All rights reserved copyright
The indomitable and implacable Travelling Gourmet TM travels to Oranienburg in…
MODERN day reunited Germany. It was a lovely, warm and very sunny Summer’s day with baby blue skies when I took the S-Bahn train from Berlin to Oranienburg. I took S1 from Potsdamer Platz in the center of Berlin. Arriving at the rustic train station, I asked one of the friendly natives for the way to Sachsenhausen Kz. “Wo ist das Sachsenhausen Kz denn bitte?” pausing from drinking his can of beer, he kindly gave me directions in German which I proceeded to follow.
Kz in German stands for Konzentrationslager. It was where the wicked and despicable Nazis and SS imprisoned millions of people just for being Jews, homosexuals, a cripple or handicapped person or retarded/mentally subnormal person, a Gypsy and other enemies of the State as well as Commandos and allied POWs. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Communists were also incarcerated her. Absolutely horrible and totally inhuman! The prisoners were subjected to cruel and macabre medical experiments, abused, beaten, tortured, starved, made to do hard labour, and ultimately exterminated or KILLED. Like vultures they would strip all articles of value form the prisoners and even extract their gold teeth form their jaws! It was yet another example of man’s extreme inhumanity to this fellow man. There were over 500 Kzs all over Germany and in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Their standard uniform…the terrible vertical striped pyjamas.
As I walked along wide streets with little mom and pop shops and houses, I heard birds singing merrily as they flew about the tree lined streets. It was quite a long walk and took some 21 minutes to reach there. There was a Visitor Centre and all was very well organised and spick and span. Sachsenhausen today is a Museum.
An organised Death Factory
The entrance to Sachsenhausen Kz
Two things struck me. One was that the camp was HUGE! It held over 200,000 Hafttlingen (prisoners) in its heyday. The other was the eerie atmosphere and there was no sound of chirping or singing songbirds at all! Even the birds did not like to come to this Kz. All the many hours I was there, I only saw one big black bird that flew overhead and promptly disappeared. It looked like a raven.
The design is extremely well thought out and the whole place is a real industrialised death factory for killing people in the most efficient way possible. The equilateral triangular design of the Kz means that with only a minimum of two guards from watchtowers, they can effectively keep watch over all the prisoners. There were WW1 era belt fed Maxim machine guns in the watch towers. The camp was established in 1936. It was located 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of Berlin, which gave it a primary position among the German concentration camps. It was not only one of the first camps abut also one of the largest. The administrative centre of all concentration camps was located in Oranienburg, and Sachsenhausen became a training centre for Schutzstaffel (SS) officers, who would often be sent to oversee other camps after their training. All the facilities are well preserved and the sense of horror is really surreal.
I found the sight of the large and deep Execution Trench very disturbing. This was where prisoners were herded in and shot dead with machine guns.
Station Z is the end of the line…
There was also Station Z. Opened on 29 May 1942. This was so-named because the alphabet “Z” is the very last letter of the alphabet. This was where the prisoners would go to be exterminated. It was the last place they would see on earth. It was typical of the Nazi’s cruel and warped sense of “Gallows humour”, just like the sign in the wrought iron gate at the entrance of the Kz. “Arbeit macht frei” in bold , stark capital letters reads the sign. It means “work sets you free” but the real cynical meaning is that you will work till you die…only then will you be free. Horrible! Disgusting! Peverse!
I had a look at the house of the Commandant of the camp. He lived in luxury in a big well appointed bungalow while his prisoners suffered terribly.
I wondered how he could sleep at night knowing what he was doing day in and day out…
Here is an extract of from the trial of the last Camp Commandant of Sachsenhausen Kz in Pankow, Berlin by a Soviet Military Tribunal:
Extract from the trial of SS Standartenfuehrer Anton Kaindl,
former commandant of Sachsenhausen Death Camp
– Public Prosecutor: What kind of exterminations were committed in your camp?
– Kaindl: Until mid of 1943, prisoners were killed by shooting or hanging. For the mass exterminations, we used a special room in the infirmary. There was a height gauge and a table with an eye scope. There were also some SS wearing doctor uniforms. There was a hole at the back of the height gauge. While a SS was measuring the height of a prisoner, another one placed his gun in the hole and killed him by shooting in his neck. Behind the height gauge there was another room where we played music in order to cover the noise of the shooting.
– Public Prosecutor: Do you know if there was already an extermination procedure in Sachsenhausen when you became commandant of the camp?
– Kaindl: Yes, there were several procedures. With the special room in the infirmary, there was also an execution place where prisoners were killed by shooting, a mobile gallows and a mechanical gallows which was used for hanging three or four prisoners at the same time.
– Public Prosecutor: Did you change anything in these extermination procedures?
– Kaindl: In march 1943, I introduced gas chambers for the mass exterminations.
– Public Prosecutor: Was it your own decision?
– Kaindl: Partially yes. Because the existing installations were too small and not sufficient for the exterminations, I decided to have a meeting with some SS officers, including the SS Chief Doctor Baumkotter. During this meeting, he told me that poisoning of prisoners by prussic acid in special chambers would cause an immediate death. After this meeting, I decided to install gas chambers in the camp for mass extermination because it was a more efficient and more humane way to exterminate prisoners.
– Public Prosecutor: Who was responsible for the extermination?
– Kaindl: The commandant of the camp.
– Public Prosecutor: So, it was you?
– Kaindl: Yes.
Kaindl was found guilty with 11 of the others and was held in the sent to the Vorkuta Gulag, where he died in the spring of 1948.
In a nutshell…
- Location: Germany, 35 km from Berlin
- Established in: 1938
- Liberation: April 22th, 1945, by a unit of the 47th Soviet Army.
- Estimated number of victims: 30 – 35,000
- Sub-camps: 44 sub-camps and external kommandos
The Soviets were as bad as the Nazis!
To illustrate that the Fascists, namely the Nazis…and the Communists are really two sides of the same coin, it transpired that in August 1945 after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Communists used Sachsenhausen as the Soviet Special Camp No. 7. Nazi functionaries were held in the camp, as were political prisoners and inmates sentenced by Soviet Military tribunals. By 1948, Sachsenhausen, upgraded and renamed “Special Camp No. 1”, was the largest of three special camps in the Soviet Occupation Zone. The 60,000 people interned over five years, included 6,000 German officers transferred from Western Allied camps. Others were Nazi functionaries, anti-Communists and Russians, including Nazi collaborators. One of the Soviet camp’s commandants was Roman Rudenko the Soviet Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.By the time the camp was closed in the spring of 1950, at least 12,000 had died of malnutrition and disease.
With the fall of the communist East Germany it was possible to do excavations in the former camps. At Sachsenhausen, the bodies of 12,500 victims were found, most were children, adolescents and elderly people.
Why, you ask, did I want to visit Sachsenhausen? The answer is that I believe we must never forget what happened in Kzs like Sachsenhause, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and other such death camps. It is only when we see the horror for ourselves that we resolve to NEVER let such despicable things happen again! Such horrible things happen when you have a deranged malignant dwarf like Adolf Hitler as the leader of Germany…
OMG! After my visit was I happy to return to my luxurious suite in the opulent Grand Hyatt Berliin and relish a Pfannkuchen (strawberry filled donut)!
Not all Jews went to their deaths without a fight. In Operation Greenup, two Jewish officers of the Strategic Services or OSS , forerunner of CIA parachuted into the Tirol to fight the Nazis.