About the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial will leave a powerful impression on all who visit. Sachsenhausen was built in 1936 under Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler as the model concentration camp. Upon visiting the Memorial, it's easy to see how the imposing layout provided the SS absolute power over the inmates.
Between 1936 and 1945 more than 200,000 people were interned at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Initially, the majority of the victims were political enemies of the Nazis. Soon, however, those deemed racially inferior by the Nazis were also imprisoned. More than 50,000 people died at Sachsenhausen from starvation, mistreatment, and extermination.
On April 22, 1945 Soviet and Polish forces liberated the camp. The previous day the Nazis had subjected more than 30,000 inmates to forced marches in an effort to evacuate the camp in face of the oncoming liberators. Shortly after being freed more than 300 of the 3,000 inmates left behind died from malnutrition, injuries and illnesses resulting from their imprisonment.
In August 1945 the Soviets transformed the Camp into one of ten protective custody camps for their own political prisoners. From August 1945 until 1950 more than 60,000 prisoners of war, former Nazis, and Soviet political dissenters were incarcerated at the former Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. During this time more than 12,000 inmates died from malnutrition, disease, and other causes. Contrary, however, to the uses of the Camp during the Nazi regime, this was not a time of extermination of inmates or arbitrary abuse on the part of the Camp personnel.
After years of planning, the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial was opened in April 1961. In an effort to finally eradicate fascism and promote their own communist ideologies, the East German authorities demolished many of the camp's original buildings. This ideology is in sharp contrast to the "decentralized museum" efforts that have taken place since 1993 under the Memorial's current oversight, which tries to communicate history where it happened.