35 km outside of Berlin lies the first concentration camp – the camp the others were modeled after – Sachsenhausen. (And later in the war the location where the head office in charge of concentration camps was located.) We headed there today and spent most of the day exploring the camp and the exhibits. At the end of WW2 when the Soviets took control of Eastern Germany they turned around and used the same camp to house their prisoners of war and criminals. When done, they knocked down many of the original buildings, so almost all the buildings we saw were reconstructions, but they were still harrowing. The camp started by housing mainly political prisoners but it also held all of the other groups persecuted by the Nazi regime (Jews, Sinti, homosexuals, Gypsies, and the mentally or physically disabled). Over 100.000 people lost their lives in the camp – most of them during the years the camp was operated by the Nazis. 12.000 Soviet soldiers were executed there in one month alone. The foundations of the building where the executions were carried out remain, as well as parts of the crematorium ovens (see photo). It was hard to view.
We headed back in the evening and planned on walking around to look at the Berlin buildings at night. There was a Festival of Lights going on while we were there and a lot of the famous buildings were lit up. We wound up staying inside and watching a documentary instead since it was raining pretty hard.