Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial – Review of the Tour (Germany)
The Power of PR.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built in 1936 using slave labour. Oranienburg Concentration Camp, which was 3km away in the centre of the town, was in operation for the year prior and acted as a trial programme for Hitler in the early days of Nazi Germany before the War. Oranienburg was used in early presentations to show how concentration camps could be used to ‘retrain political prisoners through sports and hard work’.
When Sachsenhausen opened, this messaging was further pushed. Marketing from the time promoted the idyllic location. Journalists were invited to see the most ‘attractive elements’ and informed that the place was a rehabilitation centre for communist prisoners. Pictures in promotional materials showed guards sharing cigarettes with everyone, fitness & wellbeing regimes taking place in the morning and family members booking in to visit their relatives… What went on inside was obviously very different.
I didn’t study history at school & have certainly never taught myself about Nazi Germany, nor how Hitler manipulated his way into power. I’m disappointed and annoyed at this, both with myself, and the UK education system. We should be taught about the political build up to World War Two. We should explore the habits and actions of such evil to enable us to learn from and recognise when patterns start to emerge in current affairs.
I’ve always been aware of the term, propaganda but didn’t realise, until now, just what a pivotal role it played in covering up and contributing to what actually happened. (I naively assumed that press manipulation and spin doctors were a ‘current day’ issue; especially with Trump pushing the Fake News agenda so heavily of late. But of course it’s been around for longer – for as long as manipulative men have had power I guess)
Sachsenhausen was a Concentration Camp. This means prisoners were predominantly used for labour. They were shipped out into the local community to act as interns in local businesses as well as forced to work on site across various areas – from making bricks to counterfeiting British money. Other camps which would go on to launch would become concentration camps and / or extermination camps.
Between 1938 – 1944, these camps would be replicated across Europe at an alarming rate (see below visuals). They would contribute to the mass murder of millions of men, women and children.
Attached to each of the above Concentration / Extermination Camps, were ‘satellite camps’. These served a similar purpose but were on a comparitively smaller scale. Like with the others, Sachsenhausen had approximately 80 satellite sites attached to it across it’s region. There were thousands of these across Europe in total, all governed by the ‘Inspectorate of Concentration Camps’.
Read my review of the walking tour around the memorial by clicking here.