Dancing on the Doorstep of Brutality
Review of a Sachsenhausen Tour
Whilst in Berlin this week, I signed up for a walking tour of the Sachsenhausen Camp Memorial. It’s approximately an hour north of the city which later found itself at the centre of the Cold War. Like with other camps, the public are invited to visit and see the remains. The idea is to learn about the atrocities in the hope of preventing future conflict – and, ultimately, maintaining peace.
Photography is encouraged to help further this dialogue (hence the photos which feature in this and in the supporting pieces) I was reassured by the fact that, out of the hundreds of people there on the day, not a single person took a selfie (that I saw) That’s where I would categorically draw a line.
Prior to booking, I couldn’t imagine taking pictures at such a historically grave point on the planet. Once we’d been briefed though, it almost felt obligatory; to help continue spreading the word and commemorate those who suffered.
I don’t consider myself to be spiritual but, after leaving one of the dorms, I felt like someone walked around with me during the remainder of my time at Sachsenhausen. And that they’ve returned to the UK with me. And that they’re sat with me now as I’m typing this. Maybe I’m crazy? (..I’m obviously crazy!) But this, and the posts which follow, are for him, and for the tens of thousands of other victims who were tortured and persecuted on that site alone.
The Insider Tour Berlin costs 17 euros (discounted to 14 with a Berlin Welcome Card). Ours was led by an incredibly intelligent and passionate American guy called Josh. The day started at 10am by meeting outside the train station by Berlin Zoo. We then headed north on the train (travel ticket not included in the price – approx 3.50) We had approximately 4 hours at the camp which was nowhere near enough time. There are countless displays, memorobilia and exhibitions dotted around the site which elaborate on key elements or share the life stories of some of the lives which were taken. There was no time to stop and read through all of these components; something which would have probably been the most heart breaking part of the day for me.
Had I known, I would have kept the evening free so that I could wander at leisure for a few more hours (once the official tour finished at 3pm) The camp was open until 6pm and the train station to return to Berlin was close enough for me to have navigated my own way back to…
When speaking to other travellers who had visited previously, they had ventured over on their own – and regretted not doing it as part of a tour. I would definitely recommend the tour – because you can break away at any point anyway. The knowledge and anecdotes which Josh shared was worth the fee alone (a proportion of which goes to maintain the site too) He also shared information on things which I didn’t see featuring in the official museum / memorial literature (like information on the brothels that were used as rewards for the prisoners – or the fact that the site remained open for five years after WWII ended.)
Other Complementary Activities
The most valuable thing I am leaving Germany with is a clearer understanding of our history. As well as the concentration camp memorial, I also visited, and believe the following would absolutely complement the Sachsenhausen tour:
- the East Side Gallery (murals painted across the longest strip of the Wall)
- the Black Box Gallery (showcasing how the Berlin Wall came about)
- Asisi’s Panoramic of Berlin (work of an artist who has recreated a street scene from the time the wall cut through the city – image below)
If, like me, you had/have little idea of what the above things are, or how the wall even came about, then head out and see. Everything interconnects. I, embarrassingly, hadn’t even realised that until now either.
I got my flights from London to Berlin with Ryanair via Skyscanner for £12, a few weeks in advance (no hidden costs – a hand luggage case is sufficient for a week). Good quality hostels are available for approx £12 per night too. Claim £15 free credit when you book via: booking.com/globalamigo. (Bookmark it now?)
There are so many other elements which I hope I’ll find the time to write about but, for now, I hope the above inspires or informs even only one person. Read my introduction to the Camp by clicking here.