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Postcard: Oranienburg - Inside the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
The journey to Oranienburg, aboard the Regional train from Gesundbrunen, took only about 20minutes. A fast pace journey, on a Sunday afternoon, no doubt. But on arrival at the Oranienburg Railway station, a peep to the vast landscape with lush plants, portrayed a community where life went on at slow pace.
A rather solemn atmosphere welcomes you into this town located on the banks of the Havel river, some 35kilometres north of the centre of Berlin. It's a solemnity that seems to be intertwined with a serenity that makes a first-time visitor oblivious of the historical role Oranienburg played during the Nazi regime. It was the feeling Your Pal had on a visit in July last year.
The rich greenery of trees and grass, are alluring to behold, and daily, tourists and travellers alike, come visiting. Oranienburg is a town in Brandenburg, and consists of nine districts - Friedrichsthal, Germendorf, Lehnitz, Malz, Oranienburg, Sachsenhausen, Schmachtenhagen, Wensickendorf and Zehlendorf.
At the heart of the story of Oranienburg, is however not its nine districts, nor the fact that it is a fruit-growing region; it is the history that hangs around the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp like an Arabian perfume that just refuses to fade away. In fact, this is the major attraction to Oranienburg.
Stepping into the #804 bus, a visitor who has no hint about the Sachsenhausen Camp, would most likely be stunned at what the camp has in stock. Like many other similar camps in Germany, it has become a museum and memorial, and guides are always on ground to give insight about this camp, which was built in the summer of 1936.
The name "Sachsen Hausen" means "Saxon's Houses" when translated to English. On the front entrance gate is the inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei" a German expression, which means - Work Makes Free. It was intended to set a standard for other Concentration Camps, and it played host to political opponents of the Nazis, which also included Jews.
The camp perimeter is approximately an equilateral triangle with a semi-circular roll call area facing the main entrance gate. A machine gun used to be at the post in the entrance gate. An infirmary was also included in the camp's architecture, along with a camp prison, camp kitchen, a camp laundry and also a crematorium. In 1938 the camp was extended by a new rectagular area, to accommodate the congestion that had now resulted from the large number of inmates. There was an additional area outside the main camp perimeter built in 1941 for special prisoners that the Nazi regime wished to isolate.
A trademark of many of the Concentration Camps, was that condition of life was far below human standard - astoundingly barbaric; there were executions by shooting or hanging; there were deaths which resulted from casual brutality and dirty and poor living conditions; there was a gas chamber used during World War II; lab experiments carried out on human beings as against rabbits, and the Sachsenhausen Camp was no exemption.
The story of the camp goes on and on, with tales of hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives, mostly Jews. The camp was eventually liberated by the 47th Soviet Army in 1945. The then East German government, established the site as a national memorial in 1956, and it was inaugurated on April 22, 1961.
The memories, pictures, sight and memorials at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, would no doubt leave an indelible mark on your mind, with a heartthrobbing question: "Why such injustice of man to man?"
- Your Pal
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