Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg

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SACHSENHAUSEN-ORANIENBURG

SACHSENHAUSEN-ORANIENBURG , Nazi concentration camp near Berlin, opened in 1936. It served as the chief concentration camp for Berlin. The first German-Jewish prisoners arrived in Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg in June 1938. The camp was built in the area of the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps on the outskirts of Oranienburg. After the November pogroms known as *Kristallnacht, *Himmler ordered the deportation of Jewish men age 16–60 to concentration camps and 10,000 Jews from Berlin, Hamburg, Mecklenburg, and Pomerania were interned there. Subsequently, the majority of them were released if they could prove that they were able to leave Germany (i.e., if they possessed emigration papers). At that point the forced emigration of Jews was German policy. At the outbreak of World War ii, thousands of political suspects and stateless or Polish Jews were imprisoned in the camp. Conditions worsened. Disease, starvation, exhaustion, exposure, and abuse claimed many lives. During the war prisoners arrived from all over Europe. Twelve hundred Polish prisoners were sent to Sachsenhausen in 1940 from Pawiak prison in Warsaw, among them 60 Polish priests, as an essential part of the German plan to destroy the elite of Polish non-Jewish society and to make the Poles a subservient people. In the fall of 1941, 1,800 Soviet prisoners of war were shot there; afterwards thousands more were either shot or killed by phenol injection. Some 13,000 Soviet pows were killed in all. A Nazi-directed counterfeiting operation was set up in the camp by an ss man, Bernhard Krueger. He employed 140 Jews in forging British currency as well as stamps, passports, identity documents, secret credentials, false code books, etc. Nearly all these Jews survived, in part because of their unique skills. In October 1942 all the Jewish prisoners, except those employed in the counterfeit operation, were transferred to *Auschwitz. Jewish prisoners were sent back beginning in the summer of 1944. The camp supplied slave labor for the German armament industry and housed several factories. In 1944 after the Warsaw Uprising (not to be confused with the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) 3,500 Poles were sent to Sachsenhausen. There was a gas chamber in Sachsenhausen but it was used only under special circumstances. As in other camps, the prisoners also served as human guinea pigs for pseudo-medical experiments. In mid-January 1945 there were 65,000 prisoners, including 13,000 women, in the overpopulated camp. In the latter half of April 1945, the ss evacuated the bulk of the inmates on a death march. Those who endured the march were liberated by the Red Army near Schwerin, Germany. Of the total of 140,000 inmates who were sent to this camp, at least 30,000 died there. The number may actually have been much larger.

A Soviet Military Tribunal tried 16 former ss guards from Sachsenhausen in late October 1947. One year later all were convicted. Fourteen were sentenced to life imprisonment and two received 15-year sentences.

In postwar East Germany, the camp became a hodgepodge of would-be memorials, a virtual lesson in how not to preserve an authentic site. Since the reunification of Germany, efforts have been made to rectify the situation. The task is ongoing and Herculean.

bibliography:

L. Grosser (ed.), K.Z. Sachsenhausen (Ger., 1945); A. Weiss-Ruethel, Nacht und Nebel (1946); F. Sige (ed.), Todeslager Sachsenhausen (1948); O. Nansen, Day after Day (1949), 399–571; Urteil gegen Sorge und Schubert (Akt 8 ks 1/58 des Landgerichtes Bonn, 6.2.1959).

[Yehuda Reshef /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]