Our tour guide was Russell, an American, who lives in Berlin and works on his PhD in Holocaust studies. Russell proved to be an excellent guide for this walking tour. Highly professional, personally committed, and respectful to the subject matter, Russell also made sure we had everything we needed before the tour started, from train ticket, water and snacks (you can’t buy anything at the memorial site), to an umbrella in case it rains.
Our group met in front of the hard-to-miss TV tower at Alexanderplatz; from here, we traveled together by train to Oranienburg, the site of the concentration camp, about 30 minutes north of Berlin. If you have never navigated Berlin’s train and public transportation system, this tour is perfect for you – Russell made sure we arrived safe and sound in the little town of Oranienburg.
Even before we set foot on the memorial site, Russell provided us with lots of useful information, from what to expect (not a extermination camp such as Auschwitz but a camp for political prisoners), to thorough historical overviews of the Third Reich.
From the train station in Oranienburg, we walked to the camp – and thanks to Russell, we knew that this was the exact way former prisoners had to walk. Another interesting fact that could be easily overlooked: The houses right outside the walls of the camp were erected at the same time the camp was built; high ranking SS officers and their families lived here. Today, these historic homes are again inhabited and used as family homes.
The tour lasts about 6-7 hours and covers much more than the audio guides which you can get at the Sachsenhausen Visitor Center. We learned a lot about the different uses of Sachsenhausen. The memorial site shows impressively, how different governments left their political imprint on the camp; first and foremost, it was used as a concentration camp by the Nazis; after the camp was liberated on April 22, 1945 by Soviet and Polish troops, the Soviets used the site and its structures as an internment camp for political prisoners from fall of 1945 to 1950. In 1961, the Sachsenhausen National Memorial was opened in the GDR; the East German authorities destroyed many of the original structures and used the site to promote their own communist ideology.
The tour was fast-paced and covered most of the memorial grounds (for a quick overview of what you’ll see, check out What to Expect at Sachsenhausen), but there was also time and space to explore the on-site museums on our own. The tour was a mix of historical facts interwoven with personal stories of inmates. There was always room for questions and discussions, and Russell was happy to answer even when we were sitting on the train back to Berlin.
If You Go
Dates and Times:
November - April: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10 a.m.;
May - October: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10 a.m.
12 euros, 10 euros for students (no reservation necessary, just show up at the meeting point)
Alexanderplatz between TV Tower and S-and U-Bahn Train Station
Website of Mosaic Tours