The memorial site Sachsenhausen is a former concentration camp in Oranienburg, about 30 minutes north of Berlin. The camp was erected in 1936, and until 1945, more than 200,000 people were imprisoned here by the Nazis.
Sachsenhausen was in many ways one of the most important concentration camps in the Third Reich: It was the first camp established under Heinrich Himmler as Chief of the German Police, and its architectural lay-out was used as a model for almost all concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
The camp was the administrative heart of all German concentration camps and it was the trainings ground for the SS. It was also here, that one of the biggest counterfeiting operations was conducted; inmates were forced to produce forged American and British currency, as part of a plan to undermine economies of the enemy.
However, Sachsenhausen was not planned as an extermination camp, such as Auschwitz; it was a concentration camp, where inmates were held as prisoners and had to suffer forced labor; tens of thousands died here due to malnutrition, torture, and disease.
The Memorial Site Today
The memorial site shows impressively, how different governments left their political imprint on the camp; first and foremost, Sachsenhausen 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 interment 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 ideologies.