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Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens, 1936

On This Day in Jewish History: July 12, 1936

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The Sachsenhausen concentration camp opened. Sachsenhausen was designed to express the idea that the prisoners were under the complete control of the SS, both in reality and symbolically. Sachsenhausen was also a “model camp” and, therefore, used to train SS guards. Since it was located close to the Reich capital city Sachsenhausen held a special status which was shown when the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps moved their headquarters to Sachsenhausen. From 1936 until 1945, over 200,000 people were held prisoner in Sachsenhausen. In the beginning, the prisoners were forced to work in factories which the SS owned.


Beginning in 1938, the prisoners had to build bricks to supply the Nazis with materials to build the large structures that the Nazi leadership wanted to build in Berlin. Every day the SS would march 2,000 prisoners to the Klinkerwerk brickworks, the march would happen in front of the local residents who did not say a word. The brickwork detail was feared and considered a punishment since the SS would use Klinkerwerk as a location for murder operations. In 1941, Klinkerwerk became an independent subcamp.


Tens of thousands of prisoners died in Sachsenhausen due to hunger and disease as well as forced labor and systematic murder by the SS. Over 13,000 prisoners, mostly from the Soviet Union, were murdered in the testing of gas chambers. When the Soviet Army was approaching Sachsenhausen, the SS began evacuating the camp. Over 3,000 “dangerous” prisoners were executed by the SS and at least 13,000 were brought to other concentration camps. The rest of the prisoners, over 30,000 people, were forced onto death marches where thousands perished.


Finally, on April 22, 1945, the Red Army liberated Sachsenhausen. Only 3,000 sick prisoners with nurses and doctors remained in the camp. 300 of those prisoners died after liberation and were buried in Sachsenhausen.

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