University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built in the summer of 1936 by concentration camp prisoners from the Emsland camps. It was the first new camp to be established after Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler was appointed Chief of the German Police in 1936. The design of the grounds was conceived by the SS architects as the ideal concentration camp setting, giving architectural expression to the SS worldview, and symbolically subjugating the prisoners to the absolute power of the SS. As a model for other camps, and in view of its location just outside the Reich capital, Sachsenhausen acquired a special role in the National Socialist concentration camp system. This was reinforced in 1938 when the Concentration Camp Inspection Office, the administrative headquarters for all concentration camps within the German sphere of influence, was transferred from Berlin to Oranienburg.

More than 200,000 people were imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp between 1936 and 1945. At first the prisoners were mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime. However, increasing numbers of members of groups defined by the National Socialists as racially or biologically inferior were later included. By 1939 large numbers of citizens from the occupied European states arrived. Tens of thousands of people died of starvation, disease, forced labor and mistreatment, or were victims of the systematic extermination operations of the SS. Thousands of other prisoners died during the death marches following the evacuation of the camp at the end of April 1945. Approximately 3,000 sick prisoners, along with the doctors and nurses who had stayed behind in the camp, were liberated by the Russian and Polish troops of the Red Army.

According to both the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California, the death toll in the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen was around 30,000 out of a total prison population of 140,000 (note the Sachsenhausen State Museum says 200,000 prisoners between 1933-1945). In the Communist camp, used after the war for anti-Communist class enemies, called Special Camp No. 7, there were approximately 12,000 deaths out of a prison population of 60,000.

There were also 45,000 prisoners on the SS death march near the end of the war and that 7,000 of them starved to death because there was no food to give them.(see below Oranienburg Memorial to Death March Victims).

Preservation and Redesign, History of the Site

Camp Entrance

Camp Gates

Sachsenhausen Gate: "Arbeit Macht Frei" - "Work Liberates"

Russian Memorial at Camp Entrance

To August Dickmann - Jehovah's Witness. Shot in 1939 as Conscientious Objector

To Czech Students Killed in Camp

To French Miners of the North & Pas de Calais

To British Commonwealth Prisoners

Area Near Liberation Memorial Once Held Barrakcs

Roll Call Area

Camp Building

Execution Trench

Crematorium and Extermination Site. Station 2. (Above and right)

Guard Tower

Oranienburg Memorial to Death March Victims

René Graetz, Memorial to Liberation 1961

Pathology Lab Dissection Room

Pathology Building

Pathology Building

Map at NSDAP (Nazi) Concentration Camp System in Occupied Europe

Model of Camp. Note Triangle Pattern

Variation of Triangles for Prisoners

Medical Experiments

Art by Leo Haas Depicting Camp Life

Art by Leo Haas Depicting Life in Bunks

Exhibition showing development of Oranienburg, the first camp for political prisoners in this area. Originally a brewery converted to a prison

Oranienburg Exhibition Model of Camp in Foreground

Oranienburg Exhibit About Life of Inmates

Memorial to Dutch Inmates

Memorial to Dutch Inmates

Memorial to Dutch Prisoners/Inmates

Exhibition dedicated to Soviet Prisoners in the camp (Above and right)

Soviet Exhibit

Memorial in Stained Glass to Victims, Partisans & Soviet Liberators

For other monuments see: