Sachsenhausen was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950. The remaining buildings and grounds are now open to the public as a museum.
The camp was established in 1936. It was located 35 km north of Berlin, which gave it a primary position among the German concentration camps: the administrative centre of all concentration camps was located in Oranienburg, and Sachsenhausen became a training centre for Schutzstaffel (SS) officers who would often be sent to oversee other camps afterwards.
Executions took place at Sachsenhausen, especially of Soviet Prisoners of War. During the earlier stages of the camp’s existence the executions were done in a trench, either by shooting or by hanging.
Sachsenhausen was originally not intended as an extermination camp—instead, the systematic murder was conducted in camps to the east. In 1942 large numbers of Jewish inmates were relocated to Auschwitz. However the construction of a gas chamber and ovens by the camp commandant Anton Kaindl in March 1943, facilitated the means to kill larger numbers of prisoners.
The chamber used liquid Cyclon B which was placed in small glass bottles into the ventilation system next to the door. The bottle was broken with a spike and the gas mixed with the air and was forced into the chamber.
Sachsenhausen was intended to set a standard for other concentration camps, both in its design and the treatment of prisoners. The camp perimeter is, approximately, an equilateral triangle with a semi circular roll call area centered on the main entrance gate in the side running northeast to southwest. Barrack huts lay beyond the roll call area, radiating from the gate.
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