Some Alone Time
It had been nine days since I’d last had some alone time. Nine doesn’t sound like a huge number but for someone who likes to be a hermit every once in a while, nine days can build up a lot of social stress. I am fortunate to wake up to the friendly faces around me. I am working with quite a team of adventurers, but I could also use some time to just chill. You know? Well, on the 10th day, we took the morning off to get some solitary time at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
A 40-minute train ride from East Berlin took us north to the town of Oranienburg where Hitler’s regime opened one of Germany’s first concentration camps. Established in 1936, the Sachsenhausen was originally designed to imprison political enemies but, like every other concentration camp, Sachsenhausen became a ground for the extermination of thousands of Jews and non-Germans alike.
A quick 6-minute bus ride from the Oranienburg train station dropped us off at the front doors of the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum. There, we each paid 3 Euros for the individual rental of these huge, lollipop-shaped audio devices that would serve as our tour guide. We each took our separate paths and entered at the camp. I was on my own.
I noticed the gloomy weather. The sky was covered by a sheet of dark clouds - there was no chance for sunlight - and the cold, heavy winds pierced enough to go through my glasses and into my already dried-out eyes. The feeling of surrealism was overwhelming. It was weird – only minutes ago, I was admiring the cute colors of the suburban homes surrounding the camp.
Just 50 ft from the main entrance, I saw a man carrying groceries up to his front door. I saw a woman walking her dog. I saw someone answering an important call while they were driving. Then, there was this huge structure where thousands of human beings were starved to death and brutally murdered.
The things the talking lollipop told me were enraging. I couldn’t believe some of the stories. A 19-year-old hung in front of other prisoners because he wanted to make soles for his shoes. Six Jewish children injected with Hepatitis for research. SS members releasing stress by torturing and executing any inmate in sight. The cold-blooded massacre of around 18,000 POWs. Nine years of Nazi authority in Sachsenhausen. More than 200,000 prisoners. More than 100,000 deaths. Only few SS members put on trial after the war…
This trip has been able to open my eyes more than I ever thought it would. There have been times where I’ve become so self-absorbed, only wanting some space for myself, unaware that I am surrounded by good group of people who do care about each other.
I cannot imagine how alone the victims of Sachsenhausen must have felt. I hope the ones who did survive the atrocities of the Nazi regime had someone to support them in the years to come.
-Sal Garcia, 2020 Videographer