On our third day in Berlin we decided we wanted to discover more of the things that happened during the war and one of the most obvious ways to us was to drop ourselves right into the place where the atrocities happened. This being a concentration camp. We discovered the one that we wanted to go to in a leaflet we found at the hotel. Before leaving, we were instructed to pack a packed lunch and so we did, just after a few quick snaps at breakfast!
We grabbed the tram into Potsdamer and headed on our way to find the tour guides. When we arrived we were shown to our guide Sven, who I have to admit was actually rather good looking!
We all travelled with Sven on another tram to get to where we needed to be. As we walked through the streets towards the camp he told us stories about where the Jews used to live along roads and what the protocol was for them when the Nazis ruled. He said that the lines we were walking in along the way was how the Jews would have been forced to walk and people would have thrown dirty rotten fruit at them and awful things to make them smell and feel humiliated. It was awful to think about.
When we arrived at the concentration camp, Sven gave us some guides and we all stood around an iron table which gave a full layout of the camp we were about to explore.
After listening on headsets around the table for a short while about some of the events at the camp, Sven led us into the museum building, there was an array of glass boxes filled with artefacts found after the camp was closed down, including the very famous striped pyjamas.
Once getting to look on the computers and stare at the cinema screens for a while about info on the war we finally entered the ground of the concentration camp, and Sven showed us many sites on the camp including the psycho treatment area and the places where the Nazis would have had their “whores” come to see them and had drinks etcetera.
the huge white building, the all-seeing eye type place. Going inside was so surreal. There was information everywhere about people from the war and the prisoners and also original Nazi furniture and books on the shelves. The place was interactive and so there were listening points situated around the room too. One of the strangest feelings was when climbing the stairs knowing they were the original stares the Nazis walked on and the doors I touched were touched by Nazis. Quite chilling.
Here are some pictures from inside:
It was so fascinating inside, and what was more surreal than being inside the Nazi perspective, was now heading into the prisoner’s. We went down the stairs of the panopticon and into the camp area. Sven told us a dozen stories, he was full of information. There was some barbed wire by a fence and if the prisoners stepped over it they were shot on command. Sven said sometimes the Nazis would throw their hats in there and tell prisoners to fetch it just for a laugh, knowing the prisoner would be shot.
There was another area called the shoe testing track which was used by Nazis for, you guessed it, shoe testing. The Nazis would make prisoners wear shoes that had just been manufactured and force them to run up and down on the shoe testing track which had different terrains for days or until they were exhausted. They would be forced to walk and run. Some of the shoes that were tested were made by a Nazi Doctor, called Doctor Marten. Many of you will be familiar with Doctor Martens, I definitely am as I wear them often. It was devastating to hear this is where they had originated from.
Just across the camp from where we had this talk from Sven was one of the original barracks that the prisoners were kept in. Some of the images are rather shocking, not disturbing as such, so feel free to browse through, but the idea that human beings were forced to live in these conditions were disgusting.
Amongst these images, are the bunk beds were up to four prisoners were forced to sleep in one bed at one time (which would have been impossible), the toilets where 100 prisoners would have been forced to go in at one time (where Nazis would have killed prisoners as they washed by smashing their head into the basin) and a small box space where prisoners would be left for days as punishment in the dark.
Sven told us that some Neo-Nazis that were still around today had actually attempted to burn down some of the other barracks including the infirmary out of spite on multiple occasions because they feel that their beliefs are being disrespected since we are commemorating the memory of the tortured prisoners.
There was a part in the museum where you could leave a note or a word too.
The next part of the tour at the camp was actually the saddest. This part of the tour saw the labs where they held experiments on the prisoners and also one of the gas chambers as well as the shooting wall, where prisoners would stand and be shot at by the shooting squads. I feel like I needn’t say much of the horrors that happened here, but some of what we learned were that often the doctors would try to cut out the tattoos from the prisoners as a method of torture, it was barbaric.
We had come to the end of the tour by the time we had seen this part and it was time to head home, just as we were walking out Sven showed us that the houses on the street were actually the originals that were built there by the Nazis. It was mad to know they were still inhabited today, when they would have been used to house the “Master Race” all those years before…