Sachsenhausen 1: the ‘Geometry of Total Terror’

History Student Fieldtrip to Germany, July 2011

Arbeit Macht Frei: Photograph

The gateway to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Photo: Pete Driscoll

As we walked through the gates of the former concentation camp Sachsenhausen on the outskirts of Berlin, under the obscene slogan `Through Work, Freedom’ (Arbeit macht Frei) we saw the first plate of the memorial which announced that the camp was part of the `geometry of total terror’. The slogan was as chilling as it was informative. The concentration camp was expanded from its original site after the Nazis `seized power’ in 1933 until, by 1936, it held thousands of political prisoners, gay people and gypsies; after Kristallnacht in 1938, it also held Jewish people who were later transferred east to the death camp Auschwitz; and, after the outbreak of war, many POWs from the East were also confined behind its walls.

Our group of eight took the advice of the memorial’s staff to walk around the camp in any order, focusing on what we found most important. We’ve agreed to come back together to give our own accounts on the blog.

Sachsenhausen Entrance: Photograph

Entrance to the former camp, now described as a memorial and museum. Photo: Pete Driscoll

This post was contributed by Norry LaPorte, whose teaching and research interests include state terror and twentieth-century totalitarianism.

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