CLIO mr brice - page 52

Walking through the entrance of
the camp, it was strange to think
that about 70 years ago, a boy of a
similar age to me would have passed
the very same imposing metal gates,
but, unlike me, he would not have
known whether he was ever going to
leave.
The vastness of the camp was
striking. Only a handful of the
original buildings still remain, which
leaves the rest of the space empty
and barren. This massive stretch
of land is a scar on the landscape,
a reminder that the memory of
what happened here will never be
forgotten, and never should be
forgotten. The camp is surrounded
by 3 walls, joined by watchtowers
at 3 corners to form a triangle.
Along the inside of the wall there
is an area, a few metres wide, called
the neutral zone. We were told that
this was under guard 24/7, and the
guards were instructed to shoot to
kill anyone who stepped into it,
whatever the reason.
We were also shown a cramped
‘dormitory’ where as many as four
hundred prisoners would have to
sleep. The dorms had one bathroom:
a room with a deep circular basin
in the middle. We were told how
sometimes, guards might pick a
prisoner at random and drown
them, in a display of vicious cruelty,
simply for ‘entertainment’. Along
the left hand side camp, the wall
is adorned with pictures and text
about captives, guards and events
that took place at Sachsenhausen.
Once we had taken these in, we
were escorted
through the
wall, and shown
the execution
trench on the
outskirts of the
camp - where
thousands of
people would
have been lined
up and shot.
At the end of
the trench was
a system used
to hang up to 4
people at once.
Sickeningly,
it would have been operated by
one of the prisoners. They could
either choose to save themselves
momentarily and hang the others,
or choose to be hanged by another
prisoner. We were also shown the
furnaces; ‘station Z’, where bodies
were cremated. This too, would
have been done by prisoners rather
than guards. The name, station Z,
was another example of the Nazi’s
twisted sense of humour: they
thought it was amusing that their
victims entered the camp through
station A (the gatehouse) and ‘left’
through station Z.
The Nazis used concentration
camps such as Sachsenhausen to
‘dehumanise’ those groups they
considered inferior; they shaved
their heads, broke their minds,
and shattered their identities. But,
ironically, through committing
all these obscene crimes, they
were dehumanising themselves
far more than they ever could a
Jewish man or Roma woman. It
would have taken an incredible
amount of physical and mental
strength to survive as a prisoner in
a concentration camp, but it would
have taken complete, psychological
insanity to survive as a guard.
The Neutral Zone – “There is no warning,
shooting starts immediately”
By Tom Ramsden
52
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