Sunday, July 22, 2007

Police never change

Sachsenhausen , a former Nazi concentration camp is being converted into a police training academy . What was once a compound for Hitler's despised SS has been renovated and recently opened as a training academy for police recruits from Brandenburg State in Eastern Germany.

The Brandenburg Police Academy was officially opened last November. It coincided with the 70th anniversary of the opening of the death camp in 1936, the first to be opened by Heinrich Himmler after he was appointed chief of the German police in addition to his position as Reichsf├╝hrer SS. Sachsenhausen is where the SS learned their barbaric trade before being dispatched to run a network of hundreds of death camps across occupied Europe.

"This was quarters for a SS regiment called the Death's Head; the state's riot police now use it," - Rainer Grieger, who heads the facility.

Sachsenhausen, named after an area of the town of Oranienburg, was established initially to hold political prisoners and those deemed enemies of the Nazis. As a model for other camps, and in view of its location just outside the Third Reich capital, Sachsenhausen acquired a special role in the National Socialist concentration camp system. This was reinforced in 1938 when the Concentration Camp Inspection Office - the administrative headquarters for all concentration camps - was transferred from Berlin to Oranienburg.Sachsenhausen was one of the first to use the infamous slogan Arbeit Macht Frei (work sets us free) on its front entrance gate.
Of the 100,000 inmates who died here, many expired from exhaustion, disease, malnutrition or pneumonia contracted in the freezing cold. Others were summarily executed or died as a result of brutal medical experimentation (the SS practised methods of mass killing that were later used in other Nazi death camps). Those targeted included Jews, Communists and many Russian prisoners of war, among them Stalin's eldest son, Jakov, who was shot. Other famous prisoners included Jimmy James, a British pilot involved in the mass escape from Stalag Luft III - an incident immortalised in the film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen. When the Red Army advanced in the spring of 1945, the SS ordered 33,000 emaciated inmates at the camp on a death march westwards. Most were exhausted and were shot when they fell to the ground. On April 22, 1945, the remaining 3000 prisoners were liberated by the Red Army and the Polish 2nd Infantry Division of Ludowe Wojsko Polskie. For five years after the end of the Second World War the Soviets used the camp to intern some 60,000 people, including Nazi prisoners. By the time Sachsenhausen closed in 1950, at least 12,000 of them had died of malnutrition and disease.

The Reverend Martin Niem├Âller was also imprisoned here and famously wrote:
"First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Police never changes" - How do you know it ?

Come and visit us.

Rainer Grieger
Head of Brandenburg State Police Academy