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Holocaust History: Concentration Camps

This LibGuide is a starting point for general research on the concentration camps, with resources on genocide, survivor memoirs, and primary sources.

Brief History

The Sachsenhausen concentration camp was located at the edge of Oranienburg, northwest of Berlin. The camp’s first prisoners were political opponents of the Nazis and criminal offenders, but later, the camp held Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma and Sinti, and Soviet civilians. Among the camp’s most famous prisoners was Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller.

Built-in July 1936, by the end of that year, 1,600 inmates were imprisoned there. The population expanded after Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938, when around 6,000 Jewish men were rounded up from Berlin, Hamburg, Mecklenburg, and Pomerania and transported to the camp. Many prisoners worked in a brick factory. Some were forced to work in a currency counterfeiting operation producing forged United States and British currency with the goal of undermining those countries’ economies. In the latter phases of the war, Poles, Hungarians, and Soviet prisoners of war were sent to the camp. Many of the Soviet prisoners were shot upon arrival.

The camp's prisoner population fluctuated between 11,000 and 48,000 during the war. Of the roughly 200,000 prisoners who passed through Sachsenhausen, at least 30,000 inmates died from exhaustion, disease, malnutrition, and pneumonia.

As the Soviet army drew closer to the camp in late April 1945, the SS evacuated some 33,000 prisoners who were sent on a forced march northwest. The SS shot those unable to keep up. On April 22, 1945, units of the Soviet and Polish armies liberated the approximately 3,000 ill and dying prisoners still in the camp.


The following summary derived information from the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library

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