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Sachsenhausen Death March memorial

This memorial is to those who suffered and perished on the death marhc out of Sachsenhausen, beginning in the early morning hours of 21st April, 1945. Thirty-three thousand prisoners from the camp, including women and children, set off toward the northwest, while 3,000 prisoners who were too weak or sick to travel were left behind to be liberated by the Russians.
 
 
The march is described as follows:
 
 
'The columns marched between 20 and 40 kilometers a day in cold wet weather and slept outdoors. In each column prisoners dragged wagons loaded with the belongings of the SS men. Since the streets were filled with refugees and army units, the columns moved forward very slowly. Following orders to kill or acting on their own initiative, SS men shot those who lagged behind or prisoners who tried to find stored potatoes and turnips to feed themselves. It is unlikely that the plan was to drive the prisoners to the Baltic Sea or as the former camp Commandant Anton Kaindl stated during the Soviet Sachsenhausen trial in 1947 "to drive them onto barges out to sea and let them sink."
 
The SS had already notified the International Red Cross on April 19, 1945 of the upcoming evacuation, and had requested food supplies.
 
 
Traveling via either Neuruppin or Rheinsberg, the columns of prisoners arrived in the vicinity of Wittstock. On April 23, 1945, more than 16,000 prisoners were concentrated into a large camp near the "Belower Woods." Other columns camped in barns in the nearby villages. While the SS camp leadership found quarters at nearby farms, the prisoners sought shelter from the cold in the woods camp in self-made dug-outs and fox-holes and they tried to abate their hunger with herbs, roots and bark.
 
 
 
The situation did not improve until trucks which had followed the marching columns arrived loaded with food from the International Red Cross. The Red Cross delegation apparently was also able to suspend the order to shoot prisoners who were unable to continue on the march. On April 27, 1945, the director of the political department of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp officially released about 250 prisoners, almost all Germans.
 
Due to the massive danger of an epidemic, on the following day the SS permitted an emergency hospital to be set up near the village of Grabow where prison doctors and nurses provided medical attention to more than 800 prisoners. One hundred and thirty-two of the many prisoners who died in the woods camp and in the hospital are buried at the cemetery in Grabow. By April 29, the columns left the woods camp and having traveled along different routes arrived in May in the territory between Parchim and Schwerin'.[1]
 
At this point, the SS guards deserted the march and the prisoners were finally rescued, between May 3rd and May 6th, 1945, by soldiers of the 2nd Belorussian Front in Crivitz and Raben-Steinfeld near Schwerin and by American troops of the 7th U.S. Tank Division near Ludwigslust. On May 8, 1945, the German Army surrendered and the war was over.
 

The death toll is unknown.


 

[1] Information Leaflet Number 7, Sachsenhausen Memorial Site,

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