October 6, 1943: Nansen Arrives at Sachsenhausen

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Eighty years ago today, Odd Nansen arrived at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, approximately twenty-five miles north of Berlin.  After a practical joke went awry, and became a contest of wills between Nansen and head of the protective custody camp called Grini, located outside of Oslo, Norway, Nansen was informed by the Schutzhaftlagerführer:

“that I would now go to Germany and fine out what a real German K.Z.Lager” [Kazettenlager][Concentration Camp] was like.  He assured me that I need entertain no hopes of ever getting back to Norway—they could just put up the “monument” upon my grave [once more] straight away, for from the place I was bound for, people seldom returned alive.”

As Nansen departed for his new destination, he remained upbeat, observing “There’s something strange about movement—even if one is going to hell.  At any rate one’s getting somewhere—something is happening, the route may be pretty, and isn’t the paving celebrated?”  And, commenting on his arrival in Sachsenhausen after a voyage by bus, ship, and train, Nansen observes:

“In the light from a crack in the door [of the railcar] where I was lying, I wrote about the strange journey.  Unfortunately I didn’t manage to preserve that section of the diary, but I am certain there was nothing dolorous in those travel notes.  We were going on—slowly perhaps, but we were getting somewhere.  Something was happening—we were in motion.  And as I said, there’s something about movement—even if it leads to hell.  And that is pretty much where it led.”

Prison Wall, Electrified Fence and Guard Tower – Sachsenhausen Camp

(Portions of the preceding post first appeared on October 6, 2017.)

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