Part III – Neutral Zone | video

Video, silent. The camera moves along the “Neutral Zone”, the guard way between electric fence and the outer wall of KZ Sachsenhausen. My grandfather’s brother patrolled there, too. No one in the family wanted to have known about this.








Stills from the video, camera: Thomas Frischhut, 2007


The walkway between the electric fence and the outside wall of a concentration camp was called “Neutral Zone” by the “Totenkopf-SS”. The perfidiousness of this term shows to me symbolically the inscrutable mindset which held the entire humanity in contempt and which my great uncle decided to share. In the video the “Neutral Zone” of the Memorial Site of Konzentrationslager Sachsenhausenis is being traced walking.

Email by Dr. Ley, Memorial Site of Konzentrationslager Sachsenhausen, May 2006:

“Dear Ms Ammon,

I can well imagine that it must be quite difficult to learn that a member of one’s own family was a concentration camp guard. Unfortunately very little is currently known about the members of the SS “Death’s Head” guard battalions. While Frau Orth has produced an important study focusing on the commandants (Karin Orth, Die Konzentrationslager-SS. Sozialstrukturelle Analysen und biographische Studien, Göttingen, 2000), the lower-level SS men are only now being investigated by a doctoral student of the director of this memorial; however, she is far from finished. I asked this young researcher about the two battalions your great-uncle was in, but according to her, hardly anything about them has been passed down.

I can well imagine that it must be quite difficult to learn that a member of onEnlistment in the “Death’s Head” units was first followed by three to six months of basic training, which was primarily military but also ideological in nature. This training was heavily drill-oriented. It was soon followed by sentry duty, though soldiers would ideally have completed machine-gun training first. In addition to sentry duty, the men could also have been assigned to guard strategic assets (e.g. the barracks compound in Oranienburg, various properties in Berlin). At the subcamps, in particular, they also took on duties that were handled by the members of the command staff at the main camps.

In 1938 some of the guard details were also briefly used in the invasion of Austria and the Sudetenland. It is also conceivable that such temporary deployments took place during the war as well. However, this can probably no longer be verified, due to the poor condition of the historical records (the SS purposely destroyed their documents shortly before the end of the war).

Unfortunately I can tell you nothing more. I hope that this small amount of information has nonetheless been helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Astrid Ley”