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gewoelbe ss hundeschule sachsenhausen oranienburg

SS-Hundeschule Sachsenhausen

While the horrors of the KZ Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg have been documented for posterity, and the KZ itself has been preserved as a memorial for future generations – many of the structures used by the SS connected to the Camp lie hidden in a forest, crumbling to pieces. One of them is the SS-Hundeschule Sachsenhausen.

*SS-Hundeschule Sachsenhausen History*

wehrmacht solider with german sheppard dogs

ss panzerdivision mit schaeferhund

The department of the „Beauftragter für das Diensthundewesen“ (Commissioner for Service Dogs) was created on the 15th of May, 1942 by direct order of the Führer. The head of this new department was the SS-Standartenführer Franz Mueller, a forester, hunting dog trainer and career Nazi (Mueller survived the war and briefly spent some time as a British POW – but he was never tried for any of his acts. He later worked for the West German intelligence agency).

SS hundezwinger sachsenhausen oranienburg lageplan
© Stadtarchiv – Stadt Oranienburg | A big thank you to Juergen Czwienk for forwarding me the Plan

According to the decree, the main responsibility of the „Beauftragter für das Diensthundewesen“ was the management and organization of the entire service dog system of the SS and Police. This included the technical supervision of the dogs in the Economic and Administrative Office, the SS Main Office, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and the Ordnungspolizei. Mueller was responsible for training, tests, for the development of equipment for breeding and feeding, veterinary care, and for staffing.

karl hoecker schaeferhund

The K-9 units for the Concentration Camps were drastically increased from May 1942 onwards. The head of the SS Economic and Administrative Office – Oswald Pohl – informed the concentration camp commanders that a Dog School was to be set up in Oranienburg, to increase the quantity of Dog units. Initially he had cited a united strength of 75 SS men and 60 dogs.

SS Hundeausbildung

In July, 1942, Oswald Pohl reversed his orders. Instead he ordered for the creation of the department „Schutz- und Suchhunde“ (Search and Protection Dogs) which was to be divided into the following sub departments:

a) Procurement of dogs
b) training of dog handlers
c) training of protection and guard dogs,
d) Dog Breeding
e) veterinary matters.

Standartenfiihrer Mueller took over the management for the department – and this was the main reason for Pohls order reversal. With this restructuring, the department was integrated and transformed into a central facility of the Waffen SS. From July 1942 onwards the department ran under the name „Lehr- und Versuchsabteilung für das Diensthundwesen der Waffen-SS“ (Teaching and Research Department of the Waffen SS Service Dogs).

barracke ss hundeschule oranienburg

einsturz ss barracke

The facility was established on the grounds of the KZ Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, in the forested area known as the Waldlager. 17 barracks were built in 1942. They were predominantly kennels for a total of about 200 dogs, as well as a veterinary station and a quarantine barrack for dogs. The facility also had 5 barracks for the dog handlers, an office and an education center for the trainee dog handlers.

One of the first dog trainers was Johann Sosnowski, who had previously been in charge of  the kennels of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1944, Sosnowski was punished by an SS  police court because he had smuggled food, clothing and bicycles to prisoners. He was expelled from the SS and sent to a SS Detention center in Dachau.

stufen hundeschule sachsenhausen

reste ss barracke oranienburg

The initial plan was to build up extensive K-9 units in order to reduce the number of guards at the Camps. This plan ultimately failed though as the dogs were easily distracted, and when exposed to targeted provocation they would leave sections of the camp unguarded.

The last orders that reached the Hundeschule came through on the 8th of March, 1945 – which stated an intention to move the troops to east – most likely as a desperation move to try and stop the Soviet advancement in the east.

The Soviet and Polish troops “liberated” the remaining 3000 prisoners of the KZ Sachsenhausen on the 22nd of April 1945, a day after the camp had been evacuated and 33000 of its prisoners had been forced on a death march north-west.

gewoelbe ss hundeschule oranienburg

gewoelbe ss hundeschule sachsenhausen oranienburg

After the soviets took control over the camp – they slowly demolished all the facilities in the Waldlager they had no use for. There is no evidence that the SS Hundeschule was used for any military purpose after 1945 – and almost all of the buildings have been demolished. Solely one building has survived to this day and most of it is buried underneath the earth.

ss hundeschule sachsenhausen

The remains look like they could collapse at any moment, so it’s not advisable to find a way in (its pitch black inside anyway) – but if you have a peek through one of the windows (with the aid of a flashlight) you can still make out the vaulted ceiling. Aside from that, you can still spot a few remnants of the other buildings spread out throughout the forest.

animal bone

Visiting the SS  Hundeschule is best combined with a trip to the nearby Communications Bunker and the Munitions Depot. On the other side of Oranienburg you’ll find the Flugplatz Oranienburg – the abandoned Airfield and Aircraft Manufacturing site, which is well worth visiting as well.

The Oder-Havel Canal provides an extremely scenic bike ride making the short excursion into the forest worthwhile.

For the rest of the photos of the Hundeschule check out the short Flickr Album: SS Hundeschule Sachsenhausen

 

Digital Cosmonaut

9 comments

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    • Thanks man – wasnt terribly much left to see there and that building is dodgy as hell. Getting out there is a total pain, but there are loads of places to explor. Def. heading out there again.

  • […] completed. Alongside the Depot, they built a Hauptzeugamt (a department which controls armament), a dog training school, a weapons workshop, storage units, Intelligence Units and an above ground Comunications bunker, […]

  • Jeremy Bristow says:

    The authorities at KZ Sachsenhausen have told my researcher that no such place exists. Your article appears true to me. Is it possible to give a grid reference for the site?
    I am making a documentary for National Geographic.
    Thank you
    Jeremy Bristow

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Im not surprised that they don’t know anything about this place. There is a substantial paper trail though which documents various orders, people and dates tied the facility. You would think that this would have come up at some point in their documentation about the Camp. Its most likely been forgotten about because the Soviets demolished the place and built a very large munitions depot on the area where the Hundeschule used to be, which was off limits to all civilian personnel until the mid 90s. Ive been in touch with your colleague Juergen, so I assume he will relay the information to you.

  • hello, the remains of the dog school are right on the location of the ammunition depots?

  • What happened to the Nazi dogs? Were the dogs killed or re-homed? Were the dogs, German Shepherds or different breeds during the Third Reich? What breeds were used with the SS guards? Amon Goeth dogs Ralf and Rolf were what breed?