In May 1945 the Soviet secret service began the construction of 10 special camps in the Soviet occupied territories. Special camp No.7 was constructed in Weesow near Werneuchen and was moved in August 1945 to the site of the National Socialist concentration camp Sachsenhausen. In the summer of 1948 the camp was renamed special camp No.1. Until its closure in March 1950 more than 60,000 people had been held there, at least 12,000 of which died due to the catastrophic prison conditions, hunger and psychological or physical exhaustion.
In contrast to British, US and French camps, the vast majority of the prisoners held in the Russian camps were NSDAP functionaries, a review of an individual's guilt did not take place. From 1948 most of the prisoners had been sentenced by the Soviet military tribunal for acting against the Soviet occupying forces. Often the arrests occurred arbitrarily or after a denunciation and many prisoners confessed only after being tortured. German prisoners of war, recently released from allied P.O.W. camps, were held in Sachsenhausen special camp as were members of the red army, awaiting repatriation to the USSR accused of desertion. Part of the camp was used as a special hospital to care for red army soldiers with sexually transmitted diseases.
The special camp was almost completely isolated from the outside world. Families were not informed of the whereabouts or the fate of the prisoners. The special camps were not labour camps and so differed to the Soviet gulags. They also differed greatly to the National Socialist concentration camps as there was no intent to exterminate the internees and the camp personnel rarely assaulted the inmates.
The camp was closed in 1950, but only not all of the prisoners were set free.
The majority of the prisoners sentenced by the Soviet military tribunal were
sent to East German prisons. Some of the internees were tried during the
Waldheimer cases in the GDR and soviet prisoners were deported to camps in the