Flossenbürg Concentration Camp
A few weekends ago Stefan and I decided to head to the town of Flossenbürg to check out some castle ruins and a concentration camp there. We didn’t really know what to expect as neither of us had ever been to a concentration camp before. As we drove through Flossenbürg it looked like any normal German town: cute, quaint, colorful and charming. We thought that the concentration camp would be on the outskirts of town, but it wasn’t. It was right in the center of town which was pretty surprising.
We parked and got brochures (in English, yay!) and began to make our way in through the camp. As we walked through the breezeway of the SS Headquarters building there were posters with general facts about Flossenbürg Concentration Camp. The camp was active between 1938 and 1945. Over 100,000 people were imprisoned there and at least 30,000 people died there. The camp was originally set up to mine granite in the nearby quarry. We didn’t know it at the time, but we parked right next to the quarry where the granite was mined. It is still active today.
The camp is set up very well. There are different exhibits that stretch over two buildings. The exhibits are informative and are in both English and German. Inside of the exhibits you can see pictures of what the camp looked like, see uniforms for both the prisoners and the SS soldiers, personal artifacts from the prisoners and learn about what life was like living in the camp.
You can even walk through the areas of the camp that still stand. Pictured above is the bath house that prisoners used. It was difficult to walk through these areas and we didn’t spend much time in them. Since we went early on a Saturday morning we were the only ones in these areas and it was entirely too eerie to stay in them for long.
Outside we were still able to get a feel for what the camp would have been like. The long, white markers pictured above are where the prisoner barracks once stood. These buildings, along with a few others, weren’t able to be preserved as they were made of wood. One of the things that was so startling to me was the amount of houses that surrounded the camp. Most of these houses were even standing (some housed SS soldiers and high ranking officials) while the camp was active. I can’t imagine living there now and having my backyard be a concentration camp, let alone living there when the camp was active.
After we got through looking at the exhibits inside we made our way down to the “Valley of Death”. In the picture above the white building in the back is the crematorium. The “Valley of Death” has now been turned into a memorial for all of the victims of this camp. Originally this area is where prisoners were shot and their ashes were disposed of.
The mass grave above is actually a lot taller than you might think. Maybe 5.5-6 feet tall. When you stop to think of what is in there it is really sobering. Unfortunately this was the final resting place for thousands of people.
With the fence and guard towers still standing we were able to see that there really was no way for the prisoners to escape. I’m sure to some people visiting a concentration camp seems morbid. I’ve always been interested in WWII and specifically concentration camps so I do plan to visit several. I think that by visiting one you can appreciate and learn so much more from them than by just reading about them. I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable to visit Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, but I am very glad we went.
Although it is free to visit the camp I highly recommend donating at least a few euros per person to the relief fund for surviving prisoners of Flossenbürg Concentration Camp. You can donate at the reception desk inside of the main exhibit.
More to do in Flossenbürg: Flossenbürg Castle
Other Concentration Camps We’ve Visited: Dachau Concentration Camp