Flossenburg Concentration Camp was one of the hundreds of camps run by the Nazis during World War II. It’s set in the lovely forested land of eastern Germany, just a few miles from the Czech Republic.
The attraction for the German war machine was the large granite quarry here. As the war went on, more and more prisoners from virtually every country in the European theater of the war were sent here to wrest granite slabs from the earth. Today, the quarry still produces granite, while the camp has become a peaceful memorial to those who died here.
We were given the honor of spending a full day with these researchers because my dad served here right after the war. He was with the 90th Army, nicknamed the Tough Hombres. Here’s a plaque we found on the grounds thanking the 90th for their part in the camp’s liberation.
With Annabelle and Tamara, we toured the gardens. We went in the memorial chapel with its lovely stained glass. We paid respects at the mass grave. We stood in the shadow of the guard tower and somberly entered the crematorium.
One of the buildings houses a museum that pays tribute to individuals who lost their lives here. The numbers are staggering – about 30,000 dead – but numbing. Once you put a name and a face with a number, you can begin to understand the horror of Flossenburg.
The quiet of the forest surrounding the camp must have been such a contrast to the life of the prisoners. As the Allies approached in April, 1945, the German guards took all prisoners who could stand on a death march. They left only the sickest behind. When my dad arrived, these ill souls were still there. In the museum, we found this photo of some of those men.
For about 50 years after the war, Flossenburg stood as a only a mass grave. Most of the buildings were torn down for construction material. Relatives of prisoners and other caring people finally organized to develop a fitting memorial. The work is ongoing. It was an immense privilege to learn from these young scholars a more detailed history of Flossenburg. The years pass, but we remember what happened here. For the sake of our humanity, we must never forget.
For more information, visit the memorials website. The museum and camp area is free and is open every day at 9:00.