Geoff Walden

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Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Site

   In May 1938 a concentration camp was established at Flossenbürg, in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, near the Czech border. This camp was originally intended for criminals, "asocial" persons, and Jews, but it grew to include political prisoners and foreign prisoners of war. The largest number of the latter were Soviets. The site was chosen for its granite hills, and prisoners were put to work in a large quarry.

   Flossenbürg was liberated by the U.S. Army on 23 April 1945. By that time, some 30,000 inmates had died in Flossenbürg and its subcamps. (Memorials at the camp state the number as over 74,000, but recent research indicates it was around 30,000.)

   Among those killed were Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, General Hans Oster, and others involved in the plot to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944 (see the Berlin page for more details). These men had been arrested following the collapse of the plot, but they were held in various prisons and camps until being sent to Flossenbürg, where they were hanged on 9 April 1945, shortly before the liberation.   (Google Maps link)

 

Flossenbürg headquarters building, in the SS camp area. Today it houses a film room with an interpretive video.

 

This original building of the SS camp also survives, just outside the memorial grounds. It was the SS Casino (officers club and dining hall), and is now a privately-owned restaurant. This building can be seen in the period photos below, above the headquarters building (left) and over the camp gate area (right).  ( KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

Some of the camp officials and higher ranking SS personnel were housed in a specially constructed housing area on a hillside near the camp. These period log houses with stone foundations are still in use today.

 

On the left, the main gate to the prisoner area of the camp, seen in May 1945 following the liberation. The gate motto "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Works Makes You Free) appeared on the gate post at Flossenbürg, instead of the more common position of the gate ironwork itself. These gate posts were later moved to the memorial area called the "Valley of Death," overlooking the crematorium (without the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign).  (KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

The gate to the prisoner area, with one of the gateposts, can be seen just to the right of the small gatehouse building in the center of the period photo. The buildings seen here were all razed after the war, except the two large buildings in the center distance - the kitchen and laundry buildings for the prisoners - and the guard tower on the hill.  (KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

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None of the period barracks remain at the Flossenbürg site, but some hard buildings such as the prisoners laundry and kitchen have been preserved, as well as three of the original guard towers.  (KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

Another view of the Flossenbürg camp, showing one of the guard towers on the hillside beyond (left side of the photo). This tower can still be seen on the site (the modern view is taken from down in the camp area, looking past the prisoners kitchen building, which is being restored).  (National Archives)

 

A part of one of the prison buildings where the Resistance prisoners were held has been refurbished and now has a display on the history of the camp. A memorial plaque on the wall outside honors Bonhoeffer, Canaris, Oster, and others who were executed here in April 1945.  (period photo from KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

On the left, original barbed wire fenceposts can be seen beside the stairway leading down to the crematorium. The Flossenbürg crematorium is the original building.

 

Bodies from the upper part of the camp were moved to the crematorium on the lower level by means of a ramp with an entrance near one of the guard towers. The ramp led downhill to the crematorium  (U.S. Army photos)

 

The crematorium was actually a small building with only a dissection room and one oven.  (U.S. Army photo)

 

Ashes from the crematorium were dumped in several locations, including this "Pyramid of Ashes" (left photo, center), which is now part of the "Valley of Death" memorial, adjacent to the crematorium. The area includes a memorial at a mass execution site and the Square of Nations, with memorial plaques honoring victims from every country represented at Flossenbürg. The chapel was built of stones from demolished guard towers (and incorporates an adjacent guard tower in its structure). The "Valley of Death" is the oldest concentration camp memorial in Bavaria (1946).

 

Two of the Flossenbürg casualties were unknown American air crewmen POWs. This memorial in the Square of Nations was placed by the Association of Polish Veterans.

 

These markers was placed by survivors of the Flossenbürg camp, in honor of their liberation by the U.S. Army 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions.

 


 

Flossenbürg Quarry Site

 

The Flossenbürg quarry was located to the west of the camp. Prisoners worked here quarrying granite blocks for Nazi construction projects, under the direction of the SS company DESt (Deutsche Erd und Steinwerke - German Earth and Stone Works). The quarry (and indeed, most of Flossenbürg) was overlooked by the ruins of the Flossenbürg fortress. These ruins figured in the 1974 film "The ODESSA File," when John Voight's character, posing as an ex-camp guard to gain entrance to the SS veterans group, correctly identified the fortress ruins as the feature that could be seen from anywhere in the camp.  (KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

The quarry as it appeared in 1945, and the quarry site today. The quarry is still in use.  ( KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

Some of the original buildings of the SS quarry works remain today. The building in the modern photo is the garage building seen at the upper left of the period photo (the other buildings are no longer standing).  ( KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

These buildings, part of a stonemasons workshop complex, also exist at the quarry site.  ( KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg)

 

Another of the original stonemason workshop buildings at the quarry site.

 

This building located on top of the hill overlooking the quarry was the administration building of the SS DESt company.

 

Click here to read eyewitness accounts of the Flossenbürg camp by its U.S. Army liberators.

Flossenbürg page (in German)  --  http://www.gedenkstaette-flossenbuerg.de/

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum page  --  http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.jsp?ModuleId=10005537

Guide to Flossenbürg (English)  --  http://members.tripod.com/~p_heigl/main.html

The Flossenbürg Messages (Geoff Sullivan)  --  http://cryptocellar.org/Flossenbuerg

Other concentration camp sites  --  Dachau, Buchenwald, Dora (Nordhausen), Sachsenhausen, S/III Jonastal, Mauthausen (includes Gusen), Ebensee (Austria)

Memorial Museums for the Victims of National Socialism in Germany -- http://212.68.78.12/gfue/de/index.html

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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