For Americans, like myself, World War II stories are fresh in our minds. As we’re traveling around the country, we try our best to visit them and keep reminding ourselves what can happen if we are not careful, mindful. One of the things that are abundant in Germany are concentration camps, and unlike the names of Dachau and Auschwitz which have been engraved on our brains.
Flossenburg Concentration Camp is one of thousands of camps during World War II that no one has heard of, yet millions of people of all ages and gender were imprisoned, or worse, in these unforgotten hells. The numbers of concentration camps during the Second World War is staggering. Numbers vary depending on your source, however up to 42,500 camps have been named, some extermination camps, some work camps.
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KZ Gedenkstatte = Flossenburg Concentration Camp Memorial
Flossenburg Facts and History
Flossenburg before the war, was a place people went to enjoy the outdoors in an area of natural beauty. The town was known for its mine and quarry which brought much needed work to the locals. Unfortunately it was the mine that also drew the attention of the Nazis. In the early stages of National Socialism, a new state was being built and the building material of choice was stone. Massive projects like Tempelhof in Berlin had staggering requirements for quarried stone and slave labor was the horrible solution.
The camp was established in 1939 and immediately prisoners from Dachau Concentration Camp, north of Munich sent some of their overflow. The original inmates were political prisoners, but not much later, prisoners were streaming in from Eastern countries, primarily from Poland and Russia, but no area was unrepresented.
The camp did have a crematorium and many prisoners were killed outright, but the main killer was the mine. Inmates marched to and from the mine in all types of weather with little protection from the elements. They worked 12 hour days, back-breaking and dangerous work in the quarry, moving rocks, digging, and other menial tasks. They were only given one break per day and fed a small bowl of broth. Needless to say, the mine broke many men.
At the end of the war, when the Allies were advancing the management of the camp ordered the inmates on a Death March so they wouldn’t be discovered. The march was brutal and many more people lost their lives during these late stages of the war.
One of the most famous prisoners, who also lost his life here, was Dietrick Bonhoeffer. A Catholic priest and theologian, his writings and involvement in the Resistance led him to Flossenburg.
Visiting Flossenburg Concentration Camp Today
We visited on a cold, wintry day with snow on the ground. For me, it’s the way it should be, because the grayness, the coldness, seeps into my being. As I shiver from the wind, my heart weeps for the inmates that had to endure these hardships.
The site is very well maintained and informative. There is no cost to get in, so you are free to wander the grounds. First you walk through the arch of the administrative center, which opens up onto the old parade grounds where many atrocities took place, least of which was making the prisoners stand for hours as they were counted.
The exhibition building, with a cinema in the basement, is the best place to start. It tells you the history of Flossenburg Concentration Camp as well as many stories, autobiographies of the inmates, and economic information. The film is offered throughout the day in German, but at 2:30 in the afternoon it is in English, and I would highly recommend it. It is narrated by people who were inmates at the camp and is very moving.
Further along is the Jewish memorial and the church, along with some towers and the crematorium. All are worth a visit.
A sobering afternoon, but a very informative one, I would recommend anyone in the area to visit the Flossenburg Concentration Camp.
Getting to KZ Flossenburg
By car: Take autobahn A93 and exit Nuestadt an der Waldnaab or take autobahn A6 and exit Waidhaus. For either way, once you leave the autobahn follow the signs to “KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenburg.” From: Grafenwoehr 45 min., Munich 2 hrs., Stuttgart 3 hr., Wiesbaden 3.5 hrs., and Düsseldorf 5.5 hrs.
By Public Transporation: Take the train to Weiden in der Oberpfalz, then you must take Bus number 6272 to Flossenburg. It takes 45 minutes once you get to Weiden.
Children: I would not take children below the age of about ten. The exhibits are all reading, and I think a small child could get easily bored.
Dogs are not allowed.
Have you been to Flossenburg Concentration Camp?
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
Save KZ Flossenburg Concentration Camp for later.
Sunday 22nd of January 2023
I visited the camp in 2000 while at Grafenwohr training with the National Guard. The first thing that struck me about the camp was the geography. The camp sits in the bottom of the valley & the village sits above it. It means the local population was able to observe everything that went on in the camp. When crematories were going, the smoke & human ash would spew out of the top of the smoke stacks nearly at the same level of their windows. So the selective ignorance that they did not know what was going in the camps was certainly a lie. I know we hear so much about the Jews who died in the camps but around 5 million non-Jews also died in the camps. And this was one of the camps for the other undesirables of the Nazi regime. People from all walks of life. It's something to be aware of when modern day politics targets certain populations. Eventually they expand to target others as well.
Tuesday 24th of January 2023
Ralph, Thanks for your comment. Flossenburg is definitely a place that makes you think.
Tuesday 11th of June 2019
Corrine, thank you for taking the time to do this website. My wife and I plan to visit Flossenburg next year. I have been reading about Bonhoeffer, his life, resistance and death. He is considered a modern-day martyr by some. His statue is on the west exterior of the Westminster Abbey in London. He was was a Lutheran pastor and seminary teacher (not Catholic). Thank you again, for this sobering, but important, website.
Friday 14th of June 2019
Thank you for your kind words.
Sunday 17th of February 2019
Does anyone know where I might find a list of the autobiographies mentioned here? I have seen elsewhere that a person with my (rather uncommon) last name was imprisoned here.
Sunday 17th of February 2019
Michael, The only place I know of to find these biographies is at the site itself. Corinne
Sunday 12th of November 2017
i am currently writing a novel based upon the Jewish hospital in Berlin that survived until the end of the war and the events occurring inside this camp. it is beyond sobering and truly eye-opening for me to write and research about; especially considering my family's Ashkenazi-German origins and own experiences with camps similar to this one. I truly hope I will be able to visit these camps in person. I have respects to pay for the people who suffered here, and the desire to grow closer to the past. In my eyes, after all, it is the unflinching look at the past that triggers a blissful future.
Monday 13th of November 2017
Grey, It is a sobering experience to visit these places, but it is a lesson to all. Good luck on your novel.
Friday 10th of March 2017
Corinne, thanks for your post. My dad was in the army unit that liberated Flossenburg, and I've wanted to visit for years. It's out of the way from the larger cities in Germany and Austria, so we decided not to go. But now I really want to make the effort. It's still on my list. I did visit Dachau and plan to go to Ravensbruck this year. These reminders are sobering but so needed.
Tuesday 2nd of July 2019
My Uncle also helped liberate Flossenburg.
Saturday 11th of March 2017
Sharon, Please let me know if you go, we are so close to it. That's such an amazing thing to be connected to the liberation of the camp. I implore you not to miss it. It really was informational.