Flossenbuerg delves into its dark past
June 3, 2014
FLOSSENBUERG, Germany -- For WWII buffs, Bavaria is an ideal location to feed the mind.
From Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden to Dachau north of Munich and the Nazi Party Rallying Grounds in Nuremberg, Bavaria offers the enterprising historian some of the best locations to explore.
But, even among these famed sites, Flossenbuerg Concentration Camp Memorial makes an impression.
The camp is unassuming and easy to miss, tucked into a neighborhood at the edge of Markt Flossenbuerg, a few miles from the Czech border.
The few buildings that remain of the main camp, namely the laundry, kitchen and imposing Commanders Headquarters, flank a small parade field. The laundry and kitchen house exhibitions on the history of the camp, its victims and the survivors.
Maps, photos, artifacts, biographies, testimonies and prisoners' possessions give texture to the history of the camp.
Walking between the laundry and kitchen, visitors can leave the parade field through a small gate. Along the path through a garden and cemetery for those who died during forced death marches prior to liberation, visitors head down concrete steps to the bleakest part of the camp: the crematorium.
While the grounds and exhibitions contain enough information and artifacts to give independent visitors a fulfilling experience, guided tours provide a more in-depth visit.
For individuals and small groups, guides can personalize their tours based on the ages and interests of the crowd.
My guide, Rotem Lipstein, structured her tour to highlight not only how Flossenbuerg functioned as a camp, but how the prisoners functioned within it.
She led the tour from the grounds to the former laundry where a permanent exhibition details the camp from its inception in 1938 to liberation by Americans in 1945. The tour then heads to the crematorium and international memorial for the prisoners.
Posing questions and interacting with her tour, Lipstein inspired her group to think critically about the camp system instead of just absorbing information.
With the guide's help, the curious visitor can discover inconsistencies in a propaganda photo, discuss the significance of the prisoners' diverse nationalities, peek into their daily toil and understand what he's seeing.
If you go:
Flossenbuerg is a 40-minute drive from Grafenwoehr near the Czech Republic border. The memorial is open daily, March-November, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. December-February, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. You can find more information here: http://www.gedenkstaette-flossenbuerg.de/en/visitor-information/basic-information/
Those who wish to take a tour in English, must book ahead. The cost is 45 euros. You can find contact information here: http://www.gedenkstaette-flossenbuerg.de/en/contacts/
The memorial offers two permanent exhibitions. The camp in the old laundry details the history of the camp from 1938-1945; there is also a testimonial film or survivor interviews. The second permanent exhibition is in the kitchen. Titled "What Remained," it shows what happened to the village, the prisoners and the Nazis after liberation. These two exhibitions are in German and English.
The current rotating exhibition, titled "What was Justice," is also in the kitchen. It provides an overview of the justice system in the Third Reich. The rotating exhibition is in German only.