By Staff Sgt. Rick Scavetta
221st Public Affairs Detachment
FLOSSENBÜRG, Germany - Seven decades have passed since U.S. Soldiers liberated prisoners from Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg, a Nazi concentration camp near the Czech border.
Visiting Army Reserve Soldiers from the 7th Civil Support Command found that the horrific memories of that dark time in Germany's past during World War II resonate today and cannot be forgotten - the essence of Days of Remembrance commemoration of the Holocaust.
Established by Congress, Days of Remembrance is an annual Holocaust commemoration. Each April, military commands join schools, churches and other organizations for remembrance events to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day.
But it's not very often that Reserve Soldiers have the chance to visit a memorial at an actual concentration camp. The visit, sponsored 7th CSC chaplains, was for Soldiers who had spent two weeks training in nearby Grafenwoehr during Citizen Response 15, an emergency response exercise.
"We're here as a group of U.S. Army Soldiers. What does it do for you to remember this?" asked Capt. Robert Rayburn, the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade chaplain, encouraging the Soldiers reflect on the visit. "Make it a part of who you are and your service."
Between 1938 and 1945, Nazis held roughly 100,000 prisoners at the camp. Around 30,000 died in captivity. Nazi SS forced prisoners to work in nearby granite quarries. Other prisoners worked aircraft and armament factories. At the end of World War II, the Nazis forced prisoners on death marches away from the camp. When U.S. Army Soldiers liberated the camp on April 23, 1945, only 1,500 severely ill prisoners were found.
Many of the camp's original buildings stand today, to include its watch towers, its jail and a crematorium. Below the main camp, amid several memorials marking the nationalities and numbers of dead from each country, stands a large mound - the bones and ashes of hundreds of people who died at the camp.
During the tour, Soldiers watched a documentary "We Survived - The Others Remained." The film features survivors telling their own horrific stories. One was Jack Terry. Born Jakub Szabmacher in Poland, Terry was just 14 when he arrived at Flossenbürg in 1944.
"Everything that was, was not yours anymore," Terry said, in his filmed interview. "Even your body was not your own."
Terry was there when U.S. Army Soldiers arrived. A U.S. Army officer helped him move to the U.S. where he attended high school and later college on an ROTC scholarship. Terry then served in the U.S. Army, to include a tour in Germany during the 1950's.
The memorial's images and survivor's stories told of horrific suffering and the Germans denigrating actions, said Capt. Abdoulkad Sulaimansanussi, an officer with the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade.
"It moved me. It changed the way in which I see human suffering," Sulaimansanussi said. "Things that happened here should never happen again anywhere. It's a reminder as well that, as human beings, we must not ever treat other human beings in such an inhumane way."