V Corps Soldiers leave Flossenburg Concentration Camp after the Chaplain section for V Corps hosted “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' Sept. 17, 2021. V Corps' Chaplain Section provided the tour to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
V Corps Soldiers leave Flossenburg Concentration Camp after the Chaplain section for V Corps hosted “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' Sept. 17, 2021. V Corps' Chaplain Section provided the tour to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. (Photo Credit: Pvt. Devin Klecan) VIEW ORIGINAL

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - On April 23, 1945, in Flossenburg, Germany, U.S. Soldiers slowly approached a barbed wire gate with a sign that read “Arbeit Macht Frei”, “work makes you free.” Stories and rumors of Nazi atrocities that had circulated through the ranks soon became reality as the Soldiers from the 90th Infantry Division pushed through the large, metal gate exposing the horrors that lived within. Living skeletons of 1,500 critically ill and malnourished prisoners remained out of the 84,000 men and 16,000 women from over thirty countries imprisoned in concentration camps between 1938 and 1945 by the Nazi party’s Schutzstaffel (SS).

Decades later, U.S. Soldiers walked through the same entrance, this time as students. Armed with the knowledge of Nazi violence, history became reality with each step into the camp. Today, Flossenburg Concentration Camp stands as a somber memorial and museum for new generations to learn from the past.

While in Germany, V Corps’ chaplain section hosted a tour, “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' to give V Corps Soldiers the opportunity to visit the Camp and learn more about what occurred there.

U.S. Army Col. Lane Creamer, V Corps Chaplain, worked with the commanding general of V Corps, Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

“My goal [with this tour] is to have them understand and know their ethics and the importance of understanding the morals within our own body,” Creamer said. “Understanding that can help them internally and it will help Soldiers externally because it will help them live out the Army values.”

During the tour, Soldiers walked past doors and walls that have kept secrets for decades. The men with the SS insignia on their collars no longer patrol the halls, but their horrifying legacy lives within the walls that housed the screams and cries of prisoners. Flossenburg Concentration Camp, located outside Weiden, Germany, close to the Czech border, was established in 1938. It began as a prison for politicians, but once the war began, held Jews as well as members of other nations and ethnic groups.

U.S. Army Sgt. Emma Rieg, from Indianapolis, Indiana, reads the stories of individual victims of Flossenburg Concentration Camp inside the former laundry house for prisoners, Flossenburg, Germany, while attending “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' Sept. 17, 2021. V Corps Chaplain Section provided the tour to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
U.S. Army Sgt. Emma Rieg, from Indianapolis, Indiana, reads the stories of individual victims of Flossenburg Concentration Camp inside the former laundry house for prisoners, Flossenburg, Germany, while attending “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' Sept. 17, 2021. V Corps Chaplain Section provided the tour to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. (Photo Credit: Pvt. Devin Klecan) VIEW ORIGINAL

“At its peak, the camp held between 5,000 and 18,000 prisoners,” said retired Col. John R. Dabrowski, historian with U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, in an article from 2008. “While Flossenburg is not as well-known as the more infamous camps of Dachau, Treblinka, and Auschwitz, it was nonetheless an important cog in the Nazis overall machinery in the 'Final Solution.'”

In April 1945, as the Allied advance drew near, the SS began forcibly evacuating prisoners that were considered fit enough to move to other camps still under Nazi control. The Nazi’s moved approximately 9,300 prisoners from Flossenburg, while over half of them were killed en route to other concentration camps.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., on April 23, 1945, the 90th ID arrived at Flossenburg. The Soldiers witnessed the SS forcibly evacuating the prisoners in ragged columns. When the guards spotted the U.S. troops, they panicked and opened fire on the prisoners, killing about 200.

Later, Elements of the 97th Infantry Division, V Corps, arrived and assisted with the liberation of Flossenburg .

“Brig. Gen. Milton B. Halsey, the commanding general of the 97th Division, inspected the camp on April 30, as did his divisional artillery commander, Brig. Gen. Sherman V. Hasbrouck. Hasbrouck, who spoke fluent German, directed a local German official to have all able-bodied German men and boys from that area help bury the dead,” said Dabrowski. “The 97th Division performed many duties at the camp upon its liberation. They assisted the sick and dying, buried the dead, interviewed former prisoners and helped gather evidence against former camp officers and guards for the upcoming war crimes trials.”

Today, the only identification many of the victims have are stones marking mass graves and memorials honoring the dead. After walking through what felt like miles of bad memories, the Soldiers slowly made their way back to the front gate, hearts heavy but with a new understanding of what it means to be a V Corps Soldier in Europe and what it means to be an ally.

“When I saw Flossenburg, I thought of the saying ‘those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it,’” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Han, the director of civil military operations, V Corps. “It is our job now to understand our allies and their history to make sure something like the holocaust is never repeated.”

V Corps was first activated during World War I and continued to have a presence in Europe until its inactivation in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 2013. In October 2020, V Corps re-activated a new headquarters in Fort Knox, Kentucky, with a forward element in Poland on a rotational basis. Following their certifying year of activation, V Corps has returned to Europe as the Army’s only forward deployed Corps in Europe prepared to provide a level of command and control focused on synchronizing U.S. Army, allied and partner nation tactical formations operating in Eastern Europe.

Many Soldiers walked away from the experience with a renewed interest in culture and a better understating of history of the Flossenburg camp. However, for some, understanding the culture and history of our allied and partner nations is something that they are no stranger to.

U.S. Army Pfc. Demarcus Britton, from San Jacinto, California, looks at a furnace inside of the crematorium at Flossenburg Concentration Camp, Germany, while attending “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' Sept.17, 2021. V Corps Chaplain Section provided the tour to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
U.S. Army Pfc. Demarcus Britton, from San Jacinto, California, looks at a furnace inside of the crematorium at Flossenburg Concentration Camp, Germany, while attending “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: A Lesson to Remember '' Sept.17, 2021. V Corps Chaplain Section provided the tour to create an opportunity that shows history to Victory Soldiers that is unique to Europe, as a way to bolster solidarity with U.S. allies and to enrich the importance of the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. (Photo Credit: Pvt. Devin Klecan) VIEW ORIGINAL

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Lesley Priddy, a V Corps civil affairs operations Soldier, explained the significance of relating to civilians from allied nations.

“A population’s culture is comparable to the roots of a tree. The roots are complex and vast, because they support the structure above,” Priddy said. “The structure for example, could be a region, country, or even government. By understanding the social norms, we can understand and identify critical civil capabilities and vulnerabilities that our adversaries will likely target.”

Trips like these are beneficial in threefold. They allow Soldiers to experience history together, bringing them closer as a team, as well as learn more about the history of the U.S. Army and V Corps and get to know the culture and history of our European allies.

“Understanding history like this can help us understand our ethics,” Creamer added. “Understanding the culture, value system, religion, and spirituality of our allied partners will also impact us and their people as we come alongside and work with them to defend freedom.”

The Soldiers left the former concentration camp with a better appreciation for history, but moreover for the generation of U.S. service members that helped put a stop to the atrocious acts that took place there nearly 100 years ago. Thanks to the men and women that answered the call of freedom during World War II, Flossenburg will remain empty forever. The large metal gate that once sealed the fate of thousands was removed decades ago, preventing it from closing on humanity ever again.

Learn more about V Corps at: https://home.army.mil/knox/index.php/units-tenants/v-corps