Flossenbürg Concentration Camp


This post might suffer from a touch of Feeling Introspective After Visit to Concentration Camp.

Today, we visited Flossenbürg Konzentrationslager, about an hour away from where we're staying. This was my first visit to such an awful place - while we were there, I was trying to think of anywhere else I've been that made me feel so awful awful awful. Quneitra came to mind, but even that misery was on a much smaller scale.

The interpretive materials on site were so well done. The most moving aspect of them was the way they set up displays of old photos around the site on the spot they were originally taken. It gave the site so much more meaning and context, to be standing in the courtyard, for example, looking at an old photograph of prisoners lining up just there.

I was apprehensive about bringing the girls there. Fortunately, they have been really interested in Anne Frank since we came to Germany, and that has provided a relatively child-appropriate access point to the whole mess of WW2. Still, I hated having to tell them that some horrible people did horrible things to other people, right here in this place. I do think their naivete and their tendency to see things only in black and white will protect them for now. On this visit, they had ears only for stories of good guys and bad guys, allowing none of the ugly complexities of these people's nuanced, difficult lives to cloud the picture.

I recall a moment in one of the exhibit halls, standing in front of an image showing the pictures of a dozen female guards who worked at Flossenbürg. They had soft hairstyles and warm smiles, and yet these women helped run the concentration camp machine day after day after day. Magdalena looked at the pictures and was immediately able to categorize the women as bad guys. I looked at them and thought of the parents, siblings, or children they were supporting during a frightening time of war, possibly with the only work they could get. Shades of grey can be so unsettling sometimes.

It was overcast and raining when we first showed up at Flossenbürg. We spent time in the exhibition halls and visiting the grounds, and gradually the sun came out. The kids and I headed back to the car ahead of Jeremy, and as we walked out through the gates, we made an effort to shake off the feeling of that horrible place. Thankfully, we were successful. The sunshine definitely helped.

Here are a few pictures, though I felt gross somehow taking any.

In the foreground are markers for each country who lost people "to bloody Fascism," as the Russian put it. In the background is the crematorium chimney.

"In honor of the 90th US infantry division which liberated Flossenbürg Concentration Camp April 23, 1945."

 There was a wall with cards where you could leave your thoughts. These were Magdalena's two contributions. "Never forget the war today. 22.7.14 war time 1938."

"In the next few years it got better in the war."

Yes it did, thank goodness. Even though this was a pretty terrible place to visit, I'm glad we have the chance to do so.

Hiking in Bavaria

More fun than Disneyland