After Salzburg we had about a week where Chopper was gone to Miami for training. Mom and I decided to stay close for the most part and so we went shopping in Amberg and crystal shopping at the Nachmann outlet not far from here (pretty stuff!!!). There were also things going on with the school year winding down that needed to be taken care of. But Thursday we took a day and drove to Flossenburg. Flossenburg is about an hour from us right on the Czech border. It's a town where there was a concentration camp during WWII and that camp - or what remains of it - is now a memorial.
You start at the building that was the camp headquarters. That and several other buildings are still standing. The town itself now has houses on former camp grounds. After the war, many of the buildings were demolished and housing and businesses were built on the spot. In later years it was decided that there should be a memorial there and so the businesses were all torn down and there was an excavation of sorts for the roll call grounds and some other areas. The buildings that are originals now house exhibitions on various things related to the camp including who was imprisoned (about 100,000 people overall -- most were not Jews), what they did (mainly it was a work camp of forced labor for the granite quarries and then armaments production), what life was like of course and then really interesting exhibits on guards, etc. and what happened to them and how the memorial came to be in the aftermath of the war.
The site of the camp gates with roll call grounds behind, camp laundry and sanitation on the right and kitchen on the left -- both original buildings.
These two maps were horrible. The first shows Flossenburg and the subcamps that were developed. I'm not entirely sure how a camp was a subcamp for another although prisoners would be shifted between them to a certain degree. What gets me is the number of camps that there are.
This one shows all the camps in Germany and surrounding countries that were taken over - Czech and Poland most notably. Again, the dots are color-coded to major camps (Dachau, Auswitch, etc.) and their subcamps. Again the number of camps is staggeringly terrible.
Behind the roll call grounds and buildings there was a paved path that led to more of the camp that included the crematorium (in this case used just for cremation of the dead), interrogation rooms, and memorials by the countries that had prisoners who died here. Also, the mound in the center is a mixture of ashes and dirt (for stability I'm sure).
Looking down the hill at the crematorium.
This plaque was on the wall of the interrogation section. Dietrich Bonhofer was a pastor at the time who stood up for right and condemned what was happening. He was executed at Flossenburg. My mom read a book about him that she really liked and I think I need to pick it up now.
I didn't take a lot of pictures because I have mixed feelings about this. My mom and I had to take William with us and he didn't absorb anything. The displays were not gory or even graphic and they did have portions with video accounts of survivors and audio accounts as well but he didn't pay attention to those. Despite that, I don't think that Megan and Abby would be ready for something like this. We plan to take them either here or another camp before we leave Europe because I think it's a valuable experience. I thoroughly enjoy history but I tend to avoid things that are controversial or depressing. The people I interact with everyday are kind and helpful and funny and good. I have no doubt that so many people during the war were as well but it is also disturbing how many people were involved in the perpetuation of these camps and subcamps, who utilized the labor, or who simply looked the other way. The thing is that there is no way to know a person's heart. Did they keep their head down to survive? Were they indoctrinated by the rhetoric of the time? Why did this happen and how? I am grateful that I am not in any way, shape, or form responsible for deciding. And I think as a nation that things have come a long way. I think it's important to keep remembrances of these things alive but that's difficult to do as the last of those who were alive at the time are dying. And unfortunately I see so much hate in the world around us and it scares me what hate and power can do. This is an example of that.
Chopper likes WWII history a lot more than I do and I know that we plan to visit other sites while we're here. I love seeing history first-hand. I hate the way it makes me feel sometimes.