Day trip: Flossenbürg

We love a good day trip.  We recently took a very scenic drive to Flossenbürg, about an hour from our house.  I was taking the girls there because there is an old castle there.  However, there is more to this small town than an ancient castle on the hill.

The castle was amazing though.  The ruins of a castle are prominent as you enter Flossenbürg.  The construction of this castle is said to have begun in 1100; however, the structure was destroyed in the Thirty Years War and never continued.  The ruins are amazing, even if one does not enjoy European history.  We hiked the short but steep distance up the hill, ate a picnic lunch, then climbed the many narrow steps to the top.  The top of the castle measures 745 meters, and the view is worth the climb.  I was so proud of the girls for not complaining during the walk, and I appreciated their sympathy as I panicked every time they slipped on the stairs or neared the railing.  The fall on the other side would have been treacherous!  We also discovered that I am the one instilling the fear of death in the girls, as I mentioned numerous times that the fall would kill them.  Eh, at least my children have a healthy and extensive fear of death, right?

Picnic lunch outside the castle
Picnic lunch outside the castle
Castle ruins - Flossenbürg
Castle ruins – Flossenbürg
Ruins!
Ruins!

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Exploring the castle.
Exploring the castle.

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View from the top of the town of Flossenbürg.
View from the top of the town of Flossenbürg.
Those stairs almost killed e - I do not know how I did not lose 10 pounds just shuffling the girls up and down these!
Those stairs almost killed me – I do not know how I did not lose 10 pounds just shuffling the girls up and down these!
Exploring!
Exploring!

I had heard that there was a concentration camp in Flossenbürg as well.  I loved World War I and II history, and I was excited to see this place.  There were no extermination camps in Germany, so I thought that this camp would be less devastating to witness for the girls.  I want them to learn history as it really happened, but I also do not want to expose them to elements of war, death, and destruction before they are ready to understand them.  KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg seemed to be an ideal first attempt at some devastating history lessons for the girls.

I was not prepared as to how I would feel touring my first concentration camp.  As I said, this was not an extermination camp.  However, the conditions of the prisoners here were no less tragic.  The camp has retained its regal entry gate, a few buildings for museums, the guard towers, the crematorium, and burial grounds.  As soon as I walked through the gates, I felt a sadness upon me.  So much discrimination, starvation, torture, and injustice occurred on the very grounds that I was walking.

Entrance to KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg
Entrance to KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg
A sample of records from the camp.
A sample of records from the camp.

It was amazing to see that the citizens of Flossenbürg had preserved the camp but had also built houses and businesses right outside this camp.  It was obvious that the area was meant to be preserved for posterity and history, but that the town wished to move on as well.

Camp grounds.
Camp grounds.
The underground entrance to the crematorium.
The underground entrance to the crematorium.

Lorelei and Addison did not really understand what they were witnessing, and I was perfectly amenable to this.  They were quiet and respectful as I asked them to be.  Anya, my child genius, understood every part of this area.  She stood speechless at the doors of the crematorium, shielded her sisters from photos of the dead, and asked questions about the shower and barber areas of the in processing building.  I feel like our visit provided her with knowledge but insight as well.

Powerful words.
Powerful words.

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The shower room.
The shower room.

This was a very sad place.  At least 30,000 deaths were recorded at this camp from hunger, exhaustion, and execution.  At one point, the camp received 15,000 new prisoners as the war ended and the prisoners were moved from the death camps in Eastern Europe.  As more prisoners entered the camp, the need for executions increased towards the end of World War II.  KZ-Flossenbürg was liberated by the 90th Infantry Division in 1945, and there are many graves and memorials to those who died and those who aided in the liberation.  There is a section dedicated to the differing cultural groups that were imprisoned at the camp, and it makes one wonder if your own people would have been imprisoned at this time simply for your heritage.  Anya and I learned a great deal during our visit, and were left feeling haunted and enlightened.

A plaque dedicated to the US Army for the liberation.
A plaque dedicated to the US Army for the liberation.

 

For such a small town, Flossenbürg proved to be very historical. from 1100 to World War II.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time and learned a great deal about this nation.  If you have a chance to explore any concentration camp, I would recommend it, and Flossenbürg was an excellent first camp to expose the girls to.

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