Flossenbürg is a short distance off the main road between Nurnberg and Prague, not far from the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. I’ve driven that road numerous times back and forward to Amsterdam or the UK. This summer we travelled in the motorhome to Germany on our way to Prague and took the opportunity to visit Flossenbürg.
The main reason many are aware of the existence of Flossenbürg is the link with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran Pastor.
Bonhoeffer’s story has had a profound impact on many people. Coming from a large, academic and well connected family Bonhoeffer lectured in theology before being ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1931. For the rest of his relatively short life his work portrayed the qualities of theologian and pastor, thinker and practitioner.
Bonhoeffer was strongly opposed to the Nazi ideology and, as with other members of his family, was recruited into a resistance movement whose intention was to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Third Reich. He was arrested in April 1943 and eventually executed at Flossenbürg on 9th April 1945, two weeks before the camp was liberated by the Americans.
Unlike some of the concentration camps built by the Nazis, such as Auschwitz and Birkenau, where vast numbers of Jews were detained and executed, Flossenbürg was built to detain German male criminals and others perceived as ‘asocial’, or antisocial. It soon became home to German, Czech and Polish political prisoners and members of resistance groups. Eventually Soviet prisoners of war and some 20,000 Jews were incarcerated in Flossenbürg or one of the satellite camps associated with Flossenbürg. Ultimately 100,000 people from 47 countries were interned at Flossenbürg or one of its subcamps: 84,000 men, 16,000 women and children. Some 30,000 of them died in the camp from illness or hard labour, many were executed. You will find more details on the history of the camp at the websites listed below.