The Association for the Former Concentration Camp Flossenbürg organizes projects about the role of the camp in the Nazi era. Project participants research the history of the camp and its sub-camps and study the routes of the death marches. The camp memorial has become an international meeting-place for people from Bavaria, Saxony, and the Czech Republic. Starting at the memorial, groups explore the region on foot, bike or bus.
"Flossenbürg: Camp and Region" was started in 1990 by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft ehemaliges KZ Flossenbürg e.V. [Association for the Former Flossenbürg Concentration Camp] as an integrated regional project for memorial work in eastern Bavaria, Saxony and the Czech Republic.
This region consists of the current political entities of Bavaria, Saxony, and western Bohemia in the Czech Republic. It is also an historical region linked by the network of sub-camps of the former Flossenbürg concentration camp, where camp prisoners were tortured to death. During the Nazi era, the Flossenbürg network area was a separate economic zone [see Documents].
After 1945, commemorative observances differed in style and function in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bavaria), the former German Democratic Republic (Saxony), and in Czechoslovakia (western Bohemia). Although Flossenbürg is an international educational center today, we must remember the complete history of the region. This engenders the responsibility that various forms of commemoration be developed in cooperative solidarity across national borders.
The "Flossenbürg: Camp and Region" concept was developed and tested in a series of individual projects involving a variety of schools, including students from middle schools, high schools, and universities. As well, projects have been conducted in conjunction with international continuing education for teachers, youth, and trade union groups.
This is an open, participatory project, which tailors its explorations of the subject to each individual group, its interests, and its place of origin. Thus, no two projects are identical. Depending on their distance from the main camp, participants are offered walking, bicycle, and bus trips. Participants receive advance orientation kits, if they want them, specifying the locations of sub-camps, death march routes, or other occurrences linked to Flossenbürg concentration camp as well as suggestions for their own research on-site. The participants thus arrive at the meetings with specific ideas, their own research findings, and above all, their own questions.
The Association for the Former Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, as organizer of these events, uses the following materials after agreement with the participants:
· two slide lectures - "The Regional Economic Links to Flossenbürg Concentration Camp" and "History of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp";
· exhibition panels about various aspects of the camp and specific sub-camps;
· original films made by the Signal Corps of the U.S. Third Army in April/May 1945- 1946;
· a professional film with survivor interviews as well as other dialogue with survivors in video and audio formats;
· photograph dossiers.
It is still possible for the association to secure discussions with survivors. When these survivors are no longer alive, we will be forced to turn to the more than 150 partial- and full-day video and audio interviews that have been collected at the Flossenbürg memorial. It becomes increasingly important to find new links to the past as historic events recede into the past. The interviews will give later generations autonomous access to historical events that cannot be achieved by subsequent reconstruction of the "original."
Apart from autobiographical testimonies, there are also interpretive works by survivors at the memorial. These literary and artistic "memoirs" serve as enduring authentic witnesses. In the exhibition "Erinnerung" ["Memory"], there are more than 70 survivor drawings made in the camps as well as post-period works made after liberation [see Documents]. Since 1995, this exhibition has traveled to several countries.
Inquiries into and evidence from the past enable youngsters to secure an independent understanding of the history of daily life in their region and create the emotional and substantive prerequisites for dealing with the "larger" history of fascism. Participatory learning creates tangible and creative ways of remembrance and commemoration.
We present a representative project to give some impression of one of the five forms of exploration and search for archeological remnants in our region.
"Looking for Traces of the Death Marches in Eastern Bavaria"
Memorial bicycle trip from July 27 to July 30, 1993
In the second half of April 1945, the SS began to evacuate Flossenbürg prisoners by various routes because the Americans were advancing from Nuremberg. The SS wanted to reach Dachau concentration camp, where this death machinery had begun, and also the "Alpine fortress." More than 15,000 prisoners from all of Europe were crammed together in the drastically overcrowded camp. This situation also applied to tens of thousands of additional prisoners, including women, in the numerous sub-camps such as Regensburg, Saal, Hersbruck or Litomerice. Since no prisoner was to fall into Allied hands, those marked for death were driven through the Upper Palatinate. Thousands perished on these death marches from starvation, because they were unable to endure the exhaustion, or because they were killed shortly before liberation. The local populace witnessed this mass murder in their towns until American troops liberated at least some of those doomed to die. What did the prisoners endure? What did residents of the Upper Palatinate see? What do they remember? What have they forgotten? What commemorates the death marches and the many dead? What remains of the postwar graves?
Course of the Project
First Day: Abandoned Concentration Camp Cemeteries in ….?
The participants met in the Flossenbürg cemetery and memorial; regional politicians had also been invited to the meeting. Because of anonymous gravestones, there were questions about why the victims had been reburied in the central memorial and the purpose of centralizing the graves.
We traced the death march route between Winklam and Flossenbürg by bicycle. We looked for traces of neglected concentration camp graves and the gravestones in Pleystein (35 dead), Lohma (6 dead), Moosbach-Gröbenstädt (30 dead), Tröbes (80 dead), Muschenried (309 dead), Pullenried (86 dead), and Winklam (67 dead).
The participants divided into sub-groups of two to five persons each. They collected information, theories, knowledge, and opinions at the cemetery and in town. Later in the evening, they compared their results and accumulated them for a later "memorial book."
Second Day: How did the gravestones look? What inscriptions are intended to keep memories alive? What do we find today?
Half of the group visited the former memorials in Winklam, Muschenried and Rötz. The memorials were documented, decorated, and cleaned where necessary. The group discussed the question of care and memory with the residents and communal representatives.
The second half of the group traveled to Neunburg vorm Wald, where there already was a small exhibition reminding residents about April 1945. Using the exhibition as a basis, group members conducted interviews, held conversations, and researched in local archives to assemble additional materials to expand the exhibition.
That evening, there was a podium discussion at the exhibition. The question discussed was "How are commemorations of the death marches handled?"
Third Day: How are memories kept alive?
Our next destinations were Wetterfeld and Rettenbach. We documented the existing memorials there, tried to reconstruct their histories, and explored their significance for citizens today. We wanted to find out if existing signage was good enough so that the memorials could be found. That evening, we wanted to discuss our findings with young Americans and Czechs. We also sought dialogue with residents of the surrounding towns.
Fourth Day: A sub-camp in Regensburg - with no traces left, and no memorial
On the fourth day of the trip, the participants completed the remaining distance to Regensburg and met with interested persons outside the former sub-camp "Colosseum."
The final session, held at the Lutheran Educational Center in Regensburg, is intended to bring participants together with politicians and other interested individuals for a discussion of their impressions. We decided that the impressions we were taking back could be summed up in the phrases, "Against Forgetting and Repression!" and "For a Worthy Memory!"
Similar programs are conducted by participating students and youngsters who often start research in their own hometowns. These trips are made by bus, and from time to time, parts of the route are covered by walking. Several teachers have made their own modifications and have taken an active part in trips to the memorial. The press frequently reports about the individual stops through the route of the former death marches and about meetings with former concentration camp prisoners and local residents.