Guest Blogger Karianne Hansen: 'Describing Concentration Camps' (Part Three)


Flossenbürg is a small camp with an immense history. Located in the Upper Palatinate, Bavaria, the town of Flossenbürg was chosen for the purpose of slave labour to exploit the area’s rich possession of granite. Constructed in 1938, by the time of liberation in 1945 more than 100,000 prisoners had been registered in the camp, and 30,000 did not survive. The camp housed different groups of people; from political prisoners to Jews and Roma and Sinti from all over occupied Europe.

All photos property of Karianne Hansen

The museum is located in the former prisoner laundry and bathroom, containing the main exhibition of the camp with a special focus on work in the quarry as this served one of two main purposes of the camp: containment and forced labour. In other words, the focus is on what is unique with Flossenbürg camp. The themes of the exhibition are identical to that of the other camps as it deals with daily life portrayed through prisoner art and testimonies as well as camp items. Downstairs we encounter the various nationalities of the camp but with a twist; the faces on the boards are of survivors. A dozen countries are presented with one or two survivors and their life stories. This exhibition is extremely touching and somewhat relieving. The emphasis is on the survivors; the constant element of death and torture so thoroughly spelled out upstairs are now balanced by those who lived. It adds a positive element, which I believe is so important. Surrounded by death and torture, seeing the smiling face of Josef Salomonovic, the 6-year-old who survived the camp brings a sense of relief - he survived. It creates the necessary contrasts between life and death.

The third and final exhibition is in the former kitchen and deals with the aftermath. I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever encountered small stations with automatic speakers – as you enter the station the speaker is activated. The exhibition also presents a timeline, which is a wall with integrated television screens showing films of relevant pro-war material, such as the Flossenbürg trial at Dachau and neo-Nazi demonstrations in the 1990s. The entrance room of the building is a light show room covered in messages, for instance, “it is the next generation, your generation that has to know”. And through this, the past and present are tied together.

All of these camps are worthy sites of commemoration and remembrance. Apart from minor differences in style, partly due to camp layouts, the memorials all aim at explaining the very existence of the camp as well as everyday life. I find the exhibitions to be creative, informative and applicable through the use of various source materials, such as testimonies from former prisoners and camp artifacts, with the result of creating an appropriate framework for the visitor.