Flossenburg Concentration Camp: The POWs.

Over 30,000 prisoners would die at Flossenburg Concentration Camp before it was liberated in late April 1945, 66 years ago this week.  Each one had a story to tell.

Some of the more notable inmates included co-conspirators in the failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, codenamed ValkyrieRev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, General Hans Oster, Dr. Karl Sack, Dr. Theodor Strunck and General Friedrich Von Rabenau.  As American forces neared the Camp in April 1945, the SS rounded up, then executed the group.

In his book, Battalion Surgeon, author William M. McConahey made note of another specific group to die at the hands of their captors at Flossenburg. “It should be remembered by all Americans that it was here that 15 of our brave, gallant paratroopers were hanged one Christmas Eve,” he wrote. “Their ‘crime’? They had escaped from a prison camp and they were American paratroopers (whom the Krauts feared and hated). At the war crimes trial in Nurnburg it was testified that at Flossenburg Concentration Camp on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1944, 15 American paratroopers were hanged by the S.S. beside gaily decorated Christmas trees, at a sadistic ‘Christmas party’ for the inmates, who were compelled to watch the exhibition.”

At Flossenburg Concentration Camp, members of the 358th Infantry stare in shock at the seemingly endless pile of shoes, removed from dead prisoners before their bodies were burned-April 1945. (U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo, Courtesy National Archives)

Human remains were discovered in shallow graves throughout the grounds at Flossenburg.

Sadly though, the Flossenburg facility was not where the story would end.  With word of the imminent liberation, camp guards and officials fled the grounds, force-marching over 10,000 inmates southeast, toward Dachau.  Only those deemed too weak to walk were left behind.

In a 1945 article, as reprinted in John Colby’s War From The Ground Up, Captain James C. McNamara shed light on this sordid trek. “…On one pine-studded knoll outside the village of Nuenberg lay the battered bodies of 161 Polish Jews, shot and beaten to death by SS guards for faltering along the way.

“…The bodies crumpled in the roadside mud bore unmistakable signs of clubbing and shooting.

“…The exodus from the camps of brutality under the supervision of sadistic SS barbarians was a march of death where men were shot on the slightest provocation.

“…One prisoner said a man was left for dead every 10 yards of the hellish route from Flossenberg south to the village of Posing—a marching distance of 125 miles.

“…Scarcely 6,000 survivors of 11,000 men were left to greet the Americans.”

For their crimes against humanity, 47 former Flossenburg officials stood trial in 1946.  All but five were found guilty.  Fifteen were put to death.

Third Reich in Ruins offers an absolutely extraordinary look at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp: Then and Now.

4 Responses to “Flossenburg Concentration Camp: The POWs”

  1. ronald rone says:

    I went here in 1986. I waqs a GI in Mainz, Gonnsenheim and on movment near the camp. It is very compelling and somber.

  2. mikemccoy says:


    Thank you for your thoughts and welcome aboard the site. Interesting that you mention Mainz. The 90th ID also fought through that city on their way to Flossenburg. I think I have some period photos. Are there reminders of WW II still left or was Mainz rebuilt new?


  3. Steve Yeger says:

    My father was liberated from Flossenborg as one of the inmates being marched to Dachau. He never talked to any of us until recent years. He took me to Flossenborg in 1985, I guess to face his demons. Eventually, I put the pieces together and saw it was the 90th that freed them. After reading the unit history and matching it to his narrative, it was Co. C of the 358th that he first saw coming down the road. The 90th invited us to thier reunion and for the first time in over sixty years, my Dad met the guys he first saw (what was left) and was able this time to talk to them. It was a stunning and emotional moment. This was the greatest generationh. They saved the world. There is nothing I can say that could ever express my gratitude to the WW2 GI.

  4. Thomas Goode says:

    I visited Flossenburg on my way to Prague back in 2008. I was shocked to see the horrid conditions in contrast to the beautiful surroundings. How could a race of people living is such idyllic beauty commit such atrocities?
    It looked like work was going on to restore or rennovate some of the barracks.

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