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The Tailor-Made Guide to 5 Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany

Updated: Mar 25


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany

Author: Barry Pickard

Contents



Visiting Nazi concentration camps in Germany is a powerful reminder of the atrocities committed during World War II. Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora, Dachau, Flossenbürg, and Hersbruck are five of the most well-known and preserved camps, each with its own unique history and significance. While the thought of visiting such dark places may seem daunting, it is an important way to understand and remember the events of the past.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Flossenbürg

For those interested in the history of World War II, these sites provide valuable insight into the cruel reality of the Nazi regime. By walking the grounds and seeing the remaining buildings and monuments, you can gain a deeper understanding of the immense suffering that took place there. Furthermore, visiting the camps can serve as a tribute to the countless victims who lost their lives and a reminder to never forget the lessons of history.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Dachau

Don’t forget that at Tailor-Made Itineraries we specialise in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these concentration camps is of interest to you, reach out to me by email. I would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the World War Two sites of Germany, or indeed, a general tour of the country.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany

Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany


Buchenwald


The Buchenwald Memorial is located near Weimar. It was one of the largest concentration camps established within the German borders of 1937 and was operational from July 1937 to April 1945. The camp was originally designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, but the population quickly grew to exceed this number. Over 56,000 prisoners died at Buchenwald, including Jews, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, and political prisoners.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Buchenwald

The camp was established in 1937 as a place to imprison political opponents of the Nazi regime. However, as the war progressed, the camp's population grew rapidly, and it became a major centre for the exploitation of forced labour. Prisoners at Buchenwald and its subcamps, were forced to work in a variety of industries, including armaments, mining, and construction. In March 1943 a large munitions factory, for example, was built next to Buchenwald, with the inmates being used as labour. Many were also forced to work for the German Equipment Works (DAW), which was the enterprise owned and operated by the SS.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Buchenwald

The conditions in Buchenwald were horrific. Prisoners were malnourished, overworked, and subjected to brutal beatings and torture. Many prisoners died from disease, starvation, or exhaustion, keeping the camp's crematorium permanently busy. Many were also shipped off to sites like Sonnenstein to be euthanised when it was felt they were too weak to work.

Buchenwald was liberated by the US Army on April 11, 1945. After the war, the camp was used by the Soviet Union as a special camp for German prisoners of war and anti-communist dissidents. In 1950, the camp was closed, and the majority of its buildings were demolished.



What to See and Learn


Today, the Buchenwald concentration camp is a memorial site. It is a place where visitors can learn about the horrors of the Holocaust and pay their respects to the victims of the camp. The memorial site includes a museum with a permanent exhibition, and a number of outdoor exhibits.



The permanent exhibition at the museum is titled "Ostracism and Violence 1937 to 1945." The exhibition tells the story of the camp from its founding to its liberation. The exhibition also explores the meaning of the camp for today's society.



The outdoor exhibits at the Buchenwald concentration camp include the remains of the camp's crematorium, execution site, and watchtowers. The exhibits also include a number of memorials to the victims of the camp.


Buchenwald Crematorium Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany

How to Get to the Site: Located 10km northwest of Weimar, the camp is well connected by road and there is ample free parking for cars. There are also two electric charging stations. Public bus number 6 runs hourly between Weimar city centre and the camp and takes about 20 minutes.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: The museum is quite large and full of information, so plan to set aside at least an hour for this part of the camp and another one and a half to two hours for the rest of the camp.


Read on and find out about the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.



Mittelbau-Dora


The KZ Mittelbau-Dora Memorial is a memorial site that commemorates the victims of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp and its subcamps. The camp was located near the town of Nordhausen in Thuringia, Germany, and it was operated by the Nazis from 1943 to 1945.

The V-2 rockets were originally developed on the Baltic coast at Peenemünde but following a devastating bombing raid by the RAF in on the night of August 17–18, 1943, the Nazis decided to move production to a safer and more secretive site. Therefore, it was here at Mittelbau-Dora, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, that over 60,000 prisoners from over 20 countries were imprisoned and forced to work in underground tunnels, where they built V-2 rockets and other weapons for the Nazi war effort.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Mittelbau-Dora

The conditions in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp were horrific. The prisoners were forced to work long hours in the underground tunnels, where they were exposed to toxic fumes and dangerous machinery. The prisoners were also malnourished and poorly housed.

The camp was liberated by the Allied forces in April 1945. After the war, the camp was used by the Soviet Union as a prison camp for German war criminals. In 1958, the camp was converted into a memorial site.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Mittelbau-Dora


What to See and Learn


There is a very informative museum and a number of outdoor exhibits. The museum tells the story of the camp and includes exhibits on the camp's history, the prisoners, the work that they were forced to do, and the conditions in the camp.



The outdoor exhibits at the memorial include the camp's crematorium and execution site.



How to Get to the Site: The site is just a 15-minute drive from the A38 Motorway and there is ample free parking for cars. A Rufbus (Call-a-bus), line G, is available from Nordhausen, but you need to phone and reserve your seat (+49 (0)800/6396390), and there are six connections a day, Monday to Friday.



Tailor-Made Top Tip: You can book a tour of the tunnels, seeing the horrific conditions in which the prisoners had to work manufacturing the rockets. There is still some evidence of production littered about the tunnels, but it is the sheer size of this tunnel system that really shocks you as a visitor. The tour only takes you through some of the main underground areas, which is impressive enough, but to know that there are dozens more passageways carved out of this hill is almost impossible to comprehend.




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Dachau


The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site was the first Nazi concentration camp established in Germany. It was located in the town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich. The camp was operational from March 1933 to April 1945, and over 40,000 prisoners died there.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Dachau

The Dachau concentration camp was established as a place to imprison political opponents of the Nazi regime. The camp was originally designed to hold 5,000 prisoners, but the population quickly grew to exceed this number.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Dachau

In 1938, the Nazis began to deport Jews to Dachau. The number of Jews in the camp continued to grow until April 29, 1945, when the camp was liberated by the US Army. In addition to Jews, Dachau also held a large number of Soviet prisoners of war. The Soviet prisoners of war were treated particularly harshly by the Nazis.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Dachau

The conditions in Dachau were horrific. Prisoners were malnourished, overworked, and subjected to brutal beatings and torture. Many prisoners died from disease, starvation, or exhaustion. Others were executed or gassed in the camp's crematorium.




After the war, the camp was used by the US Army as a detention camp for Nazi war criminals. In 1948, the camp was closed, and the majority of its buildings were demolished, although the vast footprints of these buildings can still be seen.


What to See and Learn


The museum at Dachau tells the story of the camp and its subcamps. Through exhibits on the camp's history, the prisoners, the work they were forced to do, and the conditions they endured, visitors can begin to comprehend the magnitude of suffering that took place here.

The permanent exhibition is hosted in 13 rooms of the former farm building. The exhibition not only explores the camp's history and legacy, but also the entirety of the camp system in more depth. It examines the role that Dachau played in the Nazi regime's crimes against humanity and its impact on the victims and their families.



The outdoor exhibits at Dachau include the remains of the camp's crematorium, execution site, and watchtowers.




These stark reminders of the camp's past stand alongside memorials to the victims, including the International Monument, the Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel, the Jewish Memorial, and the Protestant Church of Reconciliation.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
International Monument, Dachau

How to Get to the Site: The camp is well connected to the A8 and A9, taking about 15-minutes to get from these autobahns. There is ample car parking, costing 3 euros per car (cash only accepted). You can also get a train from Munich Central Station to Dachau, which takes around 25-minutes, then take the 726 bus towards ‘Saubachsiedlung’.




Tailor-Made Top Tip: Dachau attracts a lot of visitors, especially school groups, so it is best advised to visit early, checking out the museum portion of the site first. Also, on the way to the entrance of the camp, there is an excellent bookstore, perfect if you’d like to take back home additional reading materials on the camp. There is a large canteen next to the bookstore and is an ideal place to stop for lunch during your visit.




Flossenbürg


Flossenbürg concentration camp was a Nazi concentration camp located in the Upper Palatinate Forest of Bavaria, Germany. The camp was established in May 1938, and its initial purpose was to exploit the forced labour of prisoners for the production of granite. However, as the war progressed, the camp's population grew rapidly, and it became a major centre for the production of armaments, with the Messerschmitt Works at Regensburg transferring a portion of its production to the camp.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Flossenbürg

Life in the Flossenbürg concentration camp was perilous and often fatal for the prisoners. Conditions were inhumane and cruel. Subjugated, humiliated, and exploited as forced laborers, many prisoners succumbed to mistreatment. The SS established a system of violence and terror in the camp, attempting to exploit the political, national, social, and cultural differences among prisoners.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Flossenbürg

Between 1938 and 1945, approximately 84,000 men and 16,000 women from over thirty countries were imprisoned in the Flossenbürg camp and its subcamps. Those working in the quarry would be subjected to a twelve-hour workday, interrupted only by a single break for a meagre soup ration. Often the SS forced prisoners to walk in circles for hours, hauling rocks, for no practical reason.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Jewish Memorial, Flossenbürg

Flossenbürg was liberated by the US Army on April 23, 1945. After the war, the camp was used by the US Army as a detention camp for Nazi war criminals. In 1948, the camp was closed, and the majority of its buildings were demolished.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
Flossenbürg Chapel

What to See and Learn


Today, the Flossenbürg concentration camp is a memorial site. It is a place where visitors can learn about the horrors of the Holocaust and pay their respects to the victims of the camp. The memorial site includes a museum with a permanent exhibition, and a number of outdoor exhibits.



The permanent exhibition at the Flossenbürg museum, housed in the former laundry building, is titled "Flossenbürg Concentration Camp 1938-1945” and tells the story of the camp from its founding to its liberation. Documents, objects, quotes, and personal testimonies of the former inmates provides the core of the exhibition.



Within the museum building, downstairs, is the "prisoner bath" which was a place where prisoners were stripped of their belongings and their dignity. They were subjected to dehumanizing treatment there and prepared for labour or death. Forced to strip naked, they were then showered with cold water and disinfected with a harsh chemical solution. After their shower, prisoners were given a prison uniform and a pair of wooden shoes. They were stripped of their identity and their humanity. It was a place where they were reduced to mere numbers.


Concentration Camp Memorials You Should Visit in Germany
"Prisoner Bath" - Flossenbürg

The outdoor exhibits include the remains of the camp's crematorium and watchtowers. There are also a number of memorials to the victims of the camp, including the Jewish Memorial, the Square of Nations, and the Pyramid of Ashes. Meanwhile, the chapel is a peaceful refuge and worth visiting.



How to Get to the Site: The camp can be reached by the A93 or A6 autobahns, taking approximately 20-minutes from either. There is a small carpark at the site, but this seems to be sufficient for the number of visitors. Connections by public transport are a bit more difficult. There is a railway station at Weiden and the bus from there to Flossenbürg along the 6272 line takes up to 55-minutes.



Tailor-Made Top Tip: The former SS canteen building has been converted into an excellent café, which boasts tasty homemade dishes. This building also has a number of meeting rooms for delivering their educational programme.



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