Collected Memories of the Holocaust



Flossenbürg-- The Interminable Void

as told by Peter Kleinmann in his autobiographical memoir.

Peter Kleinmann.


We marched through the gates and our numbers were marked down again. The blanket we had been given was taken back. This was another camp. My memory of this time is clouded but I recall myself and my clothes being disinfected. The structure of the camp was the same: barracks, gates, barbed wire, concrete posts, and an Appelplatz. This camp was larger than Gross-Rosen and situated on a hill. There was a selection immediately in the Appelplatz. I was much weaker and my spirit to survive was grated thin by my frail physical condition.

There were people of many nationalities; more than I saw in Gross­Rosen. The barracks were larger, each holding at least 600 men. My Kapo was a Polish Jew with a brother in the camp. He was a cruel and sadistic man.

The first day after we arrived we were loaded onto trucks covered with a tarpaulin. I expected the worst--l knew that people taken in groups were killed.

We were brought to work in another Messerschmidt factory. It was impossible to communicate with anyone in this factory. We heard planes in the day and saw them flying low.

     This was encouraging and gave us hope, unlike in Gross-Rosen, where the planes flew at night. During the air raids in Gross-Rosen the barracks were evacuated and we were convinced that bombs would be dropped. In Flossenbürg the low-flying planes were not threatening and I hoped or wanted to believe that it was the Allies surveying, checking out what they had to overcome. A plane that dropped bombs hurled itself from above and had a different presence than the American investigatory pilots.

Top: The Flossenbürg concentration camp as Peter entered it in 1944.
The castle on the hill reminded him of he one in Munkacs (Polanko).
(KFF Archives)

Bottom: This photograph of the Bavarian village Flossenbürg was taken
at the same time. The camp was located in the town.

      It was probably the end of November when I was taken away from the factory to work on the railroad. This was physically taxing and the weather was becoming intolerable. It was a vicious circle; if you worked you were warmer but your strength was drawn; if you did not work you were cold.

      We were forced to watch a mass hanging of inmates who had tried to escape. It was probably in December, as I recall seeing coloured lights decorating the SS homes on a hillside that was visible from. the camp. "Long live Poland" and "I will see you soon" were the last words of two of the prisoners. About ten inmates were hanged in the Appelplatz that night. Everyone in the camp was forced to file by and look at the bodies.

      I was more alone than ever; there was not even a single familiar face from Munkacs. I was in a world outside of civilization. I had no idea that I was in Germany. I worked on the railroad only for a few weeks. From there I was sent to work in the quarry. I was a slave labourer toiling as in Gross-Rosen. Men were beaten and flogged to death for not working strenuously enough. As I write this, I am struck with the bizarre description of a man’s death being predicated on strenuous labour. It was not that he did not work laboriously or painstakingly or thoroughly enough, but rather that a whim had overcome the agent of murder and there was no changing one’s fate.

 My hunger in the camps was never satisfied. It possessed me. My mind could think of nothing but how to fill this interminable void. I was empty. People were like animals jumping each other for a piece of bread. At night in the bunk when trying to sleep, I would distract myself from hunger with images so real that I actually hallucinated that I was eating challah and watched my mother light Shabbat candles. As my morale diminished, I tried to replace it with prayer in order to survive. I had no choice but to have faith. There was no earthly reason for me to believe I would survive.

 Every month there were selections. All of the prisoners were made to strip. The SS men marched up and down the rows pointing to the left or right. Some of the selections took place when new transports arrived.



  Peter Kleinmann    9


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