During World War II, most of the inmates sent to Flossenbürg, or to one of about 100 sub-camps, came from the German-occupied eastern territories. The inmates in Flossenbürg were housed in 16 huge wooden barracks, its crematorium was built in a valley straight outside the camp. In September 1939, the SS transferred 1,000 political prisoners to Flossenbürg from Dachau.
In 1941 to 1942, about 1,500 Polish prisoners, mostly members of the Polish resistance, were deported to Flossenbürg. In July 1941, SS guards shot 40 Polish prisoners at the SS firing range outside the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Between February and September 1941 the SS executed about one-third of the Polish political prisoners deported to Flossenbürg.
During World War II, the German army turned tens of thousands of Soviet prisoners over to the SS for execution. More than 1,000 Soviet prisoners of war were executed in Flossenbürg by the end of 1941. The SS also established a special camp for Soviet prisoners of war within Flossenbürg. Executions of Soviet prisoners of war continued sporadically through 1944. Soviet prisoners of war in Mülsen St. Micheln, a subcamp of Flossenbürg, staged an uprising and mass escape attempt on 1 May 1944. They set their bunks on fire and killed some of the camp’s Kapos – prisoner trustees who carried out SS orders. SS guards crushed the revolt and none of the prisoners escaped. Almost 200 prisoners died from burns and wounds sustained in the uprising. The SS transferred about 40 leaders of the revolt to Flossenbürg itself, where they were later executed in the camp jail.
There were over 4,000 prisoners in the main camp of Flossenbürg in February 1943. More than half of these prisoners were political prisoners (mainly Soviet, Czech, Dutch and German). Almost 800 were German criminals, more than 100 were homosexuals and 7 were Jehovah’s Witnesses..
During the war, prisoner forced labor became increasingly important in German arms production. As a result, the Flossenbürg camp system expanded to include approximately 100 subcamps concentrated mainly around armaments industries in southern Germany and western Czechoslovakia.
On 1 September 1944, Flossenbürg became a training camp for extremely large numbers of female guards (Aufseherinnen) who were recruited by force from factories all over Germany and Poland. All together, over 500 women were trained in the camp and in time went on to its subcamps. Women matrons staffed the Flossenbürg subcamps, such as Dresden IIke Werke, Freiburg NeustadtOederan and Zwodau and it is known that six SS women (SS-Helferinnenkorps) staffed the Gundelsdorf subcamp in Czechoslovakia.
By 1945, there were almost 40,000 inmates held in the whole Flossenbürg camp system, including almost 11,000 women. Inmates were made to work in the Flossenbürg camp quarry and in armaments making. Underfeeding, sickness, and overwork were rife among the inmates. Combined with the harshness of the guards, this deliberate maltreatment killed many thousands of inmates.
It is estimated that between April 1944 and April 1945, more than 1500 death sentences were carried out there. To this end, six new gallows hooks were installed. In the last months the rate of daily executions overtook the capacity of the crematorium. As a solution, the SS began stacking the bodies in piles, drenching them with gasoline, and setting them alight. Incarcerated in what was called the “Bunker,” those who had been condemned to death were kept alone in dark rooms with no food for days until they were executed. Until its liberation in April 1945, more than 96,000 prisoners passed through the camp, around 30,000 of whom died there
Amongst the Allied military officers executed at Flossenbürg were Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent Gustave Daniel Alfred Biéler (executed 6 September 1944). Unable to get useful information from him, the Germans executed Major Guy Biéler by a firing squad on 05-09-1944, age 40 – instead of the gas chamber or piano wire often used on other agents As Germany’s defeat loomed, a number of the SOE agents whom the SS had tortured repeatedly in order to extract information, were executed on the same day. On 29-03-1945 13 SOE agents were hanged, including Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian
, age 29 on 29-03-1945. Together with his deputy General Hans Oster, military jurist General Karl Sack
age 48 on 09-04-1945, theologian Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ludwig Gehre age 49 on 09-04-1945, and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was humiliated before witnesses and then executed on 9 April 1945. At the time of his execution, Canaris had been decorated with the Iron Cross First and Second Class , and the German Cross in Silver. On 1 August 2007 a memorial was unveiled at Flossenbürg to the memory of the seven members of the German resistance who had conspired to assassinate Hitler and who were executed on 9 April 1945.