Brandenburg-Görden Prison

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Newly erected main building in 1931

Brandenburg-Görden Prison is located on Anton-Saefkow-Allee in the Görden quarter of Brandenburg an der Havel. Erected between 1927 and 1935, it was built to be the most secure and modern prison in Europe. Both criminal and political prisoners were sent there, also people imprisoned for preventive detention or for interrogation and prisoners of war. Built with a capacity of 1,800, it sometimes held over 4,000 during the Nazi era.

History[edit]

A first Zuchthaus in Brandenburg was established on Neuendorfer Straße in 1820. The old Brandenburg Prison was closed in 1931 because of its disastrous hygienic conditions, but later housed a Nazi concentration camp from August 1933 till February 1934. It later became the site of the Brandenburg Euthanasia Centre, part of the Nazis' 'euthanasia' program known later as Action T4, where from February to October 1940, some 10,000 disabled, mentally retarded or mentally ill people were gassed.[1]

Upon the Nazi Machtergreifung, the new prison in Görden became an instrument of political repression and terror. It was a Zuchthaus for inmates with lengthy or life sentences at hard labor, as well as prisoners who had been sentenced to death. Initially, there weren't many political prisoners at the new prison, but during the war years, the share increased to about 60%.

In 1940 Brandenburg-Görden became one of the selected central execution sites established throughout Germany by the order of Adolf Hitler and Reich Minister of Justice Franz Gürtner. An execution chamber was installed, using what had previously been a garage, with a guillotine and a gallows. The total number of executions was 2,743 and took place between 1 August 1940 and 20 April 1945, most of them convicts sentenced to death by Sondergerichte courts of the notorious People's Court under President Roland Freisler. The youngest victim was a 15-year-old French boy. By the end of 1942, "preventive detention" prisoners, such as Jews, Roma, Sinti, Russians and Ukrainians were sent to concentration camps.[2]

Several victims were members of the 20 July plot, about 100 were Bible Students condemned as conscientious objectors. By the end of the Nazi era, from 1933–1945, roughly 4,300 people had been imprisoned at Brandenburg-Görden. A total of 1,722 people, who were sentenced for political reasons, were executed there. 652 other political prisoners died from disease and seven committed suicide.

The Red Army liberated the prison during the Battle of Berlin on 27 April 1945, finding around 3,600 prisoners, including 180 awaiting execution.[2] After the war, the Soviet Army imprisoned collaborators here until 1947, primarily members of the Russian Liberation Army. Till 1989, the German Democratic Republic also used the correctional facility for political prisoners. Since 1975, there has been a memorial room at the prison, which is today part of a Justizvollzugsanstalt complex.[2]

The present[edit]

Today the prison is divided into three main sections, plus a social therapy wing and prison hospital. There is a jail for 88 adults, a medium security wing for 330 adult men and a minimum security wing for 100 adult men. In addition, there is a social therapy wing with 80 men and a prison hospital with 32 beds. There are another 36 beds in the transport wing for prisoners who are being moved from one location to another. The JVA Brandenburg is a men's prison and is supported by a total staff of 439, of whom 145 are women.

Prisoners there have sentences from temporary detention to life, the most severe sentence in Germany. Life sentence does not, however, mean one is to spend the rest of one's life in prison, rather that it is for an undetermined, but long time with a minimum of 15 years. After 15 years, the sentence may be commuted.[3]

The prison is in the midst of a renovation that will last until 2014. It will update the security and technical equipment to state of the art. The prison will remain operational during this time.

The street where the prison exists is now named for one of the people executed there, Anton Saefkow.[4]

Notable prisoners[edit]

(Many of the people on this list are notable because they later became important in the German Democratic Republic. For more information on any of the people below, see the list on the German version of this page.)

Executed or died at Brandenburg-Görden Prison[edit]

Bernhard Bästlein, executed at Brandenburg-Görden
Franz Jacob, executed at Brandenburg-Görden
Anton Saefkow, executed at Brandenburg-Görden
Werner Seelenbinder, executed at Brandenburg-Görden

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Denkmal zur Befreiung des Zuchthauses Brandenburg-Görden" City of Brandenburg, official website. Retrieved March 17, 2010 (German)
  2. ^ a b c Dokumentationsstelle Zuchthaus Brandenburg Archive for Zuchthaus Brandenburg. Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenstätte (Brandenburg Memorial Foundation) Retrieved March 17, 2010 (German)
  3. ^ "§ 57a Aussetzung des Strafrestes bei lebenslanger Freiheitsstrafe" Bundesministerium der Justiz ("Federal Ministry of Justice") official website. Section of the penal code defining a life sentence. Retrieved March 18, 2010 (German)
  4. ^ Timeline of the prison[permanent dead link] City of Brandenburg, official website. Retrieved March 17, 2010 (German)
  5. ^ Karl Wilhelm Fricke | Journalist, Autor, ehemals politischer Häftling (berliner-mauer.de)
  6. ^ Short biography of Hermann Schlimme. German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 24, 2010
  7. ^ Short biography of Alexander Schwab. German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 24, 2010
  8. ^ Short biography of Elli Hatschek Gedenkstätte-Plötzensee. Retrieved August 14, 2011
  9. ^ Short biography of Franz Jägerstätter German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 25, 2010
  10. ^ Short biography of Wilhelm Knöchel German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 25, 2010
  11. ^ Short biography of Alfred Kowalke German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 25, 2010
  12. ^ Short biography of Rudolph Mandrella German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 25, 2010
  13. ^ Short biography of Franz Mett German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 25, 2010
  14. ^ "Zwei Priester der Gemeinde: Pfarrer Dr. Dr. Bernhard Schwentner" Katholische Kirchengemeinde Sankt Ansgar. Retrieved June 21, 2011 (German)
  15. ^ Hans-Joachim Fieber, Widerstand in Berlin gegen das NS-Regime 1933 bis 1945, Vol. IV. Trafo Verlag, Berlin (2002) ISBN 3-89626-350-1, s.v. Uhrig, Robert (German)
  16. ^ Short biography of Alfons Maria Wachsmann German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin. Retrieved March 25, 2010

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°25′19″N 12°28′18″E / 52.4219°N 12.4716°E / 52.4219; 12.4716