Landsberg Prison

Landsberg Prison is a penal facility located in the town of Landsberg am Lech in the southwest of the German state of Bavaria, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) west of Munich and 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Augsburg.

The prison was used by Allied power during the Occupation of Germany for holding Nazi War Criminals. In 1946 General Joseph T. McNarney, commander in chief, U.S. Forces of Occupation in Germany renamed Landsberg: War Criminal Prison Nr. 1. The Americans closed the war crimes facility in 1958. Control of the prison was then handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Landsberg is now maintained by the Prison Service of the Bavarian Ministry of Justice.

Early years

Landsberg prison, which is in the town's western outskirts, was completed in 1910. The facility was designed with an Art Nouveau frontage by Hugo Höfl. Its four brick-built cell blocks are orientated in a cross-shape which allows guards to watch all wings from a central location.

Landsberg, which was used for holding convicted criminals and those awaiting sentencing, was also designated a Festungshaft (meaning fortress confinement) prison. Festungshaft facilities were similar to a modern protective custody unit. Prisoners were excluded from forced labor and had reasonably comfortable cells. They were also allowed to receive visitors. Anton Graf von Arco-Valley who shot Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner was given a Festungshaft sentence in February 1919.

In 1924 Adolf Hitler spent 264 days incarcerated in Landsberg after being convicted of treason following the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich the previous year. During his imprisonment, Hitler dictated and then wrote his book Mein Kampf with assistance from his deputy, Rudolf Hess.

United States Army

During the occupation of Germany by the Allies after World War II, the US Army designated the prison as War Criminal Prison No. 1 to hold convicted Nazi war criminals. It was run and guarded by personnel from the United States Military Police (MPs).

The first condemned prisoners arrived at Landsberg prison in December 1945. These war criminals had been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity at the Dachau Trials which had begun a month earlier.

Between 1945 and 1946, the prison housed a total of 110 prisoners convicted at the Nuremberg trials, a further 1416 war criminals from the Dachau trials and 18 prisoners convicted in the Shanghai trials. (These were military tribunals conducted by the American forces in Japan between August 1946 and January 1947 to prosecute 23 German officials who had continued to assist the Japanese military in Shanghai after the surrender of Nazi Germany.)

In five and half years, Landsberg prison was used to execute nearly 300 condemned war criminals, of these 259 death sentences were conducted by hanging and 29 by firing squad. Executions were carried out expediently, in May 1946 twenty eight former SS guards from Dachau were hanged within a four-day period. Bodies that were not claimed were buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery next to the Spöttingen chapel.
Notable prisoners sentenced to periods of imprisonment at Landsberg included:

Closure

With founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949 and its abolishment of the death penalty there was subsequently a number of petitions to close down War Criminal Prison No. 1. On 31 January 1951 the U.S. High Commissioner, John McCloy, agreed to review the sentences from the Nuremberg and Dachau trials. Out of 28 prisoners condemned to death, seven death sentences were confirmed the other sentences were reduced to terms of imprisonment. The confirmed death sentences included Oswald Pohl, Hans-Theodor Schmidt (adjutant of Buchenwald), and Georg Schallermair (an SS sergeant at Mühldorf, a Dachau sub-camp). The final executions were conducted on 7 June, 1951.

In May 1958, the United States Army relinquished control of Landsberg Prison when the last four prisoners were released from custody. These were all former SS officers who had been convicted during the Einsatzgruppen Trials between 1947 and 1948.

Management of the facility was transferred over to the civilian Bavarian Ministry of Justice.

Modern day

The prison is now run as a progressive correctional facility that provides training, skills and medical help for prisoners. There are 36 courses in the central training center which provide training for occupations such as bakers, electricians, painters, butchers, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, heating & ventilation workers and bricklayer).

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