Plötzensee Prison

Plötzensee Prison (German: Strafgefängnis Plötzensee) was a Prussian institution built between 1869 and 1879 near the lake Plötzensee, but in the neighbouring borough of Charlottenburg, on Hüttigpfad off Saatwinkler Damm. During Adolf Hitler's time in power from 1933 to 1945, more than 2,500 people were executed at Plötzensee Prison. Among them were members of the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle), members of the Kreisau Circle (those accused of the plot against Hitler's life on 20 July 1944 at the Wolfsschanze), Czechoslovakian resistance fighters, and various others deemed by the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court") to be enemies of the state.

History

Before Hitler's time, during Imperial and Weimar Republic eras (1890–1932) there were just 36 executions carried out in Plötzensee, all for murder and all by the beheading with an axe.

During the Nazi regime, a total of 2,891 people were executed in Plötzensee. About half of those executed were Germans, most of whom were sentenced to death for acts of resistance against the Nazi regime. 677 executed prisoners were from Czechoslovakia which Germany occupied in 1938-39. 253 death sentences were carried out against Poles, and 245 against French citizens. These people included both the members of resistance organizations and people who were deported to Germany for forced labour.

Today a memorial stands at Plötzensee Prison to commemorate those executed by the Nazis. It was dedicated on 14 September 1952. All that remains now is the execution shed, a small brick building with two rooms, where the victims were either hanged or beheaded. Onto this has been built a memorial wall "To the Victims of Hitler's Dictatorship of the Years 1933–1945" (photo at right).

About 2,000 meters away, the Roman Catholic Church erected its memorial for the victims, the commemorative church of Maria Regina Martyrum.

After World War II and until 1987, Plötzensee Prison was used to house youthful offenders between the ages of 14 and 20. After the youth prison was moved to a newly built facility nearby (Jugendstrafanstalt Berlin on Friedrich-Olbricht-Damm), Plötzensee Prison became a men's prison with capacity for 577 prisoners.

  • Memorial wall covering the execution shed

  • Plötzensee execution room with guillotine in the foreground and gallows behind

  • Execution room today

Notable executions at Plötzensee
Sources
  • Brigitte Oleschinski: Gedenkstätte Plötzensee. Berlin: Gedenkstätte Dt. Widerstand, 1997 (3. Auflage), ISBN 3926082054
  • Cox, John M., Circles of Resistance: Jewish, Leftist, and Youth Dissidence in Nazi Germany, Peter Lang, 2009. ISBN 9781433105579