The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spandau Prison

My son found my copy of "Inside the 3rd Reich" by Albert Speer and read it, impressive for a 9 year old boy I should say.  I remember reading my Dad's copy when I was 12.  It was an eyeopener and it explained how a 2nd rate street hustler named Adolph Hitler was able to ensnare an entire generation of Germans  I later purchased "Spandau" for my collection.
     What prompted this post was that my son was asking a lot of questions about the prison and i told him that I didn't know what happened after the last prisoner was released.  I figured that I would surf around.  Google and Wiki are good things;)

Spandau Prison

Coordinates: 52°31′16″N 13°11′07″E

Spandau Prison in 1951.
Spandau Prison was a prison situated in the borough of Spandau in western Berlin, constructed in 1876 and demolished in 1987 after the death of its last prisoner, Rudolf Hess, to prevent it from becoming a neo-Nazi shrine. In history, Spandau Prison succeeded as a prison to the Renaissance-era Spandau Citadel where Frederick II of Prussia had held captive the magistrates of the Prussian Kammergericht and the Spandau jail, where Carl Schurz had freed his friend Gottfried Kinkel in the aftermath of the 1848 German revolution.[1] The magistrates and Kinkel were held captive as Festungsgefangene (fortress prisoners), being privileged in detainment condition

The prison was built in 1876. It initially served as a military detention center. From 1919 it was also used for civilian inmates. It held up to 600 inmates at that time.
In the aftermath of the Reichstag Fire of 1933, opponents of Hitler and journalists such as Egon Kisch and Carl von Ossietzky were held there in so-called protective custody. Spandau Prison became a sort of predecessor of the Nazi concentration camps. While it was formally operated by the Prussian Ministry of Justice, the Gestapo tortured and abused its inmates, as Egon Erwin Kisch recalls in his memories of Spandau Prison. By the end of 1933 the first Nazi concentration camps had been erected (at Dachau, Osthofen, Oranienburg, Sonnenburg, Lichtenburg and the marshland camps around Esterwegen); all remaining prisoners who had been held in so-called protective custody in state prisons were transferred to these concentration camps.
After World War II it was operated by the Four-Power Authorities to house the Nazi war criminals sentenced to imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials.
Only seven prisoners were finally imprisoned there. Arriving from Nuremberg on 18 July 1947, they were:
Prisoner Prisoner Number Sentence Released
Karl Dönitz 4 10 Years 30 Sep 1956
Konstantin von Neurath 3 15 years Nov 1954 (released early)
Baldur von Schirach 1 20 years 30 Sep 1966
Albert Speer 5 20 years 30 Sep 1966
Erich Raeder 2 Life 26 Sep 1955 (released early)
Walter Funk 6 Life 16 May 1957 (released early)
Rudolf Hess 7 Life Died 17 Aug 1987 in prison
Of the seven, only four fully served their sentences; the remaining three, Neurath, Raeder, and Funk, having been released earlier due to ill health. Between 1966 and 1987, Rudolf Hess was the only inmate in Spandau Prison. His only companion was the warden, Eugene K. Bird, who became a close friend. Bird wrote a book about Hess's imprisonment entitled The Loneliest Man in the World.
Spandau was one of only two Four-Power organizations to continue to operate after the breakdown of the Allied Control Council; the other being the Berlin Air Safety Center. The four occupying powers of Berlin would alternate control of the prison on a monthly basis, each having the responsibility for a total of three months out of the year. Observing the Four-Power flags that flew at the Allied Control Authority building could determine who controlled the prison.
The prison was demolished in 1987, largely to prevent it from becoming a Neo-Nazi shrine, after the death of its final remaining prisoner, Rudolf Hess, who had been the prison's sole occupant after the release of Speer and von Schirach in 1966. To further ensure its erasure, the site was made into a parking facility and a NAAFI shopping center, named The Britannia Centre Spandau and nicknamed Hessco's after a British supermarket chain of a similar name. All materials from the demolished prison were ground to powder and dispersed in the North Sea or buried at the former RAF Gatow airbase.
As of 2006, a Kaiser's Supermarket, ALDI, and a Media Markt consumer electronics store occupied the former prison grounds. In late 2008, Media Markt left the main shopping complex. The space lies now abandoned. In 2011 the new owner, a development company applied for permission to demolish the cinema complex of the Britannia Centre, which is used by ALDI. The contracts for both, the cinema complex and the shopping complex, with Kaiser's, were terminated.



The compound was located on Wilhelmstraße in the district of Spandau.
Image showing the location of the Spandau Prison on Berlin map


Map of the Spandau Prison.

Pre Occupation Forces History

The prison was built in 1876. It initially served as a military detention center. From 1919 it was also used for civilian inmates. It held up to 600 inmates at that time.

Occupation Forces History

On July 18, 1947 seven Nazi war criminals were brought to the Spandau Prison. They were sentenced at the Nürnberg Trials. Rudolf Hess, Walther Funk, and Erich Raeder faced life sentences. Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach faced a 20 year sentence while Konstantin von Neurath had to serve 15 and Karl Dönitz 10 years in the prison.
Dönitz, Speer, and Schirach served their full sentences. Neurath, Raeder and Funk were released earlier due to their ill health.
From 1966 on Rudolf Hess remained the only prisoner at the Spandau Prison. The four powers took turns in guarding the prison. Despite the tensions between the Western Allies and the Soviets the guard duty at the Spandau Prison was never interrupted.
The guarding platoon, made up by 37 soldiers and one officer, changed monthly with a change of the guard ceremony in front of the prison:

The sentries were manning six towers arround the prison.
Since the prison was located next to Smuts Barracks which housed the Berlin Armoured Squadron the Soviets were able to take a close look at the activities in the barracks.
The prison was funded by the Federal republic of Germany through the occupation budget and the budget of the justice department in West Berlin. According to a newspaper article the costs from 1970 until 1983 were about 20 million DM.
Until his death Germany and the Western Allies tried to release Hess for humanitarian reasons but the Soviets would not agree.
On August 17, 1987 Hess comitted suicide. However some people do not believe that he comitted suicide but have a controversial theory of the British SAS killing Hess.
The US guard detail which served at the prison during August was pulled out and British guards took over the compound.
In order to prevent the prison becoming a memorial for Neo-Nazis the prison was torn down in 1987. The rubble was spread in the North Sea.
A new NAAFI shopping centre was built on the former prison grounds.

Post Occupation Forces History

The shopping centre was turned over to German authorities in 1994.


This picture was taken the morning after Hess died. The barriers were put up to keep sympathisers away

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