Memorial in the JVA Wolfenbüttel
The memorial in the JVA Wolfenbüttel is a documentation and memorial site for the victims of National Socialist justice , which is located within the Wolfenbüttel correctional facility (JVA) in the city of Wolfenbüttel . The Lower Saxony Memorial Foundation has been the sponsor of the memorial since it was founded in 2004 .
History of the Wolfenbüttel prison
The Wolfenbüttel prison was established in 1790 as a compulsory institution for prisoners with low sentences. Initially, a building erected in 1506 as part of the Wolfenbüttel Fortress served as accommodation. In 1820 the "Old House" was built as a new state prison. In 1873 a building for the individual accommodation of the prisoners was built, which was called the "Gray House" (House I). In the years 1882 to 1884 further buildings were added, including the “Gate and Administration House”, a second cell building, the “Red House” (House II), a farm building, a hospital and a steam boiler and machine house. During the existence of the Free State of Braunschweig from 1918 to 1945, the Wolfenbüttel prison was the central prison in the country.
time of the nationalsocialism
At the beginning of September 1937, the Reich Ministry of Justice ordered a central execution site to be built on the grounds of the Wolfenbüttel prison . This was intended to take account of the "increased need for execution" planned in the event of a war. An existing farm building was converted into a place of execution and provided with a second floor as well as a clock and bell tower in order to increase the execution of the death penalty in a sacred manner. The execution site, which was completed in 1938, was the location of the "central execution site for Execution District V" and was one of two central killing sites in northern Germany until 1945 ; the executioner in charge was the former haulage contractor Friedrich Hehr .
While initially mainly criminal offenders were executed, the number of executions increased considerably during the Second World War . This was due to the tighter case law and new facts. So-called " pests of the people ", "war economic criminals" and "dangerous habitual criminals " were affected . The victims also included German civilians such as Erna Wazinski and members of the Wehrmacht . Increasingly, people from occupied territories in Europe were sentenced to death, such as forced laborers , prisoners of war and prisoners of war from the Netherlands, Russia and Poland. By March 1945 at least 526 women and men had been guillotined in Wolfenbüttel following Nazi judgments .
The conditions of detention during the National Socialist era were dramatically poor due to overcrowding and rigorous work, as well as inadequate nutrition and hygienic conditions, inadequate clothing and inadequate medical care. The Wolfenbüttel prison was designed for 940 prisoners. During the Second World War the number rose to over 1500 prisoners. The work took place mainly in war-important companies and in agriculture, mainly in private companies.
Development of the memorial
A memorial in the Wolfenbüttel JVA was set up in 1990 on behalf of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice and the exhibition "Nazi Justice and Death Penalty" opened in the rooms of the former execution site , a former locksmith's shop. In 1993 the sponsorship was transferred to the Lower Saxony State Center for Political Education . In 1999, a second permanent exhibition was opened in the former prison rooms under the title “Justice and Prisons under National Socialism”. The Lower Saxony Memorial Foundation has been the sponsor of the memorial since 2004 . From 2014 to the end of 2019, the memorial was fundamentally redesigned with financial support from the state of Lower Saxony and the federal government and a documentation center was added.
Today (2020) the memorial consists of two different areas. On the one hand, there is the building of the former execution site within the correctional facility, built in the 1930s, which was renovated between 2012 and 2014. Since it is in the security area, it can only be entered after prior registration.
The other area of the memorial is the documentation center. It is located in an extension from 2019 to the correctional facility and is freely accessible. It shows the permanent exhibition on the subject of “Justice and the penal system”.
The memorial documents the development of the judiciary and the penal system in National Socialist Germany with two permanent exhibitions and a traveling exhibition. She conducts research on the history of the judiciary in the Nazi state and researches the fate of her victims, especially for the relatives of executed and former prisoners. The educational offer includes guided tours, seminars and project days and other advanced training events. The facility is only accessible after prior registration.
The permanent exhibition “Justice and Prisons under National Socialism” deals with the development of the judiciary from 1933 to 1945 and shows how crimes the Nazi judiciary was dealt with in the Federal Republic of Germany. In the exhibition, dealing with so-called inferior ethnic groups - such as homosexuals , Jehovah's Witnesses , Sinti , Roma and Jews accused of “ racial disgrace ” - is presented in five key areas.
- Freedom rights in the national state
- Prison execution in the National Socialist state
- racial thinking and inequality
- Special courts as an armored force of justice
- Nuremberg Trials after 1945
In addition, stewards provide information on the one hand on the biographies of the victims and the sentences imposed, on the other hand on the work of the perpetrators such as prosecutors and judges.
Conflict over the concept of the memorial
After the end of the Second World War, the events in the execution site of Wolfenbüttel prison were suppressed. The premises were used for storage and disinfection purposes. In 1984 the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice under Walter Remmers decided to have the building of the former execution site demolished.
These plans led to numerous international protests from various European countries and persecuted organizations who spoke out against this decision. The expert committee of judges and public prosecutors with its spokesman Helmut Kramer also campaigned for the building to be preserved. In 1990 a memorial was set up. However, it was intended that use should only be made for relatives of former victims. This concept was later not implemented, so the memorial could be opened to the public. Since 1999 there has been a documentation on the history of the institution, especially on the judicial murders during the Nazi era. The exhibition and accompanying seminars should not only serve to commemorate the victims, but also to deliberately deal with the acts themselves and the perpetrators, especially the judges and judicial officers who were responsible at that time.
A conflict became public knowledge in 2010 over the question of the design of the memorial. Helmut Kramer, Fritz Bauer Prize laureate of the Humanist Union , accused those responsible of refusing to “fulfill the legal task of the memorial”. This particularly concerned the inadequate representation of the perpetrator. Those responsible argued that the task of commemorating the victim commanded "not to compromise on this primary task". In contrast, the critics argued that this opposition fell short: “Other memorials have now recognized that it is not enough to commemorate the victims. Because the victims' suffering always points to the injustice committed by the perpetrators, they strive to include the perpetrator aspect more closely ”.
In 2011, the Board of Trustees of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation appointed an international commission to advise on the redesign of the memorial. Previously, the refusal to allow two scientists from the United States to visit and take pictures inside the memorial had caused further sensation in the conflict.
Criticism of the portrayal of the perpetrator
In 1998, the spokesman for the committee of judges and prosecutors Helmut Kramer criticized the portrayal of the perpetrators in the exhibition. At the time, the so-called “perpetrator block”, which was supposed to contain the perpetrator biographies, had large gaps. He criticized the fact that there was hardly any information about their professorships for the authors of worse “völkisch” texts, such as Professors Ernst Rudolf Huber and Karl Larenz , who after their careers as Nazi judges had again achieved high esteem in the Federal Republic of Germany . Even the confined space would not do justice to an exhibition planned as permanent documentation on the Nazi justice system.
Criticism of the portrayal of the victim
In 2012, Helmut Kramer criticized the depiction of victims in the exhibition at that time, which was revised in the years that followed. In Kramer's view, it is not enough to give the victims their names on grave tablets if the story and the circumstances that led to their death are not mentioned. In addition, sometimes not even the actual names of the victims were chosen for the memorial stones, but those compulsory names imposed on them by the Nazi regime and the Ordinance on the Civil Status Act of 1938, such as in the case of Moritz Klein, here as "Moses Klein" or "Moses Israel Klein ”is specified. The graves of the victims of justice were neglected after only two years, and the nameplates had partially peeled off.
In an article in the magazine Ossietzky , 12th edition from 2012, Kramer criticized the foundation management in which he described their ideas about the underweighting of the perpetrator aspect as follows: “The suffering of the victims must therefore serve as little as possible to the perpetrators and having to remember their diabolical methods. In fact, every victim's fate also points to the perpetrator. It is bad enough that material reparation has been withheld from most of the victims and their families, and the perpetrators, instead of being accountable, have been allowed to pursue their careers with honor. By refusing to remember the perpetrators, one also denies the victims moral satisfaction. "
- The Hildesheim builder with the purple triangle. The fate of the Bible researcher Berthold Mehm , documentary film by the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation - memorial in the Wolfenbüttel JVA in cooperation with the Berthold Mehm Foundation, Hildesheim / Wolfenbüttel 2006, DVD, color, 28 min.
- Wilfried Knauer: National Socialist Justice and the Death Penalty. A documentation on the memorial in the Wolfenbüttel correctional facility. Ministry of Justice of Lower Saxony. Steinweg Verlag, Braunschweig 1991, ISBN 3-925151-47-8 .
- Helmut Kramer: Plea for a forum on contemporary legal history. WMIT-Dr.- und Verl.-GmbH, Bremen 1998, ISBN 3-929542-12-9 .
- Wilfried Knauer: “… not behind walls!” - The city and the prison of Wolfenbüttel 1933 to 1945. In: Wolfenbüttel under the swastika. Five lectures. Edited by City of Wolfenbüttel. Wolfenbüttel 2000, pp. 81-102.
- Justice under National Socialism. Crimes in the name of the people. Exhibition catalog. Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 2002, ISBN 3-7890-8178-7 .
- Wilfried Knauer: Jehovah's Witnesses in Wolfenbüttel Prison during the Nazi Era - Imprisonment and Execution: The Fate of Berthold Mehm and Franz Zdyn. In: Wilfried Knauer, Berthold Mehm and Werner Rieger: The Hildesheim builder with the purple triangle. Hildesheim 2004. pp. 40-71.
- Wolfgang Krüger: The robbery murderer Friedrich Opitz: the first execution in the Wolfenbüttel prison (October 12, 1937). In: Heimatbuch Landkreis Wolfenbüttel. Ed .: District Wolfenbüttel, Volume 53.2007, pp. 51-64.
- Justice under National Socialism. About crimes in the name of the German people - Saxony-Anhalt. Accompanying volume for the traveling exhibition, ed. u. a. by the Sachsen-Anhalt Memorials Foundation, Magdeburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-9812681-0-2 .
- Wilfried Knauer: A traveling exhibition as a history workshop. in: Remember! Task, opportunity, challenge. Ed .: Sachsen-Anhalt Memorials Foundation, Magdeburg 2008, Issue 1/2, pp. 14–20.
- Grave field 13a: From archive research to an international history workshop. A documentation. Ed .: Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation - Memorial in the Wolfenbüttel JVA, Wolfenbüttel 2009.
- Maria Bormuth: "A man who commits fornication with another man [...] is punished with prison". Section 175 StGB - 20 years of legitimate injustice in the Federal Republic using the example of the prison system in Wolfenbüttel (= writings of the memorial in the Wolfenbüttel JVA , Volume 2), Celle: Memorial in the Wolfenbüttel JVA, Lower Saxony Memorial Foundation, 2019, ISBN 978-3- 946991-06-9 and ISBN 3-946991-06-8 ; Table of contents .
- Martina Staats, Jens-Christian Wagner (ed.): Law, crime, consequences. The Wolfenbüttel prison under National Socialism. Accompanying volume for the permanent exhibition. Wallstein, Göttingen 2019, ISBN 978-3-8353-3532-5 .
- Presentation on the Lower Saxony Memorial Foundation website at stiftung-ng.de
- Website of JVA Wolfenbüttel on justizvollzugsanstalt-weltenbuettel.niedersachsen.de
- Helmut Kramer: Gedenkstättenrundbrief 100 pp. 50–55 . Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Helmut Kramer: On the function of the clock and bell tower of the Wolfenbüttel execution building . Retrieved November 2, 2013.
- Torsten Fiebig (July 9, 2009): Dead people return their names on wolfenbuetteler-zeitung.de, accessed on September 23, 2013.
- JVA Wolfenbüttel and departments at jva-weltenbuettel.niedersachsen.de, accessed on September 23, 2013.
- Memorial in the Wolfenbüttel JVA at stiftung-ng.de, accessed on September 23, 2013.
- The memorial. In: Memorial in the JVA Wolfenbüttel. Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation, accessed on August 18, 2020 (eng).
- Helmut Kramer: Wolfenbüttel memorial - memorial for the victims of the National Socialist judiciary and place of learning against the crime on justizgeschichte-aktuell.de
- Helmut Kramer (November 2010): A piece on the strange handling of the Nazi judiciary , accessed on December 29, 2010.
- Letter from the managing director of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation, quoted in a press release by Helmut Kramer from November 17, 2010 , accessed on December 29, 2010.
- For the status of the conflict and the new conception of the memorial see Forum Justizgeschichte eV : Newsletter 03/2011, Dec. 2011 / Jan. 2012 ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (0.8 MB; PDF), Newsletter 02/2011, Aug. 2011 ( Memento of the original from January 18, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (1.1 MB; PDF) and Newsletter 01/2011, Apr. 2011 ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (0.2 MB; PDF)
- Access denied to American scientists on braunschweig-spiegel.de, accessed on September 23, 2013.
- How to give victims their names back ( Memento of March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) at sopos.org, accessed on September 23, 2013.
- Helmut Kramer: Memorial without perpetrators ( memento of November 4, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) on sopos.org, accessed on September 23, 2013.