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Würzburg prison around 1828
Heidelberger Karzer : Wall paintings document the student zeitgeist

The (until the 19th century and the ) punishment cell ( lat. Carcer , enclosure, Dungeons') was to the early 20th century, a holding cell in universities and schools. The term was also used for holding cells in the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps (карцер).

The special legal status of university members

The detention center is probably the most folkloric part that belongs to the area of academic jurisdiction . Above all, descriptions from the 19th century and the colorful design of the dungeon rooms contribute to the fact that today it is only perceived as an amusing disciplinary punishment. But this perception falls short and only affects the final phase, especially the time after the abolition of all special courts in the German Reich by the Courts Constitution Act of 1879.

The Leipzig University Archive maintains an extensive database on the inmates of the prison.

The "educational" deprivation of liberty

In the 20th century it was still permissible for students to be assessed (served) by their university and by their school for high school students . Most of the German university detention centers were dissolved between 1910 and 1914. Prison punishment was permitted at some universities until the early 1930s; Only the disciplinary regulations from the time of National Socialism no longer provided for officially and nationwide detention as a punitive measure against students. In schools, however, detention still lives on in the pedagogical measure of detention . The university and school prisoners were guarded in the university by pedals or by professionals or prison attendants.

The dilution of the "educational instrument"

While the prison sentence was still a punitive instrument in the early days of academic jurisdiction, which was understood as a serious interference with the personal freedom of students, respect for this institution fell rapidly, especially in the course of the 19th century. It was a matter of honor for a student to have served a prison sentence at least once during his student days. This event was duly celebrated, as evidenced by the not very contemplative wall, table and door paintings, which are still shown today as a museum tourist attraction in the university towns . It was part of the "code of honor" between pedals and inmates that only those decorations of the dungeon caught in the act were punished and removed. So the fine art was to distract people when leaving the dungeon so that the pedell did not notice the new decorations, so that they would be preserved for posterity. On the other hand, the pedels were also responsible for catering for the inmates on their account and thus generated considerable additional income.

Since the students in the detention center usually had to cater for themselves and were allowed to receive visitors, it was easy to turn the “punishment” into a social event with excessive alcohol consumption, which is reported again and again in 19th century sources.

Still preserved prison in Germany

The still preserved prison cells in Germany are cultural monuments and are all under monument protection . In detail, there are still detention centers in the following (former) university towns, most of which can be visited as a student museum at any time , sometimes only after prior notification .


Former University of Altdorf (in Altdorf near Nuremberg ): Wallenstein is said to have been the most famous inmate of the jail during his studies in Altdorf (1599/1600). Friedrich Schiller set a monument to this event (" Wallenstein's Camp ", Seventh Appearance):

FIRST HUNTER: Yes, he started out small and is so big now.
Because at Altdorf in a student collar,
If he drove to say with Permiss,
A little relaxed and purschikos,
Soon would have killed his famulus.
The Nuremberg gentlemen wanted him on it
Nothing to me, nothing to lock you in the dungeon;
It was just a newly built nest
The first inhabitant should baptize it.
But how does he start? He let
Wisely run the poodle first.
It's called after the dog until this day;
A real guy likes to reflect on it.
Among all the great works of the Lord
I particularly liked the piece.

The Altdorfer Karzer was called Hundeloch .


The Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University, founded in 1818, also had a detention center. The most famous inmate today is undoubtedly Karl Marx , who spent the night of June 16-17, 1836 because of "nocturnal noise".


“Opposite the Michaeliskirche you can see the remains of the Collegium maius (1510/1513) of the university founded in 1392 by the citizens of Erfurt and especially important in the 15th century (the third oldest in today's Germany). The large college comprised a lecture hall, detention center, anatomical theater and other university buildings. The late Gothic building was destroyed in 1944. "


The dungeon of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Erlangen from the period 1828 to 1897 on the 2nd floor of the former water tower at Apfelstraße 12 has been preserved, where the typical wall paintings can also be seen in one of the rooms. Before that, the jail of the university was located in the tower of the Sophienkirche at Hauptstraße 14 from 1743 to 1745, then in the attic of the old university building at Hauptstraße 18 (called "Neumaiers Burg" after its first occupant), finally until the move to the water tower in 1828 in the attic of the Redoutenhaus. From 1839 on, the water tower on the edge of the castle garden was used as a prison. It got its present appearance in 1870 when the top floors were removed. The last time the detention center was from 1897 to 1913 was in the attic of the “Old Collegiate House” at Schlossgarten 3, now the Geological Institute. In 1913, the university abolished prison sentences.


The historic detention room for students of the Freiberg Bergakademie in Freiberg is located on the top floor of the rector's building at Akademiestraße 6 and is the only remaining prison at a German technical college or technical university. It was set up in 1843 by the professors of the Bergakademie after consultation with the State University in Leipzig and, with its numerous wall paintings and inscriptions, documents everyday student life at that time. Between 1851 and 1872, 48 cases are noted in the detention register in which students had to serve a prison sentence in this room. A "mining academy disciplinary authority" decided on this, which was allowed to punish offenses against morality, damage to property, skipping courses and disturbing the peace with up to 14 days of arrest. Food and drink had to be paid for by the inmates themselves.

The detention center only has a small window to the courtyard, which was locked when it was occupied. The sparse furnishings consist of a bed with a straw sack, a table, two chairs, a wash bowl and a round, cast-iron stove and have remained in their original state to this day. Although it was forbidden to paint the walls, there are numerous drawings, tendrils, symbols of the local fraternities and sayings on the walls. For conservation reasons, the detention center is not open to the public.

Freiburg in Breisgau

Freiburg prison

Detention center at the Albert Ludwig University.

Couleur student anecdotes by Walter Stegmüller

Postcard for the enrollment of the 3000th student in Freiburg

The medical student Walter Stegmüller achieved local fame among the Freiburg student body. Stegmüller was from Freiburg's Hercyne and happened to enroll as the three thousandth student at the Albert Ludwig University , whereupon he was honored with a parade (July 6, 1911), in which he drove through the city on a rose-decorated car and was given a by the rector golden clock (see postcard for the ceremony). When the university's new winter dungeon was completed, it was again Walter Stegmüller who was honored to be the first delinquent to serve a prison sentence (November 22, 1911) that had already served on November 25. Since it was the second time in a short period of time that it was accidentally given a great deal of attention, the student body awarded it the title "King Chance", which he also addressed in a poem (quoted here in excerpts) on the wall of the detention center:

Now it is autumn. The storm is raging
Now about the silent prison tower
It was my fate on earth
to be the first in it. “( Walter Stegmüller :).

The student career of the Freiburg student, who was probably best known at the time, came to a tragic end in 1915, when Walter Stegmüller fell down the stairs at a party in the fraternity house and subsequently succumbed to his injuries.

to water

Two years after the University of Giessen was founded, a separate extension was built in 1609 next to the main portal of the armory on Brandplatz, which was donated to the university. The dungeon, which is still preserved today, is considered to be the university's first building project and was used until 1879.


The detention of the Georg-August University of Göttingen in the 19th century because of the expansion of the University Library under the roof of the auditorium laid on the Wilhelmsplatz, including a cell door of the old Karzers and thereon Graffiti Bismarck , which, however, is now last in Bismarck Göttingen Student Apartment , the Bismarck house.

In the 1820s, when Heinrich Heine was in Göttingen, a pedell named Brühbach was responsible for running the detention center, but apparently he did not enjoy much respect from the students. In his trip to the Harz Mountains , Heine reports the following incident:

“After I had appeased my stomach a little, I noticed a gentleman with two ladies in the same tavern who were about to leave. This gentleman was dressed all in green and even wore green glasses. [...] The Greens wanted me to recommend a hotel to him in Göttingen, and I advised him to ask the first best student there about the Hotel de Brühbach. [...] Both women asked me at the same time: whether decent people were staying at the Hotel de Brühbach. I said yes with a clear conscience, and when the lovely shamrock drove off, I said hello again through the window. The Sonnenwirt smiled sly and probably knew that the prison is called Hotel de Brühbach by the students in Göttingen. "

- Heinrich Heine : Travel Pictures, Part One: Die Harzreise, 1824


Corps Masovia (1893)

At the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald there is a detention center in the Auditorium maximum (Rubenowstrasse 3). There are regular tours of the university's custody. The detention center has also served as a motif for beer glasses and other souvenirs, especially as part of the 550th anniversary of the founding of the University of Greifswald in 2006.

As a university judge , Konrad Gesterding issued new prison regulations in the early 1880s.


In his travelogue Stroll through Europe , Mark Twain also reports on the prison at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg .


The jail of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena was used from 1548 to 1908 and contained up to nine jail rooms. Graffiti by the Swiss cartoonist Martin Disteli , who was imprisoned here in 1822, can be seen in the dungeon.



The detention room, which still exists on the upper floor of the so-called Old University of the Philipps University of Marburg , has no longer acquired any significance for the actual academic jurisdiction. The building was not completed until 1879. At this point in time, the Courts Constitution Act of October 1, 1879, had already come into force, making the jurisdiction the exclusive responsibility of the state. Today's Marburg detention center was only used for disciplinary punishments, occasionally and on request also for shorter (up to 14 days) local court sentences. In this sense, there were around 230 students imprisoned in this room and in a "secondary detention center" located on the same corridor between 1879 and 1931 (according to Bickert / Nail 2013, p. 38); There were no female students among them. The inmates left their mark not only through wall decorations, with which they above all manifested their affiliation to various student associations, but also in the "guest books" kept by the prison attendant and in a list of penalties kept by the university court; the latter can all be viewed in the Marburg University Archives. From these sources we also know that before 1879 there were several predecessor rooms of the prison, which still exists today, e.g. B. temporarily on the upper floor of the so-called "Reithaus" (corner Barfüßerstr. / Am Plan) and previously four rooms with the names "Sanssouci", "Avecsouci", "Friedrichsruhe" and "Bellevue" in the former Dominican monastery, which from 1872 / 73 had to give way to the new university building, today's "Old University". The Philipps University of Marburg, founded in 1527, was granted simple jurisdiction with the freedom letter from Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous of 1529, while the sovereign reserved the higher jurisdiction to himself. The transitions were fluid and provided space for numerous arguments. A prominent delinquent in 1737 was Mikhail Lomonossow , whom his teacher Christian Wolff had saved from the planned two days of detention by paying a carcer redemption of three Reichstalers. In the 1850s, the chemist Johann Peter Grieß made repeated acquaintance with the Marburg university prison.


New prison in Tübingen, in the attic of the old auditorium (drawing from 1848)

In Tübingen there is the oldest surviving academic cell, which was used from 1515 to 1845. In 1736 Johann Gottfried Schreiber painted it with admonishing black and white paintings with biblical scenes.

In 1845 a new prison was built in the old assembly hall , which consisted of three rooms with barred windows. According to the students' reports, the stay there was “not bad”. You got food from an inn. A glass of wine or a bottle of beer were also allowed. The pedels turned a blind eye when friends came to visit at noon with their coats stuffed with wine bottles. The honorable payer , who was already a pedell at the beginning of the 19th century, told the convicts in the evening under tobacco steam and jokingly about the earlier student manners and customs.

Outside of Germany

Tartu (Dorpat)

At the University of Tartu (Dorpat) in Estonia there is a historical dungeon in the attic of the main university building. It was damaged by fire in the 1960s. The subsequent restoration during the Soviet era was not able to save every destroyed "wall painting" or every old inscription. The prison can be visited.

Wall drawings in the dungeon in Tartu


The University of Latvia in Riga : The Technical University of Riga, which emerged from the Riga Polytechnic founded in 1862 (with German language of instruction), had a dungeon based on the model of German universities and the neighboring Baltic University of Dorpat (Tartu), which today has been preserved as a museum room and can be visited.

School dungeon


In one of the basement floors of the Carolinum grammar school there is still a detention room from the 1830s. However, this is not publicly accessible.


In the 18th century there was a prison in the Prince-Bishop's Lyceum of Freising on the 3rd floor of the east wing. Graffiti discovered in the late 1990s document its existence.


In the “Carl-Friedrich-Grabow” high school in house “A” there is still a detention center.

Pupils can stay there if they have free periods or have to be picked up for health reasons, as well as if they are no longer admitted to class due to delays.


Dungeon of the Francisceum

In the Francisceum , the inscriptions on the walls of the detention center remind of the university and school days.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ " Karzerstrafen at the University of Leipzig " (Leipzig University Archive ) ( Memento from July 18, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ) Archived website of the University of Leipzig . Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  2. http://www.bonner-rechtsjournal.de/fileadmin/pdf/Artikel/2010_02/BRJ_260_2010_Bernoth.pdf
  3. Jürgen Kiefer: Erfurt - history turned to stone. Archived copy ( memento of the original from March 30, 2014 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@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.akademie-erfurt.de
  4. Albrecht, Helmuth; Fuchsloch, Norman; Richter, Siegfried: Gaudeamus igitur? Highlights from Freiberg student life 1766 to 1990 . Exhibition of the Historical Cabinet of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg from October 20, 1998 to June 30, 1999. Freiberg. - Höppner, Christel-Maria (Red.): From the history of the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg . 3rd, greatly expanded and revised edition. Freiberg 2004.
  5. Ralf Hübner: Historische Langeweile , in: Sächsische Zeitung of August 4, 2014
  6. Karzer of the Albert Ludwig University
  7. ^ Fritz Reiser: The oldest semester of the Freiburg student body and his Freiburger Band- und Karzerpoesie In: Freiburger Almanach Achtes Illustrierter Jahrbuch 1957, No. 8, 1957, S. 56-61.
  8. a b Doreen Fiedler: Prison University. (No longer available online.) University of Freiburg, November 13, 2016, archived from the original on November 13, 2016 ; accessed on November 14, 2016 . 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@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.studium.uni-freiburg.de
  9. Wolfgang Weismann: The detention center of the University of Freiburg: insulting the professor five times, three days in prison. fudder.de, November 7, 2012, accessed on November 13, 2016 .
  10. Joachim Röderer: A prison with the best prospects. (PDF) Badische Zeitung, July 20, 2007, accessed on November 13, 2016 .
  11. A prison with a view. University of Freiburg, July 19, 2007, accessed on November 13, 2016 .
  12. Birgitt Hellmann, Doris Weilandt: Jena musarum salanarum sedes . 450 year university city Jena. Verlag Vopelius, Jena 2008, ISBN 978-3-939718-44-4 , p. 29-30 ( Google Books [accessed November 4, 2011]).
  13. Historical detention center . University collections in Germany. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  14. Historical prison at the University of Jena . Jena University Hospital. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  15. ^ Peter Woeste : Academic fathers as judges, On the history of academic jurisdiction of the Philipps University , Marburg 1987, ISBN 3-923820-17-8 ; Norbert Nail: Russi intra muros. Students from Saint Petersburg with Christian Wolff in Marburg. On the 300th birthday of the polymath Michail Vasil'evič Lomonosov on November 19, 2011. In: Studenten-Kurier 1/2012, pp. 15–19
  16. ↑ The detention center has not been open to the public until further notice since 2014, as the wall paintings are in very poor condition.
  17. Erich Bauer : Die Tübinger Rhenanen , Zeulenroda: Oberreuter 1936 (actually end of 1937), plate in front of page 135
  18. ^ The dungeon in Tartu
  19. ^ The dungeon in Riga
  20. Freisinger Schulkarzer ( Memento of the original from June 21, 2015 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@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / karzer.camerloher-gymnasium.de
  21. Zerbst, Francisceum, Karzer


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Web links

Commons : Karzer  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Karzer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations