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Built as a prison extension to Dortmund Police HQ in 1926-27, the Steinwache escaped any direct hits through the war. The building has had a varied history. It began as an acclaimed modern prison facility before becoming used for torture and incarceration of political opponents by the Gestapo between 1933-45. Post-war, it continued as a prison, before becoming a homeles shelter and then the Steinwache Memorial Museum in 1992. Also referred to as 'The castle at Steinplatz'.
When the Gestapo took over the prison in the summer of 1933, government opponents were tortured and blackmailed into making confessions in a section of the prison wing. Cell number 19, known to many as the isolation cell or murder cell, was re-created for the exhibition. From 1933 to 1945, a total of 65,000 people were imprisoned, 30,000 of them for political reasons. Numerous functionaries of political parties and labor unions, representatives of the church, Jewish citizens, Gypsies (Roma) and foreign forced laborers, all from the greater region of Arnsberg, were interrogated, mistreated and detained in the Steinwache. Many of those who were arrested were later deported to concentration camps.
With the arrival of the Gestapo at the prison in 1933, some of the cell areas were - contrary to their original purpose - perverted to use for torture and extortion of confessions from political opponents. During the twelve years of Nazi rule, the Steinwache became one of the most notorious places of torture in the German Empire and achieved tragic fame as "West Germany's Hell". Between 1933 and 1945, a total of 65,000 people were detained here, 30,000 of them on "political grounds". Countless functionaries of political parties and trade unions, representatives of the Christian Churches, Jewish citizens, Sinti and Roma and foreign forced labourers were interrogated in the Steinwache, maltreated and detained, some only for a few days or weeks, others for months or years.
Many of those held were transported from the Steinwache to concentration camps. It is not possible to estimate the numbers killed as the Gestapo only recorded deaths until 1936. Until that year, 17 people died of the consequences of torture. Despite the fact that the centre of Dortmund, including the area around the main railway station, sustained 90% damage through Allied bombing, the Steinwache escaped any direct hits.
[This information is undated] A single breakout from the prison occurred. Several forced laborers made the escape attempt. When a house beside the Steinwache collapsed, they forced their way out through a door. Their Gestapo guards were hiding in a shelter. [It is not clear from the account what the outcome was]
[Translated from] http://www.bobi.net/eks/Forum/forum15/steinwache.htm
Jews taken by the Gestapo from the Steinwache to a northern quarter of Dortmund and deported.
Gerhard Sollbach (ed), Bombenkrieg und Nachkriegsalltag: 1939-1948, p.143
In January 1945 the SS issued orders from Berlin to Duesseldorf which resulted in the mass execution of German and overseas workers, as well as political dissidents and opposition party representatives, in the closing days of World War Two.
Following the orders from Duesseldorf Gestapo officers in Dortmund rounded up more and more people and took them to the police cells 'Steinwache' and the Gestapo cells in the 'Benninghoferstrasse.' In addition, forced labourers (Dutch, Belgian, French, Polish, Yugoslavian and Russian) from all over the local government district of Arnsberg were also brought to Dortmund.
The executions commenced from the 7th March 1945 onwards as lorries systematically carried groups of prisoners to the fields in the Rombergpark and the Bittermark (suburbs of Dortmund) and Gestapo officers shot them. This continued until 12th April 1945, when American soldiers were already in the near vicinity.
Shortly after Easter, the 150-strong Gestapo execution commando fled via Hemer and Iserlohn for destinations all over the world. 27 of them were brought to trial in Dortmund in 1951 and 1952. 15 of the accused were found not guilty and no-one was found guilty of murder. However, 12 were found guilty of being accomplices to murder and received between 2 and 6 years in prison.
Around 300 people - the exact number has never been established - were killed in the days over Easter 1945.
One of the victims was the resistance member Martha Gillessen (born 30.11.1901), who took in a Jewish woman. She was betrayed by a comrade and arrested by the Gestapo on 08. February 1945, along with many other resistance members. A street in the north of Dortmund is named after Martha Gillessen.
[Excerpt from] Urich Sander, 1945: Mass murder in Romberg Park and the Bittermark