One year to silence dissent.

Tour of the Memorial SA-Prison Papestraße, Berlin. (map)

Stefan Zollhauser, a Berlin based professor, historian and activist provided a multi-media tour of the Memorial SA Prison Papestrasse, enthralling the sizable audience of local citizen, students, activists and history buffs with his concise and professional approach, on the Sunday in late September 2016 when my partner and I were at the memorial. I can only urge anyone with the faintest interest in contemporary history and politics to visit the SA-Prison Papestr. Memorial Site. It is open to the public every Sunday from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., donations before and / or after the tour are more than welcome. The Memorial is easy walking distance from Berlin’s train station Süd-Kreuz (once called Bahnhof Papestraße before the large, modernized junction was built) locate between the boroughs of Schöneberg and Tempelhof in the southern part of the city. It is volunteer based, and a grass roots local initiative of citizens interested in the history our city.

Außenansicht des Gedenkorts SA-Gefängnis Papestrasse, Berlin von Johannes Kramer.

Image: Gedenkort Außenansicht. Photographer: Johannes Kramer.

The History

After declaring rule by emergency decree using the Reichstag fire (in the night of Feb. 27 1933) as a pretext, a fire which the party had most likely paid unemployed young men to set hanging one who did not get out of the building before the police arrived, the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – the Nazi Party) suspended civil liberties, and wasted no time rounding up the opposition. Social Democrats, Communists, Unionist, members of sports clubs, and anyone else they deemed a threat to their political aims and their plans for the restructuring of society, as well as anyone who knew anyone who fit one of those categories. By early 1934 the entire political and intellectual opposition had been eliminated. It takes all of one year to turn a multi-party democracy into a one party autocratic state (thirteen to turn an entire country into a zombied pile of smoking rubble).

Dealing with political pluralism, this is where the SA (Sturmabteilung) came in. The SA was a paramilitary under the command of the Hitler confidant Ernst Röhm. Organized in so called “Sturm”s, in essence loosely associated paramilitary syndicates comprised disgruntled ex-soldiers of the Wilhelmine army that had been enormously reduced in size by the Versailles Treaty, and others who had trouble adjusting to life in the Weimar Republic, these bands of thugs had accompanied Hitler in beer halls and auditoriums looking menacing, and seeing to it that things did not get out of hand.

Over night the SA-Sturms had opened makeshift prisons, and interrogation facilities where the thousands unfavorable to the Fascists were held, tortured, abused. One of these was the basement of this former administration building in a closes Wilhelmine barracks complex at the time being used for civilian purposes. Hundreds of people were detained without a warent here alone. The police hospital doctors called on to see to the tortured prisoners could often do nothing but certify their deaths. At first they were incredulous assuming the patients who were still alive were part of some hoax, and lying about what had been done to them. Soon however their reports became short and undetailed, perhaps sensing that too much probing into matters could mean that they were next to experience this treatment first hand,

Further wonderful tours by Stefan Zollhauser and colleagues can be enjoyed (for a very moderate fee) at Berliner Spurensuche.

Press announcement of the opening of the Memorial SA-Prison Papestra&szlig,e in 2013. (PDF)

Gedenkort SA-Gefängnis Papestraße
(Memorial SA Prison Papestr.)
Werner-Voß-Damm 54 a (Map PDF)
12101 Berlin
T: +49–(0)30–90277–6163
Web-Site: (German | English | Dutch)

Image: Gedenkort Außenansicht (3425×2284). Photographer: Johannes Kramer. Image-URL: Source: Home Page of the Memorial SA Prison Papestrasse (Gedenkort SA-Gefängnis Papestraße), Berlin.

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