Spandau Prison was a prison situated in the borough of Spandau in the British Sector of West Bwerlin. The prison was built in 1876 and knocked down in 1987 after the death of its last prisoner, Rudolf Hess. This was to stop it from becoming a neo Nazi shrine.The prison was built in 1876. At first it was only used for soldiers but after 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. It was supposed to be controlled by the Prussian Ministry of Justice but 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 built (at Dachau, Osthofen, Sonnenburg , Lichtenburg and the marshland camps around Esterwegen). All remaining prisoners in “protective custody” in state prisons were transferred to these concentration camps.
Kisch died age 62 on 31-08 in Prague and Ossietzky died in the Nordend hospital in Berlin Pankow, still in police custody, on 4 May 1938,, age 48, of tuberculosis and from the after-effects of the abuse he suffered in the 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 Nurenberg Trials.
Only seven prisoners were finally imprisoned there. Arriving from Nuremberg on 18 July 1947, they were:
- Rudolf Hess – serving a life sentence (died 1987, age 93)
- Walter Funk – serving a life sentence (released 16 May 1957, and died age 69 on 31-03-1948)
- Erich Raeder – serving a life sentence (released 1955, died on 06-11-1960, age 84 in Kiel)
- Albert Speer – serving a 20 year term (released 1966 and died age 76, heart attack in London on 01-09-1991)
- Baldur von Schirach – serving a 20 year term (released 1966 and died age 66 on 08-08-1974 in Krov)
- Konstantin von Neurath – serving a 15 year term (released 1954 and died age 83 of heart failure on 14-08-1956 in Klein Gladbach.)
- Karl Dönitz – serving a 10 year term (released 1956 and died age 88 of heart failure on 24-12-1980 in Aumühle)
Of the seven, only four served all of their sentence; the remaining three, Neurath, Raeder, and Funk, were released early 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.
Eugene K Bird died age 79 on 28-10-2005 in Berlin.
Spandau was one of only two Four-Power organizations to continue to operate after the breakdown of the Allied Controle 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.
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. The site was made into a car park and a NAAFI shopping centre , named The Britannia Centre Spandau and nicknamed Hessco’s after a British supermarket chain called “TESCO”. All materials from the demolished prison were ground to powder and dumped in the North Sea or buried at the former RAF Gatow
In 2006 a Kaiser’s Supermarkt, Aldi and a Media Markt consumer electronics store occupied the former prison grounds. In late 2008, Media Markt left the main shopping complex.