Cottbus Prison Memorial and Human Rights Centre

Memorials of recent German history
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In the GDR era, the prison in Cottbus with its dark red brick façade was often referred to as the ‘Red Misery’ (‘Rotes Elend’). Those detained in the facility on Bautzener Strasse, were subjected to a particularly strict prison regime and monitoring. More than 200 guards and a network of Stasi informers took care of this in the 1980s. The place gained notoriety on 19 October 1978, when 26-year-old Werner Greifendorf set himself on fire during yard exercise to protest against his imprisonment for attempted escape. The staff and the Stasi used all means available, trying to hush up his death. The event made it to the pages of West German newspapers, nevertheless, and caused a public outcry.
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  • Rekonstruktion einer Zelle, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
  • Ausstellung Karierte Wolken, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
  • Gedenkstätte Zuchthaus Cottbus, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
  • Ausstellung Haft Zwang Arbeit, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
The prison that was managed by the Ministry of the Interior was a central detention facility for political prisoners in the Honecker era. Convicted would-be emigrants who had tried to flee from the republic in particular, were taken to Cottbus in those days. The federal government redeemed thousands of these prisoners. It is estimated that the SED regime made several hundred million Deutsche Mark via Cottbus alone.

However, the history of dictatorship of the detention facility built in 1860 dates back far longer. During the national socialist rule, the building complex was used as a juvenile prison (1930 – 1937), a women’s prison (1937 – 1939) and eventually as a penitentiary for women (1939 – 1945). During World War II, the facility was used to imprison women who had been convicted for resistance and for divergent behaviour. Among the prisoners were members of the resistance movement Weiße Rose Hamburg and Jehovah's Witnesses.

After the end of the GDR era, the prison was used as a correctional facility for the State of Brandenburg until 2002. The site was then purchased by the Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V. association using private donations and state resources, and it was turned into a place of remembrance, education and encounter. The permanent exhibition ‘Karierte Wolken – politische Haft im Zuchthaus Cottbus 1933-1989’ (‘Chequered clouds - political imprisonment at the prison in Cottbus’) opened in 2013. A 450 square metre big exhibition area is dedicated to biographies of prisoners and reports from political prisoners of the two different German dictatorships.

Literature:
  • Tomas Kittan, Das Zuchthaus Cottbus. Die Geschichte des politischen Strafvollzugs, Cottbus 2009.
  • Steffen Alisch, Strafvollzug im SED-Staat. Das Beispiel Cottbus, Frankfurt am Main 2014

Continue readingcollapse
In the GDR era, the prison in Cottbus with its dark red brick façade was often referred to as the ‘Red Misery’ (‘Rotes Elend’). Those detained in the facility on Bautzener Strasse, were subjected to a particularly strict prison regime and monitoring. More than 200 guards and a network of Stasi informers took care of this in the 1980s. The place gained notoriety on 19 October 1978, when 26-year-old Werner Greifendorf set himself on fire during yard exercise to protest against his imprisonment for attempted escape. The staff and the Stasi used all means available, trying to hush up his death. The event made it to the pages of West German newspapers, nevertheless, and caused a public outcry.
Continue readingcollapse
  • Rekonstruktion einer Zelle, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
  • Ausstellung Karierte Wolken, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
  • Gedenkstätte Zuchthaus Cottbus, Foto: Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V.
The prison that was managed by the Ministry of the Interior was a central detention facility for political prisoners in the Honecker era. Convicted would-be emigrants who had tried to flee from the republic in particular, were taken to Cottbus in those days. The federal government redeemed thousands of these prisoners. It is estimated that the SED regime made several hundred million Deutsche Mark via Cottbus alone.

However, the history of dictatorship of the detention facility built in 1860 dates back far longer. During the national socialist rule, the building complex was used as a juvenile prison (1930 – 1937), a women’s prison (1937 – 1939) and eventually as a penitentiary for women (1939 – 1945). During World War II, the facility was used to imprison women who had been convicted for resistance and for divergent behaviour. Among the prisoners were members of the resistance movement Weiße Rose Hamburg and Jehovah's Witnesses.

After the end of the GDR era, the prison was used as a correctional facility for the State of Brandenburg until 2002. The site was then purchased by the Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus e.V. association using private donations and state resources, and it was turned into a place of remembrance, education and encounter. The permanent exhibition ‘Karierte Wolken – politische Haft im Zuchthaus Cottbus 1933-1989’ (‘Chequered clouds - political imprisonment at the prison in Cottbus’) opened in 2013. A 450 square metre big exhibition area is dedicated to biographies of prisoners and reports from political prisoners of the two different German dictatorships.

Literature:
  • Tomas Kittan, Das Zuchthaus Cottbus. Die Geschichte des politischen Strafvollzugs, Cottbus 2009.
  • Steffen Alisch, Strafvollzug im SED-Staat. Das Beispiel Cottbus, Frankfurt am Main 2014

Continue readingcollapse

Arrival planner

Bautzener Straße 140

03050 Cottbus

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Tourismusverband Spreewald

Lindenstraße 1
03226 Vetschau/Spreewald OT Raddusch

Tel.: +49 (0) 35433-72299
Fax: +49 (0) 35433-72228

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Overcast throughout the day.

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    -2 3
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All information, times and prices are regularly checked and updated. Nevertheless, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the data. We recommend that you inquire about the current status by phone / e-mail or via the provider's website before your visit.

(+49) +49(0)3312004747​ We are available for you via telephone: weekdays Mon – Fri 9 am – 1 pm and Oct. 31 from 9 am – 1 pm.

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