NVA-Militärgefängnis Schwedt, former military prison memorial

Memorials of recent German history
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Merely the mention of the name “Schwedt” triggered fear and horror in the hearts of those serving in the army of the former German Democratic Republic. There were all sorts of rumours among the soldiers about the toughness of the punishments in the military prison of the National People’s Army (NVA). Soldiers were sent to Schwedt if they had disobeyed orders, attacked superior officers, expressed political criticism or simply found it hard to fit into the authoritarian military structures. Many are still suffering, decades later, from the psychological scars left by imprisonment or disciplinary service in the former East German army prison.
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  • Informationstafel am Eingang zur ehemaligen Disziplinareinheit, Foto: Stadtmuseum Schwedt/Oder, Ursula Dittberner
  • Gebäude der ehemaligen Disziplinareinheit, Foto: Stadtmuseum Schwedt/Oder, Anke Grodon
The only military prison for the National People’s Army was set up in 1968 and run initially by the Ministry of the Interior. All soldiers sentenced by the military courts had to serve their prison sentences here. In addition, there was also “criminal detention” for up to three months (later six). With the takeover of the prison by the National People’s Army (NVA) in 1982, “service in the disciplinary unit” was added, which could be imposed as a punishment by the commanders of the NVA units without the involvement of the courts.

Apart from around 800 convicted prisoners in total, another 2,500 army soldiers also underwent disciplinary punishment in Schwedt before the end of the GDR. The conditions for the prisoners were characterised by heavy physical work, military drills and constant harassment by the guards. The course of the day, from waking at 4 a.m. until bedtime at 8 p.m., was strictly regulated. During disciplinary punishment, prisoners were not allowed visitors. The detainees could not speak about what had happened in Schwedt after their release. They were under orders to keep silent.

Large parts of the building complex were demolished after 1989. Today, the former guardhouse, staff building and disciplinary prisoners’ accommodation block still recall the notorious army jail. These parts of the building are a protected historical site. The old sentry post and the wall with watch tower are towards the back of the site. The open-air exhibition “Preserving the evidence of the GDR Military Prison” was opened to visitors to the site in June 2018. The “DDR-Militärgefängnis Schwedt e. V.” association offers guided tours from March to October.

Literature:
  • Torsten Dressler, Stillgestanden - Blick zur Flamme. Das DDR-Militärstrafgefängnis und die NVA-Disziplinareinheit in Schwedt-Oder von 1968-1990, Berlin/Bonn 2013
  • Rüdiger Wenzke, Ab nach Schwedt! Die Geschichte des DDR-Militärstrafvollzugs, Berlin 2011
  • Paul Brauhnert/Ilja Hübner/Arno Polzin (publ.), Der DDR-Militärstrafvollzug und die Disziplinareinheit in Schwedt (1968-1990). Zeitzeugen brechen ihr Schweigen, Berlin 2011

Continue readingcollapse
Merely the mention of the name “Schwedt” triggered fear and horror in the hearts of those serving in the army of the former German Democratic Republic. There were all sorts of rumours among the soldiers about the toughness of the punishments in the military prison of the National People’s Army (NVA). Soldiers were sent to Schwedt if they had disobeyed orders, attacked superior officers, expressed political criticism or simply found it hard to fit into the authoritarian military structures. Many are still suffering, decades later, from the psychological scars left by imprisonment or disciplinary service in the former East German army prison.
Continue readingcollapse
  • Informationstafel am Eingang zur ehemaligen Disziplinareinheit, Foto: Stadtmuseum Schwedt/Oder, Ursula Dittberner
  • Gebäude der ehemaligen Disziplinareinheit, Foto: Stadtmuseum Schwedt/Oder, Anke Grodon
The only military prison for the National People’s Army was set up in 1968 and run initially by the Ministry of the Interior. All soldiers sentenced by the military courts had to serve their prison sentences here. In addition, there was also “criminal detention” for up to three months (later six). With the takeover of the prison by the National People’s Army (NVA) in 1982, “service in the disciplinary unit” was added, which could be imposed as a punishment by the commanders of the NVA units without the involvement of the courts.

Apart from around 800 convicted prisoners in total, another 2,500 army soldiers also underwent disciplinary punishment in Schwedt before the end of the GDR. The conditions for the prisoners were characterised by heavy physical work, military drills and constant harassment by the guards. The course of the day, from waking at 4 a.m. until bedtime at 8 p.m., was strictly regulated. During disciplinary punishment, prisoners were not allowed visitors. The detainees could not speak about what had happened in Schwedt after their release. They were under orders to keep silent.

Large parts of the building complex were demolished after 1989. Today, the former guardhouse, staff building and disciplinary prisoners’ accommodation block still recall the notorious army jail. These parts of the building are a protected historical site. The old sentry post and the wall with watch tower are towards the back of the site. The open-air exhibition “Preserving the evidence of the GDR Military Prison” was opened to visitors to the site in June 2018. The “DDR-Militärgefängnis Schwedt e. V.” association offers guided tours from March to October.

Literature:
  • Torsten Dressler, Stillgestanden - Blick zur Flamme. Das DDR-Militärstrafgefängnis und die NVA-Disziplinareinheit in Schwedt-Oder von 1968-1990, Berlin/Bonn 2013
  • Rüdiger Wenzke, Ab nach Schwedt! Die Geschichte des DDR-Militärstrafvollzugs, Berlin 2011
  • Paul Brauhnert/Ilja Hübner/Arno Polzin (publ.), Der DDR-Militärstrafvollzug und die Disziplinareinheit in Schwedt (1968-1990). Zeitzeugen brechen ihr Schweigen, Berlin 2011

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Arrival planner

Breite Allee 31/33

16303 Schwedt/ Oder

Weather Today, 16. 8.

18 30
Partly cloudy throughout the day.

  • Wednesday
    18 32
  • Thursday
    21 31

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tmu Tourismus Marketing Uckermark GmbH

Stettiner Straße 19
17291 Prenzlau

Tel.: +49 (0) 3984-835883
Fax: +49 (0) 3984-835885

Weather Today, 16. 8.

18 30
Partly cloudy throughout the day.

  • Wednesday
    18 32
  • Thursday
    21 31

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