'the central institutions of Nazi persecution and terror'
1945 view along Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse
Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 - Reich Security Main Office
An international design competition conducted by the German federal government in April 2005 had the express aim of developing an overall concept for the terrain and a new documentation center that would do justice to the historic site’s national and international significance in the heart of the capital, while at the same time avoiding a glorification of this area as the “site of the perpetrators.”
From 1933 the central institutions of Nazi persecution and terror – the Secret State Police Office [Gestapo] with its own house prison, the leadership of the SS and, during the Second World War, the Reich Security Main Office – were located on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse and in Wilhelmstrasse. [all buildings shown in red].
All accommodation was converted from existing buildings built prior to 1933, with the Reich Security Main Office being housed in a former School of Industrial Arts and Crafts. A motor garge, a SS mess hut and an above ground air raid shelter were the only new constructions on the site by 1945, despite Heinrich Himmler's appeals for a new office building.
The House Prison
A prison was installed in the Secret State Police Office in the late summer of 1933. Its purpose was to hold prisoners that the Gestapo had a special interest in interrogating. At most fifty persons could be accommodated in the prison’s 39 solitary cells and one communal cell. Consequently, many political prisoners were held at other prison sites and brought to Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8 for their interrogation.
Interrogation of political prisoners in the Gestapo prison could last from several hours or days to many weeks and months. Long-term detention in the prison, however, was the exception rather than the rule. For most prisoners, the Gestapo prison was a way station on their journey through the prisons and concentration camps of the “SS state.”
Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8 became infamous because of the brutal torture methods used by the Gestapo to extract information. For several prisoners, the only way out of this terror was to commit suicide. The “intensified interrogation,” as torture was called in Gestapo jargon, was not carried out in the prison cells but in the offices on the floors above. During the initial years the victims were mainly Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and members of smaller socialist parties and resistance organizations. Victims also included other people equally unwilling to submit to the Nazi state’s claim to power, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or individual representatives of the churches.
From the beginning of the war, many lone fighters like Georg Elser, or members of small resistance groups, were held in custody in the Gestapo “house prison.” There were also some particularly large groups of prisoners: the members of the resistance group led by Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen (“Red Orchestra”) and the various groupings involved in the attempted coup against Hitler on July 20, 1944. The latter ranged from Socialists and the “Kreisau Circle” to nationalist, conservative public officials and military officers. Prisoners from countries occupied by Germany were also transported here.
From 1933 to 1945, approximately 15,000 political opponents of the Nazi regime were held in the “house prison” at the Gestapo headquarters. The names of almost 3,000 of these prisoners are known today.