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6th_Inf_Regt_Spandau_Prison_1951

Spandau Prison 1951, public domain

I’ve always considered Spandau Prison a bit like something in “news of the weird.”

On July 18, 1947, the seven top German war criminals to survive World War 2 moved into their new prison in the Spandau district in Berlin. Rudolf Heß, odd bird and formerly Hitler’s favorite, had a lifetime sentence. So did the economic minister Walther Funk and the head of the navy, Erich Raeder. The wily Albert Speer got twenty years, not for being Hitler’s architect, but for feeding the Third Reich’s armaments factories with slave labor from occupied lands. Baldur von Schirach got 20 years for his role in the Hitler Youth. Konstantin von Neurath got 15, and Karl Dönitz, Reichspresident after Hitler’s death, got 10.

The Allies weren’t taking any chances. The criminals were locked into individual cells in the former fortress prison with guards from all four victorious powers, who rotated the duty every month.

If there was any sign of how dangerous the Allies considered these men, this was it. An entire prison for 7 people in isolation as if they were a cancer – which they were. Still, it’s amazing how much time, effort, resources and money the Allies poured into that prison for so few men for thirty years.

I’m not sure if the special treatment helped these men maintain a certain status that it would’ve been best to wipe out right away via keeping them in a normal prison. In isolation, but a run-of-the-mill one, same as any other max security prisoner would get. It would’ve been nice to see these war criminals cut down to size.

The prison isn’t there anymore, and here’s why. Rudolf Heß, 93 and the last inmate, killed himself in 1987. With that, the prison had fulfilled its purpose. It was torn down so that neo-Nazis who revered Heß couldn’t use it as a shrine.

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