Landsberg Prison

Landsberg Prison is a penal facility in the town of Landsberg am Lech in the southwest of the German state of Bavaria, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) west-southwest of Munich and 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Augsburg. It is best known as the prison where Adolf Hitler was held in 1924, after the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, and where he dictated his memoirs Mein Kampf to Rudolf Hess.

Landsberg Prison
Entrance to Landsberg Prison (2021)
LocationLandsberg am Lech, Bavaria, Germany
Coordinates48°03′15″N 10°52′00″E / 48.05417°N 10.86667°E / 48.05417; 10.86667Coordinates: 48°03′15″N 10°52′00″E / 48.05417°N 10.86667°E / 48.05417; 10.86667
Population~724 average
Former nameWar Criminal Prison Nr. 1
Managed byBavarian Ministry of Justice

The prison was used by the Allied powers during the Occupation of Germany for holding Nazi War Criminals. In 1946, General Joseph T. McNarney, commander in chief of U.S. Forces of Occupation in Germany, renamed Landsberg War Criminal Prison Nr. 1. The Americans closed the war crimes facility in 1958. Control of the prison was then handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Landsberg is now maintained by the Prison Service of the Bavarian Ministry of Justice.

Early yearsEdit

Landsberg prison, which is in the town's western outskirts, was completed in 1910. The facility was designed with an Art Nouveau frontage by Hugo Höfl. Within its walls, the four brick-built cell blocks were constructed in a cross-shape orientation. This allowed guards to watch all wings simultaneously from a central location (based on the Panopticon style).

Landsberg, which was used for holding convicted criminals and those awaiting sentencing, was also designated a Festungshaft (meaning fortress confinement) prison. Festungshaft [de] facilities were similar to a modern protective custody unit. Prisoners were excluded from forced labor and had reasonably comfortable cells. They were also allowed to receive visitors. Anton Graf von Arco-Valley who shot Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner was given a Festungshaft sentence in February 1919.

In 1924 Adolf Hitler spent 264 days incarcerated in Landsberg after being convicted of treason following the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich the previous year. During his imprisonment, Hitler dictated and then wrote his book Mein Kampf with assistance from his deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Numerous foreign political prisoners of the Nazis were deported to Germany and imprisoned in Landsberg. Between early 1944 and the end of the war, at least 210 prisoners died in Landsberg as a result of mistreatment or execution.[1]

United States ArmyEdit

American soldiers liberating Landsberg am Lech on 30 April 1945.
Record card of former SS-Hauptscharführer Georg Schallermair [de] who worked at the Mühldorf subcamp. After he was sentenced to death at the Dachau Trials, Schallermair was hanged at Landsberg in 1951.
War criminal Franz Strasser shortly before being hanged at Landsberg prison. German Catholic priest Karl Morgenschweis [de] is praying for him.

During the occupation of Germany by the Allies after World War II, the US Army designated the prison as War Criminal Prison No. 1 to hold convicted Nazi war criminals.[2] It was run and guarded by personnel from the United States Army's Military Police (MPs).

The first condemned prisoners arrived at Landsberg prison in December 1945. These war criminals had been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity at the Dachau Trials which had begun a month earlier.

Between 1945 and 1946, the prison housed a total of 110 prisoners convicted at the Nuremberg trials, a further 1416 war criminals from the Dachau trials and 18 prisoners convicted in the Shanghai trials [de]. (These were military tribunals conducted by the American forces in Japan between August 1946 and January 1947 to prosecute 23 German officials who had continued to assist the Japanese military in Shanghai after the surrender of Nazi Germany.) [3]

In five and half years, Landsberg prison was the place of execution of nearly 300 condemned war criminals. 259 death sentences were conducted by hanging and 29 by firing squad.[4] Executions were carried out expeditiously. In May 1946 twenty eight former SS guards from Dachau were hanged within a four-day period.[5] Bodies that were not claimed were buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery next to the Spöttingen chapel.


Notable former members of the Third Reich who were sent to the US Army's prison at Landsberg included:


Convicted Nazi war criminal Wladislaw Dopierla before execution at Landsberg prison, 1948

By 1948 the Bavarian Ministry of Justice's Association for the Welfare of Prisoners (Vereinigung für die Wohlfahrt von Gefangenen des Bayerischen Staatsministeriums der Justiz) managed the needs of the prisoners held by the American military. With the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949 and its abolition of the death penalty, calls from politicians, the churches, industrialists, and artists resulted in numerous petitions being made to close down War Criminal Prison No. 1. as part of a general effort to bring freedom for all Germans convicted of war crimes.[6]: 177–178  In the last half of 1950 and the first half of 1951, thousands of Germans took part in demonstrations outside Landsberg prison to demand pardons for all the war criminals while the German media coverage was overwhelmingly on the side of the condemned, who were depicted as the innocent victims of American "lynch law".[6]: 156–159  Though the protestors at Landsberg claimed to be motivated only by opposition to the death penalty and not to have any pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic feelings, their actions belied their words. When a group of Jewish protestors arrived at Landsberg demanding the execution of the 102 war criminals on 7 January 1951, the German protestors demanding amnesty began to chant the Nazi-era slogan "Juden raus! Juden raus!" ("Jews out! Jews out!") and then proceed to beat up the Jewish protestors.[6]: 158 

The German historian Norbert Frei observed that most of the politicians who demanded freedom for condemned prisoners at Landsberg at various protest rallies outside the prison, such as Richard Jaeger of the CSU, later on became prominent advocates of restoring the death penalty, which strongly suggested that what people like Jaeger objected to was not so much the death penalty, but rather the use of the death penalty against Nazi war criminals.[6]: 158  Another politician who spoke at the protest rallies outside Landsberg prison was Gebhard Seelos of the Bavaria Party, who called the prisoners of Landsberg together with Heligoland—which was being used as target practice by the RAF—to be "beacons of the German Volk in their struggle for justice, peace and the reconciliation of nations".[6]: 158  Seelos went on to compare the suffering of the condemned prisoners at Landsberg with that of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and argued that to execute the prisoners on death row at Landsberg would be an act every bit as "inhumane" as the Holocaust.[6]: 158  Seelos's speech drew loud applause from the crowd.[6]: 158  Frei called Seelos's speech, with its claim that the war criminals facing execution at Landsberg were just as much victims as the Jews that they killed in the Holocaust, a "breathtaking" exercise in moral equivalence.[6]: 158 

In early 1951 the Bavarian parliament passed a resolution declaring that all military prisoners at Landsberg, Werl, and Wittlich should be recognized as POWs, making them the financial responsibility of the Federal German government. On 2 January 1951, the West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, met the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John J. McCloy, to argue that the status of the Landsberg prisoners was not so much a legal question as a political one, and that to execute the Landsberg prisoners would ruin forever any effort at having the Federal Republic play its role in the Cold War.[6]: 157  On 31 January 1951 McCloy, under very strong pressure from German public opinion, agreed to review the sentences from the Nuremberg and Dachau trials. Out of 28 prisoners condemned to death, seven death sentences were confirmed. Some, like the industrialist Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, were pardoned by McCloy.[6]: 164–165  The other sentences were reduced to terms of imprisonment. The seven death sentences confirmed by McCloy were the so-called "worst of the worst" at Landsberg, namely Oswald Pohl, Paul Blobel, Otto Ohlendorf, Werner Braune, Eric Naumann, Georg Schallermair [de] (an SS sergeant at Mühldorf, a Dachau sub-camp), and Hans Hermann Schmidt [de] (adjutant of Buchenwald).[6]: 165  Neither Adenauer nor German public opinion was satisfied by McCloy's decision, and as a result, throughout the first half of 1951 the Federal Republic continued to lobby McCloy to pardon the seven condemned men while the huge demonstrations for amnesty continued at Landsberg, demanding freedom for the "Landsberg Seven".[6]: 168–169  The final executions were conducted on 7 June 1951.

By the middle of the fifties, these inmates began to be seen not as war criminals but as political prisoners or prisoners of war. For instance, in 1955, the Landsberg city council asked their mayor "to work for the overdue release of the political prisoners" in the Landsberg prison. Moreover, the FRG government in Bonn decided the convictions of war criminals by military courts were to be regarded as foreign convictions and therefore did not become part of an individual's criminal record.

In May 1958, the United States Army relinquished control of Landsberg Prison when the last four prisoners were released from custody. These were all former SS high-ranking officers who had been convicted during the Einsatzgruppen Trials between 1947 and 1948.

Management of the facility was transferred to the civilian Bavarian Ministry of Justice.

Modern dayEdit

The prison is now run as a progressive correctional facility that provides training, skills and medical help for prisoners. There are 36 courses in the central training centre which provide training for occupations such as bakers, electricians, painters, butchers, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, heating & ventilation workers and bricklayers. Uli Hoeneß served his sentence for tax fraud in Landsberg Prison.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Landsberg Prison / Frank Falla Archive[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ The Landsberg Prison for War Criminals Archived 2004-10-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Marcia Reynders Ristaino (2009-08-29). "Port of Last Resort: The Diaspora Communities of Shanghai". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ "Case closed". 1951-06-18. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
  5. ^ "14 More Die for Crimes at Dachau". The Montreal Gazette. 1946-05-30. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Frei, Norbert (2002). Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past The Politics of Amnesty and Integration. New York: Columbia University Press.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Prison in Landsberg am Lech at Wikimedia Commons