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1st Floor, Room 211


Luckau Prison

Documentation for the town of Luckau, 2006

Reactions of former inmates to the photo series and my text at the bottom of the page

E-mail from M. Elias, April 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Kienzle, I came across your website while searching for reports on the Luckau Prison and looked at your pictures. I must say that you have captured these detention rooms very well with your lens.
 Not only because you are a professional photographer! 
Unfortunately, I was imprisoned in this prison from June 2002 to March 2004!
 Unfortunately, I went through hell there, which you were not able to portray in your pictures, but I also read your report and I have to say that you understood it without knowing how you felt there. 

And when I saw the prison room 505 in your photos, where I had to stay for so long, even after 6 years I was still in tears, because the memories of the torture came flooding back. 

I can tell you that the walls were never colorful, they were covered in paint that was crumbling away. The windows didn't even let the rain or snow out, even when they were closed.
 Women fell on the stairs almost every day and didn't even get proper medical attention.

The food that was served here was mostly made from spoiled food, I can say 100%, because I was forced to process sausage that was already sticky in the kitchen. Or potatoes that were already blue and runny.
 Or the women who weren't lucky enough to have a toilet in the detention room, they had to wait for 1-2 hours until the staff came to unlock the room. But the ice-cold water from the washbasins was always very nice too... whether it was summer or winter!

You couldn't capture all that in your pictures!
 What a pity, but at that time not even the Ministry was interested!

 Why did I write this to you? 
I wanted you to see... what it was like to live in this prison... no... to vegetate...!

Yours sincerely, M. Elias

E-mail from Gerd Schiller, December 15, 2011

Dear Mr. Kienzle, I also found your website and the photos of Luckau Prison by chance. I was imprisoned in this prison between 1978 and the beginning of 1984, i.e. during the GDR era.
 At that time it was a penal institution and I served 18 months and almost 20 months for attempted escape from the republic. In February 1984, before I had served my sentence, I was transported to the Stasi prison Karl Marx Stadt - now Chemmnitz - from where, after three seemingly endless weeks, I and several other prisoners were transported to Giessen/BRD.

In "my time", things looked completely different in Luckau. Where you can see the green open space between House I and House II, there was a single-storey factory building in which we prisoners produced parts for refrigerator motors for the "VEB-Sachsenwerk" in two shifts. We inserted so-called winding coils on a piecework basis.

There were no washbasins or toilets in the cells of House II, where I was imprisoned. These were located at the end of the corridor on the left-hand side in a "washroom". This "washroom" was divided into thirds lengthwise, with a few toilets in wooden sheds on the left, in the smaller part of the room, and the washing facilities on the right. No washbasins but a long "stone trough" above which there were taps. On both sides of this part of the "washroom". Only cold water!

Once a week was shower day for all wards! The shower room was located in the basement of House II, near the so-called "Liebknecht cell".
 The cells on the wards - the first and second floors, i.e. wards - were occupied by around 16 to 18 prisoners. Only the first two cells opposite each other on the wards were less occupied - they were smaller. The "ward elders" were in one of these cells and the "ward elder" in the other.
 The wards themselves were cordoned off by a fence. 
However, the cells remained open around the clock.
 Every day there were so-called ward rounds. The inmates had to build their beds accurately on the edge, the locker - each inmate had one which was also in the cell - had to be tidy, the custody room had to be swept, mopped and polished once a week and the inmates had to line up in impeccable clothing. Then a prison officer - the lock-up officer - entered the custody room and the oldest prisoner had to report: "Mr. Lieutenant, custody room 203 with 17 prisoners has started to pass through the room, prisoner ...."
The morning and evening counts were similar. 
Here, all prisoners had to step out of their cells into the corridor, line up in a double row and the ward elder - also a prisoner - reported to a prison officer.

Food was served in the building to the right of House I.
All prisoners had to put on their coats, shoes/boots and caps and march in double file to the dining room. 
Yellow stripes were sewn onto the arms, back and legs of the clothing. It was old, worn army clothing that had been recolored.
 The free hour courtyard was on the left-hand side in front of House I. Part of the fencing can still be seen in her black and white photo.

Each ward had a TV room. The room was furnished with old folding wooden chairs - similar to movie theater seats. The television was located in an adjoining room in an elevated position behind a pane of glass. This meant that none of the inmates had direct access to the set and it could only be operated by prison officers. Television was a privilege!

Correspondence was limited and had to be approved first. We wrote and received between 2 and 4 letters a month. Mail was censored. Parcels were allowed to be received between 2 - 4 per year. 
Once a month was a visiting day.
 All these things were not legal rights, but "can-do" rules.
 Anyone who came to terms with the system politically or let the "educators" in on one or two of the prisoners' secrets was entitled to minor benefits. 
It wasn't easy for us political prisoners to talk to each other, because the "OKS", the officer for control and security - the Stasi - had his informers everywhere.

Yours sincerely, Gerd Schiller

E-mail from former inmate D. Wegener, February 5, 2012

Mr. Lorenz Kienzle, I came across your site purely by chance, as I am looking for evidence for my pension from that time.
The pictures all look nice, especially 03, that was the couch in the so-called segregation, but the room looked different, it had tiles on the walls and floor, because of all the cold water, which you got sprayed over from a C-hose afterwards. I spent 4 weeks in this segregation because I had resisted a gang elder from gang 3. 
I left 3 years of my youth there, I was 15 and stole an empty crate of beer to buy cigarettes with the deposit money, which earned me a sentence of 1-3 even educational measures according to Makarenko.

You have no idea what it was like to be told to go down corridor 3 to the roller coaster in house 2, and whenever it was either cold or hot outside, in the middle of the houses was the place for corporal punishment, which sometimes went on late into the night.
Escaping from this hell was punishable by death. In my time, two youngsters had had enough and were unfortunately shot on the roof of the large dining hall.
I still struggle with that time today, it doesn't stop and I'm 60 today.
All the best to you.
D. Wegner

Letter from former inmate Bernd Stichler, 6 November 2015

Dear Mr Kienzle, your photos of the former Luckau youth centre (later Hafthaus II) have absolutely nothing in common with the situation back then. 
I am 71 years old and was there in the early 1960s. What happened there was perfectly suited to turning decent people into criminals. But not to purify real criminals.

About the Luckau Youth Centre

In terms of building fabric, an old box in a neighbourhood of equally old houses. Used as a youth detention centre in GDR times. While the building didn't change, at least on the outside, the character of the inmates changed over time.
 In my time - at the beginning of the 1960s - the ratio of inmates was around 80% criminals to 20% political prisoners and this ratio later shifted more in favour of political prisoners. Structural changes to the interior only took place after 1989.
This detention centre was officially called a youth centre and the inmates were young people who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing a criminal offence. There were also 14-year-olds there. I myself was imprisoned there for political reasons. For importing and distributing trash and filth in the form of records. So just records from the West. The possession of Western records was not punishable until 13 August 1961. However, when the Wall was built, the GDR changed the law at the same time without publicising it. Many people were supposed to fall into this trap. I was sentenced to 9 months without probation for my possession of western discs, the sentence was politically motivated and there was no mercy.
Staying there required excessive physical and nervous strength. The GDR practised the so-called self-education principle with collective punishments for the misdemeanours of individuals. In other words, it was similar to clan detention, except that we were already imprisoned and were then subjected to harsh punishments. 
The inmates were governed solely by physical strength and therefore also by stupidity, which in turn suppressed those who were physically weaker. Anyone who showed intelligence and was not a muscleman had a hard time. All the tidying and cleaning work was passed on to the weaker ones and if they didn't want to, they were beaten by the stronger ones. Anyone who didn't submit to this game, anyone who didn't take part in the bullying of other weaker people (even though it disgusted them inside), was also constantly bullied.
The supervisory staff knew everything, but ignored this disgusting theatre. At the same time, the supervisory staff reacted excessively harshly to the smallest breaches of order and discipline with drastic punitive measures, both against individuals and very often collectively.
 The young inmates were divided into labour groups for unskilled work and vocational training groups. In plain language: those who had already started vocational training could continue.
Those who were unable to complete their training in Luckau because they were released were organised to finish their training in their home town. Those who were not mentally capable of learning a trade were placed in the aforementioned labour groups. Labour in the Finsterwalde screw factory. During working hours and at vocational school, the weaker ones were left alone because the training staff reacted differently to the guards and they were under constant observation. This changed after work.
Each occupational group had a day room and a dormitory one floor up. Most of the time, these rooms were locked and the guards sat in their duty room and hardly paid any attention. And during these times, the weaker ones had a very hard time if they were not subservient to the mostly stupid musclemen. This depressed overall atmosphere in turn caused even more general aggression.
In Luckau, we young people were subjected to a military drill that could easily compete with the Wehrmacht. Some members of the supervisory staff were unmistakably former members of the Wehrmacht and were obviously delighted when they could chase us around the yard in a duck walk.

About the food

According to the laws of the GDR, juveniles were supposed to receive better meals than adult prisoners. The Luckau youth center received the necessary funds from the state. However, this was not the case in Luckau. The reasons for this have not yet been clarified. Both the quantity and the quality of the food were deplorable!!! We were not given normal table potatoes to eat there, but rotten fodder potatoes, the kind that are normally only fed to cattle. The rations of margarine and sausage were absolutely inadequate in view of the daily physical strain. There were no vitamins at all. As a result, many young people developed a small pimple somewhere on their body. This pimple grew bigger and bigger, festered and became a pus-filled hole. The detention paramedic prescribed ointment, which had no effect whatsoever.
The last resort for those affected was permission to receive a parcel from home. Now that we knew what was going on, we told our relatives - when they were allowed to visit us - what vitamins we needed so that nothing unnecessary was put in the parcel, which, incidentally, was only allowed for birthdays. The scars from my two pus holes on my legs are still visible today. Smoking was forbidden in Luckau since 1962.

Finally, I'll list a few names of the supervisory staff at the time that I remember. 
Perhaps other alumni will also remember: Elvis - Hecht - Atze - Filzhut - Focking - Funkturm - Apfelbacke and Specki.

Bernd Stichler

Text by Lorenz Kienzle about the photographs of the former prison in Luckau, November 2009

In March 2006, I went for the very first time into a real prison. I participated in a tour of the recently-closed prison in Luckau, a small town south-east of Berlin. We were informed that the various prison buildings would be converted into a cultural centre.
First of all, we visited »Jailhouse II«, a former monastery, which was founded by the Dominicans in the 14th century. It was later used as an orphanage, and from 1747 until the autumn of 2005 as a prison. We climbed up the trodden out steps of the ice-cold stairway, which appeared to have been stored in the masonry since the beginning of time. I felt very sorry for every person who ever had to use this stairway. In contrast to these impressions, the cells were painted in unexpectedly bright colours. They appeared to have been just recently vacated by their occupants.
A few months later I was commissioned to document the whole prison area. »Jailhouse I«, »Sachsenwerk«, where all the workshops had been located, the kitchen, the gym, the administrative building and »Jailhouse II«, which you see here. I decided, against my own convictions, to work in colour, in order to document the special arrangement of colours in the cells and communal rooms.
On a hot day in June 2006 the prison gate was opened for me, and I stood alone in the yard with my equipment. I was assured that the gate could be opened from the inside at any time, which reassured me considerably.
In the basement of »Jailhouse II« I was greeted by very humid air and a wall covered with black mildew. As I climbed up the stairs the air got warmer. On the top floor, underneath the flat tin roof, the air was unbearably hot. There was a strange odour, a mixture of sweat and the smell of dead pigeons. They had entered the building through broken windows, but had no longer find their way out. Nevertheless, this floor was the most interesting for my work. The cells were still furnished with beds, tables and wardrobes, even plastic plants. During my work, the thought came to mind that the inmates could not simply step outside to get some fresh air, as I did several times.

After one and a half years of construction work, the former monastery was reopened in 2008 and is now called »Kulturkirche«. It accommodates the new permanent exhibition of the »Niederlausitz Museum«.
In 2009, the public library moved into the building and an exhibition about the former prison was opened under the title »Im Knast. Strafvollzug und Haftalltag in Luckau, 1747-2005«. In a room – »Haftzelle bis 2005« – that is furnished like a former cell, my whole photo documentation is displayed on a screen. It can be viewed sitting on a prison bed.