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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Army liberates nazi prison at Brandenburg-Görden, April 27, 1945

From press in the German Democratic Republic, 1985:

Constructed between 1927 and 1935, the four buildings making up the Brandenburg-Görden prison were intended for 1,800 inmates. But as the persecution of antifascists by the Gestapo and the Nazi judicial authorities grew in scope, the jail became an overcrowded, nightmarish world of torture and death. By April 1945, no less than 4,500 prisoners were incarcerated there in unbelievably cramped conditions. From 1935, political prisoners had been concentrated in Building No. 2 where a clandestine branch of the Communist Party was formed to organize the antifascist resistance

The cells for those kept in solitary confinement, most of them condemned to death were 1 by 3 metres in size. Three inmates were crammed together in other cells measuring 1.60 by 3 metres and, on top of this, had to work there. The dust, dirt and lack of air made the jail a breeding ground for tuberculosis. The ordeal of many prisoners in these cells lasted a full ten years.

From 1940, those sentenced to capital punishment were put to death by the guillotine. Between 1 August 1940 and 20 April 1945, seven days before the prison was liberated by Soviet troops, over 2,000 antifascist resistance fighters lost their lives at Brandenburg-Görden. The prisoners jailed and murdered there came from 19 European countries and included Soviet officers and soldiers, taken prisoner.

On 24 October 1944 the German resistance fighter and athlete Werner Seelenbinder (he was a member of the German Olympic team in 1936) was murdered by the Nazis at Brandenburg-Görden. When word of this reached the inmates working in the prison joiners’ shop, they decided to manufacture a specially designed game of chess in his honour. Symbolizing the working people’s struggle against reactionary forces throughout history, this was a collective effort by German and foreign political prisoners.

On 27 April 1945 the Red Army reached Brandenburg, liberating the captive antifascists from Brandenburg-Görden prison. The T-34 tank with the number 35 on it and commanded by Konstantin Sakharov brought freedom to thousands of antifascists. Within the jail, a prisoners’ committee set up on the initiative of the no longer clandestine party branch had assumed control, disarming the guards, some of whom had fled westward, and releasing all political prisoners from their cells.



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