Bensheim Gestapo Prison

Country Germany
GPS 49° 41' 7.1412" N, 8° 37' 9.9876" E
Address Wilhelmstr. 26, 64625 Bensheim, Germany
Dates Active 12 September 1944 - 26 March 1945

Channel Islander Imprisoned in Bensheim Gestapo Prison: 

Brian John O’Meara

By Roderick Miller

Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in the Gestapo Prison (Amtsgerichtsgefängnis Bensheim, Gestapo-Gefängnis Bensheim) in Bensheim in the German state of Hesse. The prison was operated by the Darmstadt Gestapo. By 1941, there were 146 Gestapo members working out of the Darmstadt Gestapo headquarters. The Gestapo in Darmstadt was responsible for deporting around 3,500 of the region’s Jews to the Theresienstadt Ghetto and extermination camps in Eastern Europe. After an allied bombing raid destroyed the Darmstadt Gestapo headquarters in September 1944, they relocated to Bensheim, about 18 miles away.

A prison adjoining the Bensheim courthouse was used by the Darmstadt Gestapo to incarcerate political prisoners. It was a two-story building constructed in 1902 of granite block. No contemporary witness testimonials have been found regarding the conditions in Bensheim Gestapo Prison, but in its function as a courthouse prison it was used after the November 1938 pogrom in Bensheim to imprison Jewish men and women, forcefully extort their personal property, businesses, and real estate, and expel them from Germany on threat of being publicly hanged in the Bensheim market square. [1]

It is uncertain for what length of time Brian O’Meara was in the custody of the Darmstadt Gestapo in Bensheim, but it was on their direct orders that he was transported to Buchenwald Concentration Camp on 2 February 1945. O’Meara was probably fortunate to have been deported from Bensheim insofar as he survived the war, unlike most of the prisoners in custody there. As the US Army was nearing the town in March 1945, the Gestapo took the remaining 14 political prisoners, consisting of men and women (including several French and Dutch prisoners), from there to a nearby hill called the Kirchberg to shoot them. One prisoner managed to escape and another survived the execution, but twelve men and women were murdered. Two American airmen who had been captured and were in Bensheim Gestapo custody had been executed earlier the same day. Three days later, on 27 March 1945, US troops occupied Bensheim.

Henry Kissinger, later an advisor to US President Richard Nixon, was in charge of the US Counterintelligence Corps investigation into the murders of the US airmen in Bensheim. Richard Fritz Girke, the head of the Darmstadt Gestapo in Bensheim, his deputy Heinz Hellenbroich, and two other SS Gestapo members named Franz Karl Stattmann and Michael Raaf were sentenced to death by a US military tribunal at the Dachau Trials in 1947. All four were executed by hanging in Landsberg Prison in October 1948.

The former Gestapo Prison Bensheim continued to serve as a court prison after the war, but was razed in November 1980. There are no memorials on the site for those who were unjustly imprisoned there by the Nazis, but a memorial to the twelve murdered political prisoners was erected on the nearby Kirchberg at the site of their executions.

Brian O’Meara was liberated in Buchenwald and survived, but like most survivors, suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of his life.

[1] See Finanzamt Benzeim below in Sources.

Further Reading

Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.


Central Intelligence Agency (publisher), Interrogation Report, Miscellaneous 1945 Seventh Army Reports on Germany. Contains detailed reports on Darmstadt Gestapo personnel. Link 

Ferguson, Niall: Kissinger: 19231968, The Idealist, Penguin UK, 2015. Details of Darmstadt personnel Girke and Hellenbroich’s criminal acts at the end of the war.

Finanzamt Bensheim (Bensheim Finance Office), St. Nr. 5/661. A detailed description written by the son of Jewish woman Betty Haas of her imprisonment and the extortion of her property by the Bensheim SS, as found in ‘Prinz Georg Ludwig’, a publication (in German) of the Verschönerungsverein Reichenbach. Link 

Lebkücher, Thomas: Ein Widerstandskämpfer prägt die Mainzer Polizei, Münster/Bubenheim, July-October 2012, master’s thesis (in German). Link

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO) and War Office (WO)
TNA FO HNP/3637 (O’Meara)

Wiener Library, London (International Tracing Service)
Brian O’Meara records, refs: 44768334/0/1, 44768335/0/1, 44768337/0/1, 44768339/0/1, 44768340/0/1, 44768341/0/1, 44768342/0/1, 44768343/0/1, 44768344/0/1, 87338478/0/1, 87338478/0/2, 87338479/0/1, 87338481/0/1, 87338483/0/1, 87338484/0/1, 87338485/0/1, 87338486/0/1, 5386560, 6601167, 87338478, 92822942, 11297403.