Dortmund Prison

Country Germany
GPS 51° 30' 56.76588" N, 7° 28' 39.66528" E
Address Lübecker Str. 21, 44135 Dortmund, Germany
Dates Active 1902 – current

Channel Islanders imprisoned in Dortmund Prison:

John Whitley Nicolle

By Roderick Miller

At least one Channel Islander was imprisoned in Dortmund Prison (Gerichtsgefängnis Dortmund, Untersuchungsgefängnis Dortmund, Justizvollzugsanstalt Dortmund, ‘Lübecker Hof’) in the city of Dortmund in the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The prison was built from 1898 until 1902 at which date the first prisoners were incarcerated there. In 1930 an additional wing was built to incarcerate 70 additional prisoners. The prison has the ironic nickname ‘Lübecker Hof’ (‘Lübeck Court’), taken from the name of the street on which it is located. Until the Nazi era, the prison was used primarily as a detention centre for those awaiting sentencing.

It was decided at a meeting of the Reich Justice Ministry on 6 February 1942 to make the State Prosecutor and a Sondergericht (‘special court’) in Dortmund responsible for the prosecution of Nacht und Nebel (NN) or ‘Night and Fog’ prisoners from Belgium and the Netherlands. These NN prisoners were part of a secret hostage program devised by the Nazis as a means of controlling potential resistance in occupied territory. Already by 25 February 1942, the responsibility for prosecuting the Belgian and Dutch NN prisoners had been shifted to the State Prosecutor and Sondergericht in the city of Essen. With the installation of a guillotine in May 1943, Dortmund Prison became a central place of execution in Nazi Germany for Belgian, French and Dutch NN prisoners, German military deserters, political prisoners of many nationalities, and German civilians convicted of crimes such as petty theft after a bombing raid. [1]

Although not himself an NN prisoner, Channel Islander John Nicolle was transported from Bochum Prison on 12 August 1944 to Dortmund Prison. His Dortmund record states that he was suffering at the time from pneumonia. A fellow prisoner, the Frenchman Verbene Amart, wrote in a post-war letter to Nicolle’s widow Rose (later re-married Thorne) that Bochum Prison was ‘already bad, but it was a palace compared to Dortmund.’ A German doctor had certified Nicolle as only being fit for light duties, but he was forced to perform hard labour in Dortmund Prison.

John Nicolle died on 14 February 1945 in Dortmund Prison and was buried three days later in Hauptfriedhof cemetery. The death certificate, issued in April 1946, does not list the cause of death, but his widow stated in 1964 in her compensation application that her husband died from wounds to his legs caused during an RAF bombing raid on Dortmund. She presumably received this information after the war in correspondence with her husband’s former cellmates.

Dortmund Prison had been damaged severely by bombs as early as 1943, and by the end of the war, 6,341 people in Dortmund had lost their lives in allied bombing attacks. US troops entered the Dortmund city limits on 7 April 1945 and had liberated the city by 13 April.

At least 300 men and women were executed by guillotine in Dortmund Prison, among them at least 85 NN prisoners, including the Belgian priest Jozef Raskin and the French Abbé Pierre Carpentier. The only known post-war prosecution of Dortmund Prison staff is that of chief prison guard Ernst Köppelmann, who was sentenced in 1950 by a Belgian court to 15 years’ hard labour for maltreatment of prisoners. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials and hanged in 1946, in part for his signing of the Nacht und Nebel decree.

Dortmund Prison is still currently in operation with a capacity for 421 male prisoners. A memorial plaque was dedicated in 1989 at the gate of Dortmund Prison for the political prisoners who were incarcerated or executed on the site.

[1] 19 year old Ilse Mitze was sentenced to death by Nazi judge Ernst Eckhardt for stealing some articles of clothing whilst clearing out debris after an allied bombing raid in nearby Hagen. She was executed by guillotine in Dortmund Prison on 12 May 1944.

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.

Sanders, Paul: The Ultimate Sacrifice: The Jersey islanders who died in German prisons and concentration camps during the Occupation 1940 – 1945, Jersey Heritage Trust, Jersey, revised and updated edition, 2004.


Cassese, Antonio (editor): The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice, Case ‘Köppelmann’ by Luc Reydams and Antonio Cassese, pp. 761-762, Oxford University Press, 2009.

International Tracing Service Arolsen, Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, 1949-1951.

Konieczny, Alfred: Der Nacht- und Nebel-Befehl Hitlers in DIZ-Nachrichten, No. 16, Papenburg, 1993, pp. 56-68 (in German).

Ruebenstrunk, Ruben: Dortmund in der Nazizeit. City of Dortmund, 2002 (in German). Available online as a PDF.

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO)
TNA FO 950/1220 (Thorne / Nicolle)

Wiener Library, London. Collections of the International Tracing Service (ITS), Saarbrücken prison records, archives 11298407-8