Frankfurt am Main Military Prison

Country Germany
GPS 50° 6' 48.5964" N, 8° 40' 5.5812" E
Address (building no longer exists) Taunusanlage 12, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Dates Active 1940 – 1944

Channel Islander Imprisoned in Frankfurt am Main Military Prison:
Gerald Charles Domaille

By Roderick Miller

Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in the Military Prison (Wehrmacht-Haftanstalt, Wehrmachtshaftanstalt) in Frankfurt am Main, a city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth largest city in Germany. The ‘prison’ comprised some rooms converted to provisional cells in the Frankfurt Military Headquarters, formerly a privately-owned luxury villa. The building next door, the Reichenbach-Lessonitz Palace, had been requisitioned by the SS to use as their headquarters. The fact that the SS were headquartered in a grand palace, but the German military in a much smaller villa, is indicative of the power structure priorities in the Nazi regime.

The only known existing photograph of the (later) Military Headquarters shows it to have been a three-story neoclassical villa made of stone with a mansard roof, a tended garden, and a wrought-iron fence. The building was probably, like the palace next door, built in the late 19th century. In 1932, its resident owner was Minka Ellen Schey von Koromla, [1] a young German-Jewish heiress related to the wealthy Rothschild family. Soon after the Nazis took power, she moved to Paris and married a man named Strauss. The property was likely ‘aryanised’ i.e. seized by the Nazis in the late 1930s on the basis of its owners being Jewish, and by 1940 had new occupants: the Wehrmachtskommandantur, headquarters of the German military. By 1942, the ‘von Schey heirs’ were no longer listed as the owners of the building in the address books —the building had fallen under the ‘management’ of the German Labour Front.

Channel Islander Gerald Domaille was sentenced on 14 April 1944 by the German Military Tribunal in Guernsey to one year’s imprisonment for receiving stolen goods, a charge he later vehemently denied. He was imprisoned in Guernsey Jail and forced to perform labour for the Organisation Todt in Guernsey prior to his deportation to the continent. After a night in Saint-Malo Prison and a stopover in Paris, he was taken on 9 May 1944 to the German Military Headquarters in Frankfurt am Main:

We at last reached Frankfurt, everything seemed dead, no lights, no traffic and no people. My guard explained to me that I would stay at a military Prison that night, in the morning I would go to the prison destined for me.

We entered this prison to be confronted by a short cocky little Obergefreiter [lance corporal]. I shook hands with my two guards and asked them when they returned to Guernsey to tell my father that I had arrived safely. The moment my two guards left, this Obergefreiter handcuffed my arms behind me and beckoned me to follow him to a prison cell which was poorly lit and with just a wooden bench for a bed, no bed covering at all. I was pushed into this cell with the door immediately closed behind me. This sudden change of treatment turned my stomach so that I needed to use the toilet. There was no toilet in the cell, but I did see a red button by the door that the occupant of the cell had to press for attention. As my hands were handcuffed behind my back, I could not reach to button so I, with difficulty, had to use my nose. It was some time before anyone came to my cell. It was a different soldier this time and when he asked me what I wanted, all I could say was ‘toilet, toilet’. He then went off to get a bucket for me, also a piece of newspaper, no toilet roll, he refused to release my handcuffs. Now I was in a predicament, how could I manage. Well, I did manage to undo my braces at the back, but it was very difficult to make use of the newspaper. I was unable to raise my trousers, so I sat on the bed for the remainder of the night, I could not lie down in any position, it was much too painful.

Early next morning I was given a mug of coffee and a small piece of dried bread. They removed the handcuffs to let me dress, then re-handcuffed me, in the front this time so I was now able to eat my meagre breakfast. Shortly after I was removed from my cell to the prison office where I was to meet the warden who was to escort me to my final destination.

The type of handcuffs they used would tighten at the slightest movement, with this in mind the prison officers simply pushed my briefcase in my handcuffed hands which caused great pain. This I had to contend with until I reached this ‘Strafgefangnis’[prison] in an area called Preungesheim.

We boarded a bus for my final destination. My warden compelled two passengers to give up their seats to us. This was not welcomed by them at all. They knew I was a prisoner and when they realized I was an English prisoner, all types of words were used against me, some even spitting on me. This attitude I did not appreciate, as you can well understand, but my main worry was the tightness of my handcuffs. They were now so tight that they had broken through the skin drawing blood and though my warder could see this he however did nothing to help me.

After a while we got off the bus, we walked a fair distance before we arrived at the prison I was to stay in for just over twelve months, it was Strafgefangnis, 112 Homburger Landstrasse, Preungesheim. – Gerald Domaille, memoirs

On 20 March 1945 the Nazis ordered the complete evacuation of the civilian population of Frankfurt am Main. Frankfurt had been severely bombed, and the SS headquarters next door to the German military HQ had been reduced by allied incendiary bombs to an empty shell. US troops seized control of the area near the Frankfurt main train station on 27 March and saw that they had a clear view up the streets Gallusanlage and Taunusanlage, at the end of which stood the German Military Headquarters — in plain view. The Americans aimed a 105mm howitzer cannon at the German HQ from 300 metres away and got a direct hit, killing the entire German Army staff who had been charged with the defence of Frankfurt. With the destruction of the German Headquarters – and with it the Military Prison it housed – the city of Frankfurt was liberated from the Nazis.

From 1979 to 1984, two 509-foot towers were built by Deutsche Bank on the sites of the ruins of the former Military and SS Headquarters in the Taunusanlage. There are no known memorials on the site for those suffered there in the Military Prison and SS Headquarters.

In late April 1945, Gerald Domaille was placed a forced march from Straubing Prison in the direction of Dachau Concentration Camp but was lucky enough to be liberated by US troops prior to reaching the intended destination. Like all survivors, he probably suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of his life.

Special thanks to Ina Herge at the Hessische Hauptstaatsarchiv in Wiesbaden (HHStAW) for her untiring efforts on behalf of this project. We had a number of German documents and survivor testimonials mentioning a ‘military prison’ in Frankfurt, but prior to researching the article, the location of this prison could not be determined and had never before been documented. It is thanks to Ms. Herge’s discovery of a key piece of evidence, a typewritten letter from the Wehrmachtskommandantur Frankfurt am Main – Wehrmachtshaftanstalt, that the exact location of the prison could be proven.

[1] Minka Ellen Strauss née Schey von Koromla, (1909–1982), survived the war under unknown circumstances.

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.

August Scherl Verlag (publishers): Amtliches Frankfurter Adressbuch, Frankfurt am Main, for the years 1933–1943. LINK

Gerald Domaille’s memoirs, in private ownership.

Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, Germany:
Letter from the Frankfurt am Main German Military Headquarters Prison to Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim Prison, hhstaw Abt. 409/4, Nr. 858.

Kick, Wilhelm (publisher): Moderne Neubauten, 2. year, Stuttgarter Architektur-Verlag Kick, Stuttgart 1898.

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO HNP/1238 (Domaille)