Channel Islanders imprisoned in Halle Prison:
By Roderick Miller
Halle Prison (Zuchthaus Halle, Roter Ochse [‘The Red Ox], Justizvollzugsanstalt Halle I) was first put into operation in 1842. In a noted 19th century trial, the anarchists August Reinsdorf and Emil Küchler were executed in Halle Prison in 1885 for the attempted assassination of Kaiser Wilhelm I. The prison has the local nickname Roter Ochse (‘The Red Ox’), probably based on its red brick construction material. From 1933 to 1935 the prison was used for so-called ‘protective custody’ prisoners, an umbrella term used by the Nazis to arrest political dissidents and persecute Jewish people. By 1938, the prison had a capacity for 790 prisoners, and by 1942 was regularly used by the Nazis as a place of execution by guillotine. By 1945, at least 549 prisoners had been thus executed in the prison.
This prison is huge, it’s a house of correction. Up to now, life had been fairly easy except for the occasional thump or kick, but now things changed, you were really in enemy territory. My job was in a room immediately above the condemned cells and the guillotine, we hat to count seven pieces of paper and five envelopes and put them in one brown envelope. These were for the troops. One morning I was stacking my work by the door when a guard hauled me outside and down some stairs to get some baskets. This guard could speak French fairly well, he pointed to some black curtains and told me I was in for it, he then pulled the curtains and showed me this huge monstrosity, the guillotine, a shining terrifying piece of machinery. I was glad to get back upstairs. The first Wednesday afternoon a hush came over the room at 3pm and then I heard a thump and counted 21 thumps. I was told that they were executing… — Cecil Duquemin, October 1964
Channel Islander Joe Tierney was incarcerated at a prison in Halle from 31 March until 7 April 1945, but it has not yet been determined if he was in Halle Prison or —more likely — Halle Police Prison. On 11 April 1945, 507 prisoners from Halle were placed into open train cars with provisions for four days and fled in a southerly direction from approaching American troops, who liberated Halle on 17 April. The transport continued on a zigzag path through the Czech Republic for nearly four weeks, with many of the prisoners dying from exposure, the effects of starvation, and summary execution. Joe Tierney died in the Czech town of Kaštice (German: Kaschitz) in May 1945 as part of this prisoner transport. Cecil Duquemin was liberated by American troops from a transport en route to Theresienstadt Ghetto.
Halle Prison was under Soviet direction from July 1945 and was used as a detention centre for military tribunals of Nazi functionaries. People seen as political enemies of the Soviet state were also put on trial here, with over 1600 convictions, among them 100 death sentences. Prison guard Hermann Keu. (his full surname is not published in court documents), born on 15 May 1896 in Nordhausen, was convicted in 1949 for mistreating prisoners in Halle Prison and for his role in the 11 April prisoner transport to 8 years’ imprisonment. Another prison guard, Walter Richter (born in 1896) was convicted in 1951 to life imprisonment for his role in the 11 April prisoner transport, but was released via an amnesty programme in 1956.
The communist detention centre was closed in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. Halle Prison is still active under the name Justizvollzugsanstalt Halle and offers prisoners work-education positions —on a voluntary basis, as forced labour is unconstitutional in Germany — in clothes tailoring, housework, farming, and kitchen and garden work.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Rüter, Prof. Dr. C. F.: DDR-Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. IX, Amsterdam University Press, 2007, pp. 509-512 (in German).
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO HNP/400 (Duquemin)
TNA FO 950/1254 (Tierney)