Channel Islander Imprisoned in Kassel-Wehlheiden Prison:
Edward Peter Muels
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in Kassel-Wehlheiden Prison (Zuchthaus Kassel-Wehlheiden, Justizvollzugsanstalt Kassel I) in the city of Kassel in the German state of Hessia. Construction began on Kassel-Wehlheiden Prison in 1873 and it was opened in 1882 with a capacity for 421 prisoners. The building was designed, typical for prisons of the era, in an X form on a central axis with four stories. The prison housed prisoners of war in the First World War and political prisoners during communist uprisings in the early 1920s. Like all prisons in the Nazi era Germany, Kassel-Wehlheiden Prison was used to incarcerate political opponents of the Nazi regime. The prison also had a separate section used solely by the Kassel Gestapo. To accommodate the rapidly rising prisoner count, additional buildings were constructed to house up to 950 prisoners.
Edward Muels was transferred from Siegburg Prison to Kassel-Wehlheiden on 19 September 1944. The living conditions were poor and overcrowded beyond designed capacity, as evidenced by the fact that Muels was just one of a total of 254 prisoners – 126 of them non-German – to have died there in custody during the war. He died on 7 January 1945 in the presence of Johannes Umbach, a prison guard from Gudensberg. The cause of death is given as Herzschwäche or ‘weak heart’, a typical Nazi euphemism for the cause of death of maltreated prisoners. He was buried in Kassel-Bettenhausen Cemetery, and his gravesite (number 277) has protected status as a war grave.
On 30 March 1945, the prison was largely emptied and its prisoners transferred deeper into the German Reich so as not to fall into the hands of allied troops. SS-Führer Franz Marmon ordered the execution by firing squad of 12 political prisoners in Kassel-Wehlheiden prison. A Gestapo commando took the men to the nearby Wehlheiden Cemetery, stood them in front of a mass grave that had been dug in advance for the occasion, and shot them with machine guns. Marmon had ordered 29 men in Breitenau Work Re-Education Camp to be executed the previous day, and on the next day (31 March) ordered the mass execution of 78 Italian forced labourers.
Marmon hid under a pseudonym until his arrest in 1950, and was sentenced in 1952 to two years’ imprisonment for manslaughter, most of which he had already served in custody. He died a free man two years later in Karlsruhe. Two other Gestapo members avoided participating in the execution by showing up at the wrong cemetery and were thus not prosecuted. Of the remaining four Gestapo members of the execution commando, one committed suicide prior to trial; one was sentenced to death in Poland, though it is not known if the sentence was carried out; one supposedly died in a post-war POW camp; and the last claimed his gun was not capable of firing and was declared not guilty by a post-war West German court.
The largely destroyed city of Kassel capitulated to US troops on 4 April 1945. Kassel-Wehlheiden Prison was damaged by allied bombardments of Kassel, but nevertheless remained largely intact. The prison was at first administered by occupying US Army forces. In the 1960s and 1970s, the prison built many new buildings on its grounds and it continues to operate as a prison facility until the present day.
Hessisches Landesamt für geschichtliche Landeskunde (publisher): Wehlheiden, Zuchthaus, in: Topographie des Nationalsozialismus in Hessen (in German), Link
Jäger, Michael: Gestapomord in Kassel-Wehlheiden Karfreitag 1945, Brüder Grimm Verlag, Kassel, 1987 (in German).
Meister, Jörg-Uwe (editor): 1882-1907, 125 Jahre Strafvollzug Kassel Wehlheiden: Geschichte einer Justizvollzugsanstalt, Justizvollzugsanstalt Kassel I, 2007, Kassel (in German).
Orth, Barbara (editor): Chronik der Justizvollzugsanstalt Kassel-Wehlheiden von Pfarrer Adolf Dörner, Kassel University Press GmbH, Kassel, 2015 (in German).
Richter, Gunnar: Die Geheime Staatspolizeistelle Kassel 1933-1945 (in German). Link
Wiener Library, London (International Tracing Service)
Reference numbers 41472673– 42472681 (Edward Peter Muels)
Reference number 11350694 (Muels’ death certificate)
Reference number 11362551 (Siegburg prison list showing transfer of Muels to Kassel-Wehlheiden)