Mannheim Prison

Country Germany
GPS 49° 30' 36.7884" N, 8° 28' 46.3296" E
Address Herzogenriedstr. 111, 68169 Mannheim
Dates Active 1909 – current

Channel Islanders Imprisoned in Mannheim Prison: 

Brian John OMeara

By Roderick Miller

Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in Mannheim (Landesgefängnis Mannheim, Strafgefängnis und Untersuchungshaftanstalten Mannheim-Heidelberg, Justizvollzugsanstalt  Mannheim), now in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Construction on Mannheim Prison was started in 1905 and it first opened for use in 1909. It included a separate hospital building, which until 1945 was used to treat ill prisoners throughout the region. The prison was considered modern for the time, with each cell having running water with a toilet and a washbasin, central heating and electric light.

As with all prisons in Third Reich Germany, Mannheim Prison was used to incarcerate standard criminal convicts as well as political prisoners. The head of the Railroad Workers’ Union, Social Democrat Ludwig Ruf, was arrested in March 1936 and imprisoned in Mannheim Prison, where he was murdered on 30 May of the same year:

… I witnessed how a political prisoner fell from one of the upper levels. This happened at a time when the prison was usually as quiet as a graveyard and the prison officials only opened a cell door if a prisoner had rang the emergency bell. The exception was Gestapo officials, who could go to any cell at any time they wished and the prison guards had nothing to say about it. The official cause of death was given as “suicide by hanging”. His wife, who had been given permission to have her husband buried, saw no signs of strangulation on his body, but he had severe injuries on his head. [1]

Communist Party member Friedrich Abel also died in Mannheim Prison in 1936 under ‘unclear circumstances’.

During the anti-Jewish pogrom in November 1938, many Jewish Germans were imprisoned short-term in Mannheim Prison before being sent on to Karlsruhe Prison and Dachau Concentration Camp. Survivor Emil Behr testified in 1959:

I was suddenly arrested by the Gestapo on 28 February 1944 and taken into “protective custody”. I was in Mannheim Prison for around three weeks and then taken in a prison railroad car by train to Auschwitz. We arrived in Auschwitz 14 days after leaving Mannheim… [2]

Channel Islander Brian O’Meara arrived in Mannheim from Karlsruhe Prison on 9 November 1943 and was transferred to Wittlich Prison on 12 May 1944. He briefly mentioned Mannheim in his post-war testimonial:

In Mannheim, the prison where I was being held was badly damaged by an RAF raid. I was transferred to a camp at Wittlich…

The roof of Mannheim Prison had been heavily damaged by allied bombardment and was in fact completely rebuilt after the war. Mannheim was liberated by US troops on 26 March 1945. There is as of date (2017) no memorial on the site of Mannheim Prison for the political prisoners who were murdered there nor for the German Jews who were deported from there to the their deaths in concentration camps. The head administrator of Mannheim Prison from (at earliest) 1938 was Oberregierungsrat Dr. Wilhelm Weidner, 2nd in charge Regierungsrat Dr. Arnold Eßwein, Oberregierungsrat Anton Brenzinger was in charge of work details, and the prison doctor was Dr. Trappmann. As far as can be ascertained, no officials of Mannheim Prison were brought to trial after the war for their involvement in crimes against humanity.

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

[1] See Leber in Sources below, translated from the German by R. Miller.
[2] See Behr in Sources below, translated from the German by R. Miller

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.


Behr, Emil: Statement given to the Baden-Württemberg State Criminal Investigation Office on 21 March 1959. Link.

Leber, Annedore (editor): Das Gewissen entscheidet. Bereiche des deutschen Widerstandes von 1933-1945 in Lebensbildern. Büchergilde Gutenberg, Frankfurt, 1963 (in German). Link.

Keller, Heinz: Die Häftlingsnummer löschte die Individualität aus, in ‘Weinheimer Nachtrichten’, 9 November 2011, via Jüdische Spüre in Weinheim. Link. 

Justiz in Baden-Württemberg (publisher): 100 Jahre Justizvollzugsanstalt Mannheim, 2009 (in German). Link.

Mannheimer Einwohnerbuch 1938/39, (no publisher listed), Staatsarchiv Leipzig, 22278, No. 630. Online courtesy of

The National Archives, Foreign Office, Claims Department: Correspondence and Claims Files. Link.

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO)
TNA FO 950/4466 (O’Meara)