Channel Islander Imprisoned in Moabit Lehrter Strasse Prison:
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander is known to have been imprisoned in Moabit Lehrter Strasse Prison (Official names: 1933-1945, Untersuchungshaftanstalt Lehrter Straße; ca 1900, Zellengefängnis Lehrter Straße; today better known as Zellengefängnis Moabit), which was on Lehrter Strasse in the Tiergarten-Moabit district of Berlin, Germany. Moabit Lehrter Straße Prison should not be confused with the similarly-named Moabit Correctional Facility (Untersuchungsgefängnis Moabit), a remand prison that is a mere 300 metres away that was also active during the Third Reich. The proper name at the time of Moabit Lehrter Straße Prison was Untersuchungshaftanstalt Lehrter Straße, whereas the official name of the other prison was Untersuchungshaftanstalt Moabit — rather confusing, since the Lehrter Straße Prison is today more commonly referred to as Moabit Prison, although that is actually the name of the other prison. For clarity, all references in this article to ‘Moabit’ are on the subject of this article (Moabit Lehrter Straße Prison), and not about the similarly named facility nearby.
Construction of the Moabit Lehrter Strasse Prison was started in 1842 and it first opened for use in 1849. It was designed in a star-shaped Panopticon style, which was considered a ‘progressive’ prison architecture in the 19th century. Moabit was a remand prison (Untersuchungsgefängis) rather than a penal institution, in that it was used to hold prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing rather than for serving long-term sentences. Like all of the prisons in Germany in the Third Reich, Moabit Lehrter Strasse Prison was used to incarcerate criminal convicts and political prisoners. It is likely that no executions took place here, as Plötzensee Prison in the north of Berlin was the central site for the guillotine executions of political prisoners by the Nazi Regime. Many people involved in the assassination attempt on Hitler on 20 July 1944 were imprisoned in Moabit Lehrter Strasse Prison. Near the end of the war, on 23-24 April 1945, 16 prominent political prisoners were taken into ruins near the prison and summarily shot.
Channel Islander John Ingrouille had been arrested in Guernsey on trumped-up charges of Feindbegünstigung, or ‘aiding and abetting the enemy’. He arrived in Moabit Lehrter Strasse Prison on 25 January 1943, and was transferred a week later on 2 February 1943 to Brandenburg-Görden Prison. Ingrouille was allowed to write numerous letters to his family from Brandenburg, many of which still survive. John Ingrouille died as a result of the conditions of imprisonment on 13 June 1945 in a hospital in Brussels, Belgium.
The prison sustained only minor damage during the war and was used until 1955 by the Allies as a detention centre. The main prison building was razed in 1958 to make way for an expressway. The site of the prison was turned into the Moabit Memorial Park (Geschichtspark Ehemaliges Zellengefängnis) and dedicated in 2007 with an award-winning design by the Berlin architecture firm Glaßer und Dagenbach.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Paul Balshaw’s private collection: letters from John Ingrouille from prisons on the continent to his family in Guernsey.
Ulrich, Volker: Ein deutsches Gefängnis in Die Zeit, 27 March 1992 (in German), online here.
The National Archives, Foreign Office, Claims Department: Correspondence and Claims Files: Link.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO)
TNA FO 950/2023 (Ingrouille)