Channel Islander Imprisoned in Munich Stadelheim Prison:
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander, Roy Machon, is known with certainty to have been imprisoned in Munich Stadelheim Prison (Strafgefängnis München, Justizvollzugsanstalt München) in the German state of Bavaria. The prison is commonly called ‘Stadelheim’ because of the street it is located on. Islander Alfred Howlett testified in the 1960s that he was imprisoned in Munich, but although no documentation has been found to confirm the exact location, it is most likely, based upon related evidence, that he was incarcerated in Munich Gestapo Prison.
Construction on Stadelheim was started in 1892, and although the north wing was finished in 1894, the rest of the main structure including the prison chapel was only finished in 1901. At the end of the brief Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919, at least 19 men and women were executed without trial in the prison. During the democratic Weimar Republic, Stadelheim was primarily used to incarcerate petty criminals and remand prisoners, including Adolf Hitler after the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. As with all prisons in Third Reich Germany, Stadelheim was used to incarcerate standard criminal convicts as well as political prisoners. Among the more prominent prisoners were members of the German anti-Nazi Weiße Rose (‘White Rose’) resistance group, including the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl. They were among 95 prisoners executed by guillotine in Stadelheim during the Nazi Regime.
Roy Machon was interned in Laufen Internment Camp and transferred to Stadelheim in February 1944:
Here I was stripped of my civilian clothing and given a pair of patched trousers and an old coat bearing a red or orange diamond of coloured material which was sewn onto the back of the jacket.
Just after dawn each day our cells were unbolted and the German guard shouted ‘Kübel raus!’ Once I had put out the toilet bucket, the cell door was locked again. A small flap was opened and a slice of black bread and some substance passing for coffee with no sweetener or milk in it was passed through the opening. Five minutes later everyone was herded outside and had to march around a compound. Anyone who fell down was dragged inside and I do not remember seeing them again.
We then filed inside and the warder in charge asked me something in German which I did not understand, as I could speak only English. Between the warder, head prisoner etc. I finally understood they were asking me my trade. I told them ‘cinema projectionist’ whereupon [they said] ‘kein Kino hier’ (‘there’s no cinema here’). So I said electrician. They told me to sit at a bench with about ten other prisoners.
Without option I was put to work with a mixed nationality number of prisoners — I was the only one who spoke English — splicing steel cable from 7am to 6pm every day with one break for ‘soup’. The cable was being used for Messerschmitt fighter planes. When I discovered this, I pointed out to the head of the prison that under every known treaty or convention it was illegal to employ anyone in this capacity. I protested that I was British and this was working against my own nationality. I was transferred to sorting dried peas by the row, cutting webbing and leather equipment and separating ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
If any of we prisoners did not move quickly enough in the execution of this work we were punished by the guards who hit us about the head and neck with some heavy metal object or prison keys which they carried in a bunch. So many hittings about the head did I suffer that I sustained a permanent injury which resulted in deafness. One of the men mainly responsible for the injury suffered was called Mueller.
On Mondays and Thursdays in the prison, guards would call out 10 to 20 names and these prisoners would be marched out to do work outside the prison. Many times, of that number only 5 would return. The rest were either sent for further sentences, 10-15 years, or just killed where they stood. One such, a Pole, had his head cut off for stealing 10 Reichmarks from a German.
Mondays and Thursdays, too, were trial days. Tuesdays and Fridays were the days of killings. On Wednesdays and Fridays we were given a small piece of blood sausage or a small piece of meat in our soup. It was commonly spoken about by prisoners that we were eating the flesh and blood of fellow-prisoners who had been killed by the Nazis.
During my imprisonment I was in ‘solitary’ for the whole 5 months, except for the last two weeks. When my time had been served I was collected from the prison by the German Censor of Ilag Vll and taken back to Laufen and put straight into the hospital for several weeks. — Roy Machon, letters to the Foreign Office dated 10 April and 20 September 1965.
After five months in Stadeheim, Machon returned to Laufen Internment Camp, where he was liberated by US troops on 5 May 1945. Munich had been liberated by US troops just 5 days earlier, on April 30. Stadelheim became notorious in the 1970s when three members of the leftist terrorist group RAF supposedly committed suicide on the same night, two of them using pistols. All official enquiries and many biographies insist the deaths were suicide, but it is still a topic of discussion today. There was no memorial for the many Nazi executions of political prisoners in Stadelheim until 1996, when one was erected at the nearby Perlacher Forst Cemetery, where the remains of 93 political prisoners executed by the Nazis are buried in an unmarked mass grave.
Roy Machon survived the war, but like most survivors, he would suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of his life.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Justizvollzugsanstalt München (publisher): Aktuelle Kurzübersicht, 1 January 2016. As PDF (in German). Link.
Stuiber, Irene (editor): Hingerichtet in München-Stadelheim (‘Executed in Munich-Stadelheim), Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München, Munich 2004 (in German). Link.
The National Archives, Foreign Office, Claims Department: Correspondence and Claims Files. Link.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO)
TNA FO 950/1562 (Machon)