Channel Islander Imprisoned in Schwandorf District Court Prison:
Frederick Winzer Short
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander, Frederick Short, is known to have been imprisoned in Schwandorf District Court Prison (Gerichtsgefängnis Schwandorf, Amtsgerichtsgefängnis Schwandorf, Amtsgericht Schwandorf) in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria, Germany.
The district courthouse in Schwandorf had a gaol for remand prisoners that was used to imprison political prisoners for short periods during prisoner transports. Frederick Short testified in his 1965 compensation claim that he was imprisoned in Schwandorf in the summer of 1943:
After serving my twenty eight days detention, I was taken from the Central Gestapo Prison, Munich, by three German policemen, again handcuffed to two of them, put in a car, and driven to the railway line and into a prison train with the usual brutal treatment. After a day or two on this train, I was put off and handcuffed to two German policemen, who informed me that I was in a place named Scwandorf [sic] and they were escorting me to the prison. It appeared to me to be a small town or village, for I walked with them through two or three streets to the prison. After a stay of two days in the prison I was taken handcuffed by the same two policemen back to the railway line and placed on another prison train. After being on this train for a couple of hours or so I was again put off where four armed Nazi prison guards awaited me. I was handcuffed to two of them, put in a motor truck and arrived at a large Nazi prison in a town called Amberg.
The Schwandorf District Courthouse is less than 400 metres from the Schwandorf railway station, and its listing as a place of incarceration (‘Gerichtsgefängnis’) for foreign (i.e. non-German) political prisoners by the International Tracing Service makes it the most likely place of his imprisonment. It is unlikely, however, that his short stay as a transfer prisoner was documented by prison staff.
During the 1938 November Pogrom, Nazis in Schwandorf destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and transported several Jewish men to Dachau Concentration Camp. Of the 29 Jews living in Schwandorf under the Nazi Regime, one committed suicide and nine others were deported to their deaths.
On 9 April 1945, a 20 year old forced labourer from Bratislava named Tobias Rüd and his wife Gerda were stopped by an SS patrol on Bahnhofsplatz in Schwandorf. The SS found a pistol in Tobias Rüd’s jacket and papers identifying him as Jewish. After several minutes of intense discussion with the patrol, an SS man shot him dead on the spot, in full view of his wife. She survived the war to write a testimonial of her experience.
Schwandorf was bombed heavily by the Royal Air Force on 17 April 1945, resulting in the deaths of 1250 people, probably with foreign forced labourers and prisoners of war among them, as it was forbidden by Nazi law to allow them access to air raid shelters. 674 of Schwandorf’s 1361 buildings were completely destroyed – nearly half of the town.
Two days later, on 19 April 1945, a so-called ‘death train’ of around a thousand half-dead and dying concentration camp inmates arrived in Schwandorf from Flossenbürg Concentration Camp. When an allied plane approached, panic broke out among the prisoners as they tried to seek shelter, and 41 of them were killed by guards for attempting to escape. A further 111 prisoners actually managed to escape, but 800 remaining prisoners had to proceed on a death march heading south, away from the approaching allied troops. Schwandorf was liberated by US 3rd Army Troops on 23 April 1945.
Schwandorf became a centre for displaced persons after the war, and a synagogue was re-established there in August 1946 with 470 members. Eventually most of the refugees emigrated to the United States or Israel and the DP camp was closed.
On the night of 16/17 December 1988, a 19 year old Schwandorf neo-Nazi set an apartment building ablaze, having left a sticker behind with a swastika and the words ‘Turks get out’. Three adults and an 11 year old boy died in the fire. When asked by the judge why he did it, the perpetrator replied ‘I hate foreigners’. He was sentenced to twelve and half years’ imprisonment for arson, but never charged for the murders of the four people. The house where the fire took place has since been rebuilt and there is a memorial there for the four victims.
Schwandorf District Court is still active to this day and has no memorial for the political prisoners who were incarcerated there.
Channel Islander Frederick Short went on to survive three more Nazi prisons, and was in such poor condition when liberated from Diez Prison in March 1945 that he had to remain in hospital until July of that year. Like many of those imprisoned by the Nazis, he may have suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of his life.
Alemannia-Judaica: The Jewish History of Schwandorf (in German) Link
German Federal Archives: Memorial Book Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945. Link
International Tracing Service Arolsen: Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, Bad Arolsen, 1949-1951, p. 214.
Klitta, Georg: Das Finale des Zweiten Weltkriegs in Schwandorf, eine Dokumentation. Meiller Druck und Verlag GmbH, Schwandorf, 1970.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/1224 (Frederick Short)
Wiener Library, London: International Tracing Service Archives
Reference numbers 11366697, 11538731, 38285222 (Frederick Short)
Wittmer, Siegfried: Geschichte der Regensburger Juden von 1936 bis 1938, Heimatforschung Regensburg, 1988, p. 135 (in German). Reference to post-war trials and Regensburg Prison record books from November 1938 in the Landshut State Archives. Link