I came across the Moabit Cellular Prison History Park by chance. Since I had never heard of it before, it was clear that I really wanted to discover this place.
Directly opposite Berlin’s main railway station is a green area and this is exactly where the Moabit cell prison was located. You can enter the grounds free of charge via entrances on Invalidenstraße, Lehrter Straße and Minna-Cauer-Straße.
In 1842, the cell prison was built right here, at that time still outside the city walls of Berlin.
It was considered the model prison in Prussia, where the reform of Friedrich Wilhelm IV was implemented, which provided for the abolition of communal cells. The prisoner was to be morally punished by being placed in single cells. It was planned to dispense with corporal punishment in the future. At that time, criminality was considered contagious and the isolation of prisoners was expected to improve the situation.
Before the building came into being, the person in charge at the time had looked at several prisons in different countries. From this he developed the concept of the Berlin prison:
Four cell buildings and an administrative building branched off from a central building.
So that the prisoners had as little contact as possible, about 520 individual cells were built. In addition, there were residential buildings for officials, gardens, cemeteries, a church, a school building and an execution site on the prison grounds.
To ensure that the prisoners had no contact even during the yard exercise, 20 individual yards were laid out, separated by high walls. In the middle stood a tower for the guard. Each prisoner was allowed to spend 15 minutes per day in this yard.
It was not until the end of the 19th century that solitary confinement was relaxed, and the walking yards remained until 1910.
During the Second World War, the prison was barely damaged and subsequently continued to be used as a prison by the Allies until 1955. It was not until 1958 that the Moabit cellular prison was demolished and only the officers’ residences and part of the walls remained.
The Moabit Cellular Prison History Park
In the course of building development in Berlin, further parts of the prison were demolished and it is only thanks to massive protests that parts of the site still exist today. In 1990, the historical significance of the site was re-emphasised and in 2003 the construction of the Moabit Cellular Prison History Park could begin. The opening was in 2006.
If I hadn’t known that I was on a historic site, I wouldn’t have noticed. There are only 4 small information boards at the entrance; unfortunately, there is no further information in the park itself.
The Moabit Cellular Prison History Park looks to visitors like a small park in the big city. I later read that a replica of a single yard for walking and a replica of a cell in original size could be seen here. You can also still make out part of the walls and 2 civil servants’ dwellings.
For me, a rather unspectacular place, although the “Captain of Köpenick” did time here. But it has become a beautiful park that offers the city a small recreational space.
Lehrter Straße 5b
in summer until 9 pm
in winter until 6 pm