The prison site in Brandenburg-Görden was planned and built from 1927 to 1936. The complex was meant to provide conditions amenable to a modern prison system oriented towards re-socialization. At the same time, the building had to prevent escapes and enable monitoring of the prisoners inside the facility. The prison began operations on December 15, 1931, when the first prisoners moved into their cells.
The Nazis assumed power in January 1933 and soon began to exercise their influence the prison system. They made prison conditions harsher and imprisoned both political and “racial” opponents in Brandenburg-Görden. Criminals received longer prison sentences and many were put away permanently as “asocial elements.” After the beginning of the war, the Nazis locked up people from all of the occupied European countries in the prison. When their sentences were completed, many prisoners did not gain their freedom; instead, they were transferred to concentration camps, forced labor camps or death camps.
In 1940, the Nazi justice system set up an execution chamber in a part of the Brandenburg-Görden Prison that had formerly been used as a garage. It was here, from August 1, 1940, to April 20, 1945, that 2,032 people from the German Reich and from several European countries were murdered. The execution chamber at Brandenburg-Görden Prison was therefore the second-largest execution site in the Third Reich, second only to Berlin-Plötzensee.
After its liberation by the Red Army on April 27, 1945, the Soviet occupation authorities used the prison as a hospital for captured Wehrmacht soldiers and later as a prison for Repatriation Camp no. 226.
Beginning in 1949, the German justice administration began housing prisoners in the buildings once again. Responsibility for the facility was handed over in 1950 to the GDR’s Ministry of the Interior. Convicted criminals were imprisoned alongside political prisoners until 1989. Nazis and war criminals were also among the inmates in the years leading up to 1956.
Since German reunification, the facility has been the prison for the state of Brandenburg and has about 350 beds for male offenders. The prison holds both prisoners on remand and convicted criminals with sentences of varying lengths, as well as men in protective custody.
A memorial commemoration for victims of the Nazi justice system took place at the former Nazi execution site as early as 1946. One year later, a memorial was dedicated on the Marienberg in Brandenburg an der Havel to commemorate the executed. Both the execution chamber and the facility on the Marienberg have established themselves as memorial sites that have gone through repeated changes and expansions to this day.