Wreckers Start Tearing Down West Berlin’s Spandau Prison
BERLIN (AP) _ Wrecking crews began tearing down Spandau prison on Monday and souvenir hunters were offering $55 for each brick from the huge, sprawling lockup where former Nazi deputy fuehrer Rudolf Hess lived alone for 21 years.
Hess, 93, Spandau’s sole inmate, hanged himself in the prison yard Aug. 17. Plans call for the prison to be razed and the site turned into a shopping center for British soldiers stationed in West Berlin. The 600-cell structure is in the British-controlled sector of West Berlin.
The four World War II Allies - the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union - decided to demolish the 19th-century structure to prevent it from becoming a shrine for Nazi sympathizers.
All four wartime allies technically still govern the western sector of the divided city.
Residents of an apartment building across the street from the prison expressed mixed feelings when the wreckers moved in Monday.
″Nazi sympathizers used to gather here for Hess’ birthday. I am glad it’s being demolished,″ said one woman.
Another resident said the structure should have been preserved as an anti- war museum.
Hess and six other Nazi war criminals were imprisoned in Spandau after World War II, but only Hess remained imprisoned there after 1966.
British soldiers stood guard around the prison Monday to prevent souvenir hunters from taking bricks. Posted signs said they had orders to shoot at intruders.
British officials refused to say where the debris will be dumped.
Crews from the West Berlin construction company Hafemeister on Monday used hydraulic jacks to make the first breaks in the prison entrance and the high, red brick wall surrounding the building.
After the initial work, the firm plans to use a wrecking ball to destroy the prison.
Local press reports said souvenir hunters have been calling up construction firms and offering up to 100 marks ($55) for a single brick.
Spandau was built in 1876 and originally used as a military stockade. In 1881, it became a jail for longterm prisoners and included execution chambers.
During Adolf Hitler’s reign, Spandau served as a clearing station for political prisoners being sent to concentration camps.
The Allies took over the prison in 1946.
War criminals sent to Spandau after the Nuremberg trials included Baldur von Schirach, the former Nazi Youth leader, and Third Reich arms minister Albert Speer, each sentenced to 20 years. Both left Spandau on Sept. 30, 1966, leaving Hess by himself.
The allied powers took turns guarding the prisoners and later Hess, trading off each month.