Stadthaus Remembrance Site
History of the site
The Stadthaus building on Stadthausbrücke/Neuer Wall, now known as the Stadthöfe complex, was the Hamburg police headquarters until July 1943. The complex housed the central command posts of the commander of the uniformed police, the headquarters of the criminal investigation department and the Hamburg state police, as well as that of the inspector of the security police for a time. Hundreds of employees worked here for the secret state police (Gestapo) and the criminal investigation department. This is also were the police organised the persecution of the Nazis’ political opponents, Jews, Sinti, Roma and other groups. The Stadthaus was a centre of terror and violence, the impact of which extended far beyond northern Germany. Hamburg police leaders based in the Stadthaus also helped organise the deployment of north German policemen to Poland and the Soviet Union during the war to actively participate in the genocide.
Men and women who had been arrested were detained in the cellar of the building in dreadful conditions and subjected to brutal mistreatment during interrogations. The police terrorised the prisoners just as the leadership of the Nazi Party in Hamburg expected them to. ‘Enhanced interrogation techniques’ were used to force confessions, and the prisoners were humiliated, tortured and driven to death. By submitting requests for ‘special treatment’ for the prisoners and sending them to concentration camps, the officials who worked here held the power of life and death over the citizens of Hamburg.
Development of a remembrance site
After the end of the war, parts of the Stadthaus building were used as a headquarters for various Hamburg municipal authorities – most recently the Ministry of Urban Development and the Environment until 2013. In 1981, a memorial plaque was placed at the entrance to the building at Stadthausbrücke 8 explaining the site’s former use by the Gestapo. When the building complex was purchased in 2009 by Quantum Immobilien AG Hamburg, the investor agreed to set up and maintain an educational site with a variety of content in the Stadthöfe complex. The concept comprised a permanent exhibition in a space shared by the Lesesaal bookshop and a literary café at Stadthausbrücke 6, as well as in the arcades nearby. The remembrance site was run by the Lesesaal bookshop from 2018 to 2022.
An interim exhibition on the history of the building under the Nazis was set up in May 2018. The permanent exhibition, entitled ‘The Stadthaus under National Socialism: A Centre of Terror’, was completed in January 2020. Another exhibition in the arcades over the Bleichenfleet canal covers the construction and past use of the buildings that now make up the Stadthöfe complex, with a focus on the Nazi period. The passageway known as the ‘corridor of sighs’ is also publicly accessible. This corridor over the Bleichenfleet was used to transfer prisoners from the detention cells to the interrogation rooms without being seen by the public. At an audio station here, visitors can listen to accounts from former prisoners talking about the interrogations and abuse they suffered in the Stadthaus. All parts of the exhibitions are available in German and English.
Despite the information now provided here, many associations and relatives of people who were persecuted feel that the site is unsuitable as a place of learning because the designated space is too small and there are no facilities for educational work. The city has therefore intensified its efforts to give the site the attention it deserves on account of its historical significance.
A memorial artwork entitled ‘Stigma’ by the artists Ute Vorkoeper and Andrea Knobloch was installed outside the Stadthaus building in 2022. The artists’ proposal, which won a design competition held by the Hamburg Ministry for Culture and the Media, consists of a striking motif in the footpath in front of the building to draw attention to the history of the site.
The Foundation of Hamburg Memorials and Learning Centres regularly holds tours of the site, and in 2020 a video tour Das Stadthaus im Nationalsozialismus on Vimeo was also created. The video tour uses historical and modern photographs to provide an overview of the history of the Stadthaus as well as the current Stadthaus Remembrance Site and the publicly accessible ‘corridor of sighs’.
The extensive bilingual exhibition catalog The Stadthaus and the Hamburg Police during the Nazi Era was published in 2021.
The Foundation of Hamburg Memorials and Learning Centres has taken over the responsibility for the Stadthaus Remembrance Site in autumn 2022. Since July 2023, the place was reopened in an extended form: The two permanent exhibitions and the ‘corridor of sighs’ has been complemented by a place of learning that creates space for a lively exchange on questions of National Socialism and its aftermath, as well as on current remembrance policy issues in the city, with events, workshops and temporary exhibitions.
Stiftung Hamburger Gedenkstätten und Lernorte zur Erinnerung an die Opfer der NS-Verbrechen
Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm. Closed on Sundays and holidays.
Admission is free.
The exhibitions are accessible by wheelchair, the "Corridor of Sighs" is not.
Free tours of the Stadthaus and the Stadthaus Remembrance Site are held regularly.