Waldheim prison

Waldheim Prison in Waldheim, Saxony, about 30 km north of Chemnitz, was once the largest penitentiary in Saxony and is the oldest prison still in operation in Germany. It was opened in April 1716 under Augustus II the Strong. There are now 395 places for men.

There was a psychiatric ward which was moved to Colditz Castle in 1829 under Christian August Fürchtegott Hayner.

The author Karl May served a sentence here from 1870 to 1874. In the Nazi era, it became notorious as a detention centre for political opponents, convicted for preparation of high treason, undermining military morale or just listening to banned Feindsender radio stations. Among the inmates were resistance fighters like Eva Schulze-Knabe, who was convicted by the People's Court in 1942 and freed at the end of World War II.

When the NKVD special camps were handed over from the Soviet Military Administration to the East German government in 1950, numerous NKVD detainees were transferred to Waldheim for further detention and for trial. From April to June 1950, the Communist authorities put about 3,400 alleged war and Nazi criminals to the so-called Waldheim Trials, ending with previously prepared and long prison terms and 32 death sentences.

There is now a printshop and bookbindery, a metalworking shop (locksmithery), a carpentry workshop and other in-house operations to provide jobs for prisoners.


Johannes WE Büttner: The health care and health conditions of the breeding, orphanage and poorhouse and later breeding and correctional house in Waldheim (Saxony) since its establishment in the years 1716 to 1900. Anstaltsdruckerei Waldheim, Leipzig 1942.