Destination Germany: Student Prisons

This week, our destination is not going to be one location in Germany but many that are similar. We are going to be looking at the old Studentenkarzer or campus prisons. At one time, students could actually be placed into a school jail for getting into trouble.

They were generally for smaller infractions, with one of the biggest reasons for imprisonment being intoxication, being noisy and acting a fool. Though other reasons like fighting and cheating could quickly get you thrown behind bars (metaphorically - most of the prisons didn’t actually have bars). Though, you could also land in this student jail for law breaking off campus. An example I saw was “freeing the town pigs.”

While university security these days might have a holding room,  these student prisons are no longer legal, though they were in use still just about 100 years ago. Most were ended in the early 1900’s but a few stayed open a little longer, with the last closing in Marburg in 1931. For those interested, many are still available for public viewing like a museum.

They were pretty spacious and were equipped with a bed and desk. Even while imprisoned students were still expected to leave for classes and use their time incarcerated for studying.

By the 19th century things started changing with the school prisons. It almost became a right of passage for student youths to be jailed. Many of these little prisons have very decorated walls and furniture by writings and drawings from previous inmates.

As for where you can find them, several city universities still have their detention centers as they are classified as cultural monuments and protected - including this one in Heidelberg. Many of them are student museums and can be visited at any time but check first, as are few are by appointment only.

Some notable school lockups can be found in Efurt, Freiberg, Gottingen, Jena and Marburg, among many others.