Photo: Peter Hansen, Buchenwald Memorial

Detention cell building

In the left wing of the gate building, with the blind windows, were the dreaded cells of the "Bunker". That was the name of the camp prison, which was full to capacity without interruption from February 1938 until the end: twenty-six cells to the left and right of the narrow corridor, each 2.05 m (6’ 9”) long and 1.38 m (4’ 6”) wide, with separate radiators and light switches, fold-out plank beds and steel doors.

The official catalogue for detention cell sentences – 3 to 42 days in the cell, alone or in groups, standing all day without any opportunity to lie or sit, confinement in darkness and generally on a diet of bread and water – was considered a mere guideline. Committal to the prison was arbitrary; the charges ranged from theft, homosexual relations and disobedience to sabotage, attempted escape and resistance – all acts punished as violations of the camp regulations. In reality, the tortures carried out in the confined cells went on for months and often ended in the prisoner’s death. "Hearing until confession" – as it was expressed by the SS – was par for the course in the camp’s most terrible torture chamber. Here human beings were tormented to death, hanged from the bars or killed with injections of phenol or air. Callous jailors tortured the prisoners of their own accord or in compliance with orders from above. Cell no. 1 was where prisoners spent their final hours before being murdered in the crematorium.

Several of the cells have meanwhile been furnished to serve as commemorative rooms in remembrance of inmates killed in the Bunker, e.g. the Protestant pastor Paul Schneider and the Austrian clergyman Otto Neururer.