The Yellow Misery

From 1945 to 1950 the prison was used by the Soviet secret police as a “Special Camp No. 4”, initially for the internment of persons who had been close to the Nazi regime. Such suspects were imprisoned with no examination of their specific cases. Later, more inmates arrived who had been sentenced to long prison terms by Soviet military tribunals (SMT) in secret proceedings that violated all standards of the rule of law. Among those held under inhumane conditions at the Bautzen special camp were of cause some Nazi officials, but mainly Social Democrat and bourgeois opponents of the Stalinist system, as well as many persons who had been arrested arbitrarily. To date, researchers have been able to document at least 2.700 deaths among the prisoners between 1945 and the closing of the camp in 1950, based on the camp administration files found in archives in Moscow. Former prisoners of the camp are convinced that the actual number of deaths was much higher.

From 1950 to 1989 Bautzen I was under the administration of the Department of Prisons in the East German Ministry of the Interior. After 1956, when the last of the SMT convicts were released, the inmates were primarily criminals serving long sentences for grave and repeated offenses. Yet there were still political prisoners as well: “saboteurs”, “agitators against the state”, Jehovah’s Witnesses, defectors and others. It was not until the “peaceful revolution” of 1989 that “Yellow Misery’s” history as the scene of political persecution was brought to a close. 1992 discoveries were made in the Bautzen prison complex of the largest mass grave of post-World War II Germany. Since October, 1990, Bautzen I has been under the administration of the Ministry of Justice of the Free State of Saxony. The Bautzen prison today is a men’s remand jail and penitentiary for inmates serving long sentences.

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