A place of social ostracism

Black and white drawing of the front of a large building bearing the title Hadamar Correctional Facility (Korrigenden-Anstalt zu Hadamar).
Contemporary representation of the main view of the Hadamar Correctional Facility (Korrigenden-Anstalt zu Hadamar), around 1890. Photo: Journal of the Hannover Association for Architects and Engineers (Zeitschrift des Architekten- und Ingenieur-Vereins zu Hannover), year 1890, issue 3, p. 9, fig. 1

The “Correctional Institution of Hadamar” was opened in 1883. The Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau had a new building erected at the edge of the town of Hadamar specifically for this purpose. This building houses the Memorial Museum today. The neighbouring former Franciscan monastery, which is also still standing, was part of the new institutional complex on the so-called Mönchberg in Hadamar.

Another term for “correctional institution” is “workhouse”. Such institutions were found in many regions of the German Reich as well as in many European states.

Those sent to the Correctional Institution of Hadamar were mainly people who were socially ostracised. Such persons included, for example, beggars, vagrants and prostitutes. Before they arrived here, they had usually already been detained for minor offences. After they served their sentence, they were sent to workhouses without further court decision.

In 1887, the institution reached its maximum occupancy. That year, 225 men and 110 women were held there. The men had mostly worked as day labourers or craftsmen before they became homeless or unemployed. Many women had been in domestic services for a time. While the men were usually over 30 years old, the women were between the ages of 20 and 30. It was often former soldiers who served as supervisors. They made sure that discipline was maintained, and they often changed.

Everyday life in the correctional institution was strictly regulated and characterised by much coercion. The aim was to “correct” the inmates by means of work. Hard labour or mindless work was to be carried out. If an inmate committed an offence, the head of the institution could order the inmate to be deprived of food or that their detention be extended. Hardly any attention was given to personal circumstances and needs. In the end, only a few inmates were able to be placed in a permanent job after their stay in the institution.

As occupancy continued to decrease, the institution was closed in 1906. The building was then used as a state sanatorium.

Literature: Christina Vanja, Die Hadamarer „Corrigendenanstalt“ (1883–1906), in: Uta George et al. (ed.), Hadamar. Heilstätte – Tötungsanstalt – Therapiezentrum, Marburg 2006, p. 56–67.