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Hotel offends with prison theme parties where Nazis held workers
Photo: DPA

Hotel offends with prison theme parties where Nazis held workers

Published: 25 May 2011 11:22 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 May 2011 11:22 GMT+02:00

A hotel in Hameln has provoked the ire of a historian and embarrassed city politicians by hosting jail-themed parties in cellars where the Nazis once imprisoned forced labourers.

At least 474 people died in the buildings under the Nazis due to horrendous conditions, or were shot when trying to escape, as far as local historian Bernhard Gelderblom has been able to establish, he told Der Spiegel magazine.

Gelderblom said he considered the parties grotesque, and said he had often tried to raise the matter in the city. He said he was in contact with relatives of people who were held as prisoners in the building who he said were, “outraged and find it tasteless.”

The four-star Hotel Stadt Hameln, in the centre of the northern German city of Hameln – known as Hamelin in English – has a detailed account on its website of its history. A jail was built on the site in the 1820s by Georg Domeier – the city’s mayor and commissar for George IV King of Hannover and England.

Despite describing its expansion to include a factory and exercise yard, there is no mention of the first half of the 20th century or the Nazi use of the building to imprison forced labourers.

The website’s account jumps from the end of the 19th century to 1978, when the last prisoner left, in one swift move, skipping the Third Reich completely.

Rather, it offers a link to information on what it calls Prussian prison parties. There, those who have paid €44 for the privilege are ordered about by members of staff wearing prison officer uniforms.

They are given striped T-shirts to wear under the pretence of ensuring that no vermin are brought in, and even given a drink, described as a ‘oral vaccine’ before they enter the main room, which has bars at the entrance.

Managers or bosses from a group of guests can be nominated to be locked up in special cells, which the website promises is much to the amusement of their colleagues. There is even a photograph of one guest being held in stocks in the middle of the room.

Maurice Born, a retired French professor who has been researching Hameln’s history since the 1960s, said he had been outraged when he saw the advert for the hotel’s prison parties last September.

“I simply could not believe it,” he told Der Spiegel. “I thought it was a joke.”

He wrote a long letter to the hotel, the Mayor Susanne Lippmann and local political parties, outlining the building’s history and calling the prison parties ‘grotesque masquerades.’ He also pointed out what he called the ‘highly one-sided’ historical description on the hotel’s website.

His letter, send in October, did not receive an answer from any of the addressees, he said.

Hameln’s city spokesman Thomas Wahmes told the magazine that the mayor had asked him to answer Born’s letter but that he had not yet got around to it.

“We can very well understand Mr Born and his feelings,” he told Der Spiegel. The hotel was free to do what it wanted, but, “when one knows what happened there, it is obviously tasteless,” he said.

He said Lippmann was of the same opinion.

“We receive such letters from time to time,” hotel manager Gabriele Güse told the magazine.

“This hotel on this spot was the political will of the city of Hameln,” she said.

“We don’t think that we are doing anything to damage or injure anyone with our hotel.”

When asked why the hotel’s homepage did not include even a mention of the Nazis’ use of the building, she said, “I don’t wish to comment.”

In a written statement she told Der Spiegel the parties were, “not at any time even slightly connected with the history of the building quoted by Mr Born.”

She compared the parties with other mediaeval knights’ dinners on offer in other historical buildings.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:16 May 25, 2011 by LarsBar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:42 May 25, 2011 by sebastian2010
to Larsbar:

oblivious..... i think not. I would say they want to move past the dark time already. how much do you think about all the indains killed by your country tring to wipe them out???
17:04 May 25, 2011 by LarsBar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:34 May 25, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
Um, they can do what they want - it's their hotel. Obviously they aren't having Nazi nostaligia since they won't even list the history of that era on their website, and are trying to avoid talking about it. And another thing - if Germans weren't allowed to do anything inside of buildings that were once used by Nazis, whole cities would have to be evacuated. They are just joking around, anyway.
18:36 May 25, 2011 by LarsBar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:56 May 25, 2011 by donniaahumanoid
I disagree with LarsBar. Germans aren't being oblivious, they're trying to move on from the past. But of course they don't forget it; they know what their country did was wrong. There's a time to move on, but always remember not to make the same mistakes.

The same can't be same for Americans (and I am American). We oh so love to sugarcoat everything we do as the right thing when we're clearly wrong.

As for the article...it is their hotel. And like Jack stated, there can't possibly be any nostaligia because their website won't even list the history during WW2.
23:15 May 25, 2011 by iseedaftpeople
I would say this was probably just a somewhat innocent (or maybe even ignorant, yes) idea for a party theme, I doubt this had anything remotely to do with (neo-)Nazi reminiscience for the hotel owners who came up with it. But sometimes you don't realize how offensive an idea like this is to some other people, and that you can really get yourself in hot water.

This also has little to do with if and how Germans in general try to move past their history. The Nazis were THE darkest chapter in all of German history, yes, but every good sensible German knows that, and knows that that carries with it certain responsibilities of never letting it happen again and fighting and opposing neo-Nazism. To construe a general lack of historical sensitivity from this one incident where somebody didn't wholly think things true would certainly be quite a stretch.
01:57 May 26, 2011 by LarsBar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
07:07 May 26, 2011 by harcourt
As an Englishman I am amazed that this sort of thing is even discussed as to whether it is right or wrong. I know that in the USA the " N " word is an absolute taboo and I guess if somebody hit on the idea to theme some event on "slavery times" it would be shouted out of court by the general public. But as I see by comments in The Local this is not so in Germany which tells you something I suppose.
10:32 May 26, 2011 by Angry Ami
Well you could take both sides of the argument, should people play jail in a former Nazi jail, but then should people constantly be bet over the head about the past, which you can't change anyway, good question, no easy answer.
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