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Out of here. Inscriptions of people in police custody and immigration detention in Klapperfeld prison – 1955–2002

In February 2009, the initiative »Faites votre jeu!« decided to accept the former police prison Klapper­feld as a replacement object for a previously occupied building. This decision was the result of a long period of debate within the initiative and ­between the initiative and the city of Frankfurt. It was clear from the very beginning that the use of the former police prison as a cultural centre had to be combined with a critical analysis of its 115-year-long history of repression and ­persecution. Based on this conviction, a permanent ­exhibition was ­created in the basement of the building. This ­exhibition focuses on the lives and stories of ­persecution of the people who were held in ­custody at Klapperfeld by the Gestapo between 1933 and 1945.

With the exhibition OUT OF HERE. Inscriptions of People in Police Custody and Immigration ­Detention in Klapperfeld Prison 1955–2002 we are trying to take a closer look at how the prison was used during the last decades before its closure. The »working group 2nd floor« was ­founded for that exact reason. The main focus of our work is on the 2nd floor of the building, which remains in the state in which we found it in 2009 – ­including several thousands of inscriptions, murals and legacies left by the people detained here. In the exhibition we want these inscriptions to speak for themselves as much as possible. Since early 2013, volunteers have been documenting and translating them with the help of sticky dots, ­photographs and numerous tables. The results of this work are presented in booklets which are available in the cells. In addition, audio ­installations, featuring the voices of some of the translators, in cells 57, 65 and 71, offer yet another, acoustic approach to the inscriptions.

Besides the translation work we have always been and still are in search of witnesses. We have had some very inspiring conversations with members from a voluntary visiting service, a police paramedic and several lawyers who knew Klapperfeld while it was still used as a detention center. In addition we have searched through archives and libraries to find newspaper articles and documents in relation to immigration detention at Klapperfeld. Some of them are on display at the exhibition. ­Unfortunately we have not yet had the possibility to talk to somebody who was held in immigration detention in Klapperfeld Prison. The information we gathered from interviews and our archival research are presented on the exhibition panels, complemented by further details on immigration detention and the imprisonment conditions at Klapperfeld prison. Another panel displays a letter of a detainee. It can be found next to cell 63 where the letter was accidentally discovered behind a mirror by two visitors.

Work on the translations, (archival) research and interviews with witnesses are by no means concluded, but continue to go on. We would be delighted to receive new directions, information on life in prison (be it general or more detailed) as well as contact with further witnesses who can ­testify on the use of Klapperfeld as a detention ­centre. And of course we are always happy to ­welcome new members into our working group! Finally, we would like to take the opportunity to thank all our current and future sponsors and especially all the volunteers who supported us. They ­contributed largely to the realization of this project and are still doing so. Without them, this ­exhibition would not have been possible.

The working group 2nd floor