Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ludwigsburg Prison Museum

This is the first of two posts about the prison museum in Ludwigsburg,  a small town north of Stuttgart. A  building has been converted to a museum with two floors of exhibits. There are two guillotines and a number of other exhibits relating to capital punishment. The second post will cover exhibits relating to corporal punishment.

I do not read German so I am not sure if this guillotine was actually used at Ludwigsburg.

The rear of the guillotine, showing the splash guard and the tray for heads

A more basic guillotine from Moabit prison in Berlin

A list of executions

Print of an earlier method of decapitation

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Mathausen Concentration Camp

Mauthausen Concentration Camp was part of a group of Nazi concentration camps built near the  village of Mauthausen, about  20 kilometres (12 mi) east of  Linz in Austria. It  is less than two kilometres [uphill] from the  Danube and is often visited by people cycling along the Danube Cycle Path. Much of the camp has been preserved and is open to the public.

Mauthausen and nearby Gusen I, were  the only two camps  to be labelled as “Grade III”  and  were intended to be the toughest camps for the “Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich”.  Mauthausen was  used to kill the ruling classes of conquered countries through hard labour and mistreatment.

The photograph above shows the entrance to the camp. Unlike other concentration camps which used barbed wire to contain prisoners Mathausen has granite walls and administrative buildings. The granite came from a nearby quarry and working in that quarry was the main way in which inmates were tormented and killed. The camp had a small gas chamber but mainly employed the extermination through labour (Vernichtung durch Arbeit) policy of the Nazis.

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A nice cup of tea

Imagine that there is an island with two groups of people.  The minority group exploits the much larger majority.  The majority are the slaves of the minority.  If any of the majority objects to their exploitation they will probably be burnt alive.  Lesser offenders, minor rebels, may merely be hung or castrated.  The minority may do what they wish to the majority.  There are no legal constraints.  A housemaid may be tortured to death for breaking some china.  Many of the minority become incredibly rich.  The majority are treated like animals. They are there to work on plantations.

The island is Bermuda, a British colony in the Caribbean. It is the first of the British sugar islands.  The time is any time between the mid 17th century and the mid 19th century. The majority, the slaves, had been brought from Africa to grow sugar. The minority, the white British, have gone to Bermuda to get rich.

In the early days the plantations were worked by indentured servants. A half million Europeans went as indentured servants to the Caribbean. Some were sent because they were criminals or rebels, but the majority went voluntarily. They hoped to make their fortunes. In return for four to seven years labour their passage and keep would be provided by the plantation owners. Then they would be free. Some were mistreated but there were constraints on what could be done. Indentured servants could complain to a local magistrate about mistreatment. However, between a third and a half of indentured servants died before they were freed and the islands became known as death traps.

So much money was made by the Bermuda sugar planters that other islands, including Jamaica, were planted with sugar and slaves were brought from Africa.

Died like flies

People died like flies.  The death rate on the islands was incredibly high.  In Kingston, Jamaica, in some years in the 1740s and 1750s, 20 per cent of the population died each year.  The death rate was equal to London’s during the Black Death, but it went on year after year. When Thomas Thistlewood arrived in Jamaica in 1750 he was told that only 14 out of 136 who had arrived on a ship 16 months earlier were still alive.

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