THE ABANDONED PRISON IN GERMANY
The ‘Kettenburg’ is a medieval moated castle in Gräfentonna. It was rebuilt several times and served as a correctional facility over a period of 130 years, until its closure in 1989. Today the site is abandoned and now and then used as a movie set.
Already in the year 874 this site was known as the residence of the Counts of Tonna. In 1089, it was inhabited by Erwin I. Around 1200 the building was rebuilt as a typical late Roman moated castle, it was home of the Counts of Gleichen and Tonna. The oldest parts are the 35-meter-high tower in the north wing and the high front building in the northeast.
In 1375 the castle was restored after a fire. The south and east wings were expanded in various stages in the 16th century. From the mid-17th century until 1861, the castle served as the princely house of the Duke of Gotha.
Eventually, from 1861 to 1991 the building served as a prison. For this purpose, the castle was enlarged with a third floor, so it could accommodate 282 inmates. Until 1933 it was a female only prison, but later that year they also opened a men’s department.
At least 144 foreign forced laborers were detained in the old castle during the Second World War. They were Prisoners of war from France, Poland, and the Soviet Union who had to work at local farms and factories. During DDR-times, political prisoners were detained in this prison.
Since the completion of a new correctional facility in Gräfentonna, the Kettenburg castle has been empty. In 2013, the castle was the location for the film adaptation of the novel The Notebook. Some rooms are still decorated as a film set. I visited the old prison castle in 2019.