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H.J. Schmidtchen
Zellengang im Neubau


Heinz-Joachim Schmidtchen

Heinz-Joachim Schmidtchen was born on 8 December 1928 in Schwiebus (Brandenburg).

At the age of 17, Heinz-Joachim Schmidtchen was arrested by the Soviet police (NKVD) on 11 May 1946. Together with his friends, he had put up posters in Prenzlauer Berg opposing the forced unification of the KPD and SPD political parties. The youngsters had not expected to be arrested, as the SPD was an officially authorised party.

Heinz-Joachim Schmidtchen was sent to the NKVD basement prison in Prenzlauer Allee. Together with 16 other prisoners, he spent the first weeks of his imprisonment in an almost pitch black dungeon, which was characterised by physical abuse during interrogations, meagre food ratios and horrendous hygiene conditions. When he was given clothes by a Soviet officer at the end of June, he hoped to be released. But he was transported to Hohenschönhausen Special Camp No. 3. There, the teenager saw corpses being carried out of the cells every day. He also observed the removal of countless dead bodies at Special Camp No. 1 in Sachsenhausen, his third detention centre. 

Heinz-Joachim Schmidtchen remained in Soviet custody for four years – without a court ruling and without any contact with his family. During the "Waldheim Trials", a GDR court sentenced him to a further ten years in prison. He was released in 1954 and built a new life for himself in West Germany. Since 1990, Heinz-Joachim Schmidtchen has been campaigning for the reappraisal of the Soviet special camps and the commemoration of the countless people who died there.