Found Poetry Going into Nothingness (Gestapo Prison, 1944)

JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2565

El-De House inscription

“Everything is transient–even a life sentence.” [Image source: ]

So reads the inscription on a wall in one of the cells in the former Gestapo “house prison” at the EL-DE House in Koln. There’s no real telling how many people the Gestapo brought to this place.  There were 10 cells in the basement of the building seized of Leopold Dahmen (the “L.D.” of “EL-DE”), but they could be made to hold many people (some as many as thirty) for interrogation and torture. From there, people were sent off to other Gestapo prisons, or to the Buchenwald sub-camp nearby at the fairgrounds,  or shot in the head, or executed right there in the basement on a mobile gallows built for seven that was stored next to the kitchen.

The Gestapo negotiated to use the building (Appellhofplatz 23-25, at the corner of Elisenstrasse) and put it to heavy use for the next ten years, arresting and kidnapping social agitators, anti-NSDAP, Communists, Democrats, Gypsies, gays, and others deemed to be detriments to society or threats to the government, where they were questioned, beaten, and then generally sent off to some fatal rendezvous.

The sizable EL-DE Haus survived the 262 air raids on Koln, including the massive (and first) 1000-bomber raid (May 30-31, 1942).  The majority of its seized occupants did not survive EL-DE Haus.  

Today the building is an historical landmark in the city, a museum of the Nazi era. Many of the inscriptions etched/drawn on the walls of the cells by their prisoners are still visible and have been preserved–some have been restored (in spite of some being painted over in 1979 in a decision no-doubt being either resistant to understanding and full of malicious thought or being entirely thoughtless).

The inscriptions are recorded at the museum’s website ( along with numerous photos of the cells and the structure.  

One is particularly lonely, and fearful, and reads in a way like found-poetry of dread unknowing and anticipation:

“7/9/44 Thursday, 8/9/44 Friday;

9/9/44 alone

11/9/44 Monday, 2 Frenchwomen;

12/9/44 Tuesday, 13/9/44 Wednesday, one German woman;

14/9/44 Thursday 15/9/44 Friday  

Wednesday 18th October 1044 Been here 26 days,

Thursday 19 October 27 days,

Friday 28th October 28 days,

Saturday 21 October  29 days,

 Sunday 22 October 30 days.

So one month here.”

Someone was desperate. trying to capture time spent in the dank place, recording an existence, calling time by its full name, every day.  And then off to nothing.  


By: Ptak Science Books
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries

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