In what looks like a normal row of houses in a residential block of the city is where people were kept prisoner, tortured and murdered. This is a unique and sobering place to visit.
Who were the Gestapo?
The Gestapo were the Nazi Secret State Police in Germany and German-occupied Europe and gathered intelligence on those living in these places. Cologne only had 69 Gestapo officers and a population 750,000. As it was a small force, they relied on denunciations from the public about Jews and other minorities.
Between 1935 and 1945 EL-DE Haus was used as the headquarters of the Secret State Police of Nazi Germany, the Gestapo. The name of EL-DE Haus comes from the German pronunciation of the owner’s initials – L.D., Leopold Dahmen who rented the building to the Gestapo who built prison cells in the basement.
Here, the Gestapo police would hold people prisoners whilst they were being questioned and tortured. You can still see the writings scratched into the cell walls from those who were kept there.
A piece of history frozen in time with messages from people of the past.
The prison ran underneath 3 houses and executions could be seen by passers-by. Later on, the house was used again and residential homes and the cells were used as storage rooms until it became Cologne’s National Socialism Documentation Center, the largest regional memorial site in all of Germany for the victims of the Nazis.
In WW2 around 90% of Cologne’s inner city was destroyed, with only 40,000 residents still living in the area at the end of the war. Postwar architecture is a key character of Cologne today and is now the 4th largest city in Germany.