Inscriptions in Immigration Detention and Police Custody at Klapperfeld

Attention: open in a new window. Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info)E-mail

Inscriptions in Immigration Detention and Police Custody at Klapperfeld

»This is a historic house & everyone must write down something«
[inscription 62, cell 70]

Over the course of several decades people in immigration detention have left thousands of inscriptions on the 2nd floor of this building.In each of the cells doors, walls, window frames, tables and chairs were used to express in a large number of different languages what otherwise couldn‘t be expressed in detention.
The inscriptions documented so far were made between 1955 and 2002 – almost a 50 year period. The oldest ones can be found on the furniture of the single cells, suggesting that it was installed in the
1950s and hasn‘t been renewed since. Most likely, these inscriptionswere left by people who had been taken into police custody. The main focus of this exhibition however is on the far larger number of
inscriptions written by people in immigration detention. Apparently, cells hadn‘t been renovated after the 1980s as inscriptions on walls and doors date back to until this period. Most of them are signed with men‘s names, but we found two female names as well.
There is a great variety of writing tools: some wrote with ballpoints or felt-tip pens, some used sharp objects to scratch or carve messages onto the walls or furniture. Others used the soot of candles or lighters, tooth paste or groceries like jam to make inscriptions.Witnesses confirm that inmates could take certain personal belongings like pens into the cells. The use of everyday items like tooth paste and jam suggests that not all detainees had such objects in their luggage.
Contents of the inscriptions vary as much as the writing tools. Yet particular themes reoccur: names, places of origin and residence, the date of the presumed deportation or the duration of detention can be frequently found. Many inscriptions are prayers, creeds or pleads for divine assistance. There are numerous political messages,often including nationalist symbols or harsh criticism of the German state, its citizens, police and judiciary. One can also discover loving messages to children, partners or friends as well as appeals to stand firm and a few tangible (legal) tips to fellow detainees. Some  inscriptions are written in vulgar speech or are of sexist, racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic content.
One detainee left a riddle to pass the time that reads something like: »What sort of weights do you need if you want to measure everynumber of kilograms between 1 and 40 with only four different weights?« The inscriptions repeatedly provide deeper insight into the conditions under which  immigration detention and deportation were applied. For example, one message in Russian reads: »ShowerMonday, Wednesday, Friday; feeding times at 10 am breakfast, at 12.30 pm and at 5 pm.« A Ukrainian inscription shows that at the time its author was alone in the prison: »From August 28th until August 31st all alone in prison. Two days and three nights«.


Deutsch (DE-CH-AT)English (United Kingdom)


Faites votre jeu!
Klapperfeldstreet 5
60313 Frankfurt

0177 3982718
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it