A Hameln Germany hotel offers guests the opportunity to party in a former Nazi prison. €44 is the four hour price where guests dress in striped tee-shirts under the watch of guards wielding rubber batons. The Nazi era shadows Germans on a regular basis. No one needs a hotel promotion to increase the spotlight.
Using a jail or prison for fundraising is not new. A highlight from Michael Moore’s first documentary, ‘Roger and Me,’ showed Michigan socialites partying in the new Flint city jail. Creating revelry in a former Nazi prison, where hundreds died is not a laughing matter in Germany.
Each year a million visitors arrive in Hameln to celebrate the infamous Pied Pieper. The area is postcard pretty in the shadow of the Weserberg Mountains and along the shore of the mighty River Weser. For centuries, the river provided local trade flowing to the North Sea. Trade and tourism requires more hotels. The luxury Hotel Stadt Hameln opened in 1996 on the site of an old prison dating back to the early 19th century.
The prison housed inmates under Prussian rulers. According to Spiegel, 474 prisoners died, during the Nazi era, ‘from overwork, overcrowding, hunger, cold, and a lack of medical care.’ Others were shot or hanged. The City of Hameln tore down most of the prison, but placed a portion of the building under monument protection, before selling the property to the hotel developers.
Not satisfied selling Pied Pieper of Hameln figurines, the hotel began offering guests entertainment in a unique atmosphere. For a price of roughly $62 per person, the inmates receive striped tee-shirts before incarcerated in the former Nazi prison for four hours. Demand for tickets is apparently high. Despite intense criticism and scrutiny, the hotel is not backing down. Its website covers the 150 years of prison history without mentioning the Nazi era. The Hotel Stadt Hameln managing director, Gabriele Güse, told Spiegel, “We do not think we are damaging anyone or hurting anyone with our hotel. There will always be people that object to what others do.”
Germany balances across a tightrope between moving forward and remembering its darkest past. The recent conviction in Munich of John Demjanjuk, a former American and Nazi prison guard at the Sobibor Death Camp, is just one of the regular reminders of the era’s violence. Shelves of books discuss the German society’s guilt, shame, denial, frustration, and anger about events that ended over 65 years ago. With enough spotlight already aimed at the Nazi era, it frustrates descendants and victims when a hotel, and its guests, turn on another light while partying in a prison haunted by death.
If you travel in the Hannover area, Hameln is a great stop. The celebration of the Pied Pieper is fun with musical rats, colorful costumes, intriguing sculptures, and plenty of memorabilia. Each summer Sunday, a full cast re-creates the exodus of rats and children. There are plenty of mementos, like crazy Pied Pieper hats, to bring home as souvenirs. Leave the striped tee-shirts behind bars.