Opened in 1879, Plötzensee prison provided  space for 1,200 inmates, most of whom served short sentences. After the National Socialists  took power in 1933, conditions in Plötzensee and elsewhere worsened. The prison became the site of num ero us executions by the unjust National Socialist justice system.

Between 1933 and early 1937, a total of 56 people were beheaded by ax in one of the  prison  court­ yards. On October 14, 1936, Adolf Hitler decided to implement justice minister Franz Gürtner's pro po sal to execute condemned  priso n ers  inside  Germany by guillotine.

In 1937, a work shed was designated as the execution site in Plötzensee prison. Between May 1937 and August 1939, 124 people were beheaded there by means of a guillotine from Bruchsal prison in Baden. When the war started in September  of  1939, the number of prisoners killed  increased  sharply.  Up  to the end of 1939 alone, another 61 people were executed, followed by 192 in 1940, 91 in 1941, 542 in 1942, and 1,158 in 1943.

At the end of 1942, a steel beam was installed in the execution room, with eigh t iron hooks attached. This gallows was first used to hang members of the Red Orchestra resistance organization in December of 1942. In September of 1943, more than 250 condemned prisoners were hanged there in a mass execution, and in the fall of 1944, many of the resistance fighters involved in the attempted  coup of July 20 were also executed on the Plötzensee gallows.

In total, more than 2,800 prisoners from 20 countries were beheaded or hanged in Plötzensee prison between 1933 and 1945. The prison was liberated by Red Army soldiers on April 25, 1945.