University students were an elite class in the 18th century, typically the sons of important and influential people. In some ways, this privileged group was almost above the law, often getting away with minor or even major crimes due to their statues. The attendees at Göttingen University were no exception, but the school didn’t want to put up with any shenanigans either. So a compromise was made: a jail exclusively for students.
Tucked in the back of the main university building at the Wilhelmsplatz, the Göttingen studentenkarzer (student jail) once served exactly that purpose. It’s fashioned with thick oak wood doors, metal bars, and small cells outfitted with wooden benches and toilets.
You may think the idea of being jailed in such a place would scare off potential wrong-doers, but in fact it had quite the opposite effect. Spending time in the jail was considered a rite of passage for many, eventually even seen as part of the university experience and a must-do in those times.
Most students were locked up for minor crimes like being too loud at night, waging duels, excessive laziness, or general “nonsense.” The inmates were still treated well, fed good food, and generally left to do what they want. This can be seen in the fact that every inch of the walls, floors, and even ceiling is covered in drawings, texts, and graffiti created by bored students.
The Göttingen studentenkarzer operated until 1933. In 2005 the historic jail was restored by the university and opened up to the public as a visitor attraction.
Know Before You Go
You can visit the jail by buying a ticket at the city's tourist office.