FÆNGSLET – the jail as the main attraction of town

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Horsens is the eight biggest city in Denmark so you might think it has a ton of great attractions. There are a few but the prime attraction is a big building on the top of a hill on the outskirts of town. FÆNGSLET or the old jail it used to be the main correction facility in Denmark for the long term prisoners.

The main

The last prisoners were released or relocated in 2006 and the prison was abolished after 150 years of use. Today it has been turned into the main cultural scene of the city with many concerts and festivals taking place at the area. The performers are mainly Danish but there have been some fairly big foreign bands as well with Aerosmith and Metallica probably being the biggest names. If

Old cell with the bed rolled up in a corner

If you like there is also the option of actually spending a night in the jail – there is a small hostel in one of the old buildings at the location – I guess they no longer lock the doors from the outside but it isn’t a luxury accommodation so you will have to accept bunk beds and a shared toilet and shower on the hall.

Size of a night cell 3.125 square meters or about 33/34 square feet.

There is also a big museum at the location which will let you get an impression of what life used to be like inside the prison. You can see the different cells and the living conditions inside the prison. There are also some exhibitions about crime in the Danish society which some might find interesting.

You can see the different area where the prisoners lived you can see different cells from different time periods and learn about the some of the people who went to jail. You can also see the small kitchens and showering area the prisoners used in later days.

I took special note of a couple of famous former inmates. Werner Best the civilian German leader of the occupation of Denmark during the Second World War. After the war he was sentenced to death in 1948 but the sentence was reduced to 12 year on appeal and he was sent to the jail in Horsens where he stayed until he was released in 1951 and returned to Germany. There is a small exhibition about the trial at the end of the war and what happened during this time.

Werner Best – ruler of Denmark during WW II

Another famous inmate was a former minister of justice. He served as a minister for 7 years just after the turn of the 20th century but he also had dealings in a local bank. It turned out he had committed documents fraud and embezzled the small bank for no less than 15 million DKK. This is equal to more than 100 million Euros in today’s value. He got sentenced to 8 years in jail and spent the first two in this prison. There is a funny little display where you can see the man when he went to jail as a very big fat man – and then you can see how he continuously loses weight until he is released as a slim man.

When you leave the prison you go underground. This is actually the last exhibition of the prison called Lorentzen’s Tunnel. Back many years ago a career criminal – Lorrentzen – with a reputation for frequent escapes from prisons were sent here. He stayed in a basement and realized there was a hole under a staircase next to his cell. After he found this he made different tools and started digging a tunnel under the ground to get out. He had to dig a tunnel for about 18 meters to get under the wall of the jail. The tunnel repeated collapsed behind him but he just dug himself out and continued the work on the tunnel.

Sign left by Lorentzen at the entrance to the tunnel: Where there is a will there is also a way!

He kept digging during the night so he didn’t get much sleep and he did it in his underwear so the guards wouldn’t notice his cloth being dirty. The conditions must have been awful digging the tunnel so his health deteriorated. The prison management decided they had to move him from his cell and told him he had to move to another cell in a couple of weeks – but his tunnel wasn’t finished yet so he had to dig harder. Finally he made it. He escaped after spending more than 11 months digging the tunnel. He was free – but it didn’t last long. After only 7 days he got caught and was returned to jail – probably on an upper floor so he couldn’t dig his way out again.

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