The studentenkarzer, or student jail, at Heidelberg University in Germany

This German University Has a Student Jail

This German University Has a Student Jail

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
June 6 2014 1:25 PM

Heidelberg University's Student Jail

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

During the 19th century, unruly students at Heidelberg University in Germany were banished to an unusual place: the on-campus jail.

The "studentenkarzer," or student jail, held undergrads who had committed minor, often alcohol-induced infractions such as carousing, dueling, and freeing the town pigs. The penalty for this sort of mischief ranged from a few days or a few months in the jail, depending on the severity of the offense. Students were expected to keep attending classes during their incarceration.


Conditions at the jail weren't exactly arduous: cells were spacious and appointed with proper beds and desks. A stay at the studentenkarzer became a rite of passage for rabble-rousers, who would scrawl their names and frat house symbols on the walls. During later years, when visitors were permitted, inmates would invite their friends over to the jail and transform it into a party house.

After closing in 1914, the studentenkarzer has been preserved, graffiti and all, and is now open to the public. 

View Studentenkarzer in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.