On the corner of Clemens-Schultz-Straße and Annenstraße in Hamburg is a fine 19th Century building which was built by a butcher named Koopmann. The building was on the site of a 17th century plague hospital and for many years it was assumed that its cellars dated from this period and they became known as the Pestkeller (Plague cellar). The truth however is rather more prosaic: the cellar was actually built as an ice-house in the 1860s.
The butcher actively traded with Denmark and England – apparently buying pigs from the Danish, processing them into sausages and similar and selling the products to England. Entering through a maze of surface rooms we found ourselves in the large cellar with two different patterns of vaulting. Modifications to the structure since construction include changes in the floor level and insertion of skylights in the vault. Original plans seem to show that the walls were double-skinned with a layer of air between to improve insulation. The remains of large hinges suggest that massive doors once sealed the subterranean vault.
We could also see the remains of a later-inserted smoker with its chimney breast, but the building’s use in World War II was arguably more chilling than its days as an ice house. For the butchers shop above had become the Headquarters of the local Nazi Party; we were shown photographs complete with party slogans and swastikas. No-one can be sure but it is believed that political prisoners were held in the cellars before interrogation or worse.