Memorial Staircase

Memorial Staircase

This  structure  was originally built in 1935 as the State Archive for Kristiansand.  Arkivet was possessed by German soldiers only a few days after the occupation, the 9th of April, 1940. Two years later, the Gestapo  took over the building as their headquarters on the south coast.

Arkivet was attractive for the Nazis for both its location looking over approaching ships to Kristiansand as well as the building’s monumental architecture. Soldiers guarded the large entrance. Anyone who had business with the Gestapo had to go up these stairs, whether applying for a visitor's permit to see a prisoner, or being led to an interrogation.             

Citation: Alf Huseth “One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had must be when they took my father to Arkivet. He was not a big person. He was a small man, like me.  And two big policemen. They dragged him up the stairs by his arms. He seemed so small. We knew what Arkivet represented. There were a flood of rumours about everything that happened in Arkivet. It was so terrible, terrible. To see one’s own father dragged up the stairs to be brought to this room of horrors was the most powerful experience I have from the war.” 

Here on the top floor is the office of Gestapo leader Rudolf Kerner. There were also several other Gestapo offices on this floor. There were also jailers, guards, chauffeurs, telegraph operators, case workers as well as other service people.  There were at most 30-40 people working here. Half of them were Norwegian. 

The whole building was used for interrogation and torture. The most serious cases took place down in the basement.  The screams of the prisoners being tortured could just barely be heard through the thick, cement walls. However, people on the outside knew what was happening just the same and Arkivet became known colloquially as “The House of Horror”. 

Over 3500 southerners were imprisoned for at least 4 days during the 2nd World War and the majority of them     went through Arkivet.  Their names are written in alphabetical order on the walls of the “The Memorial Stairs”.  Most of the prisoners were kicked and beaten,  and all of them suffered significant psychological pressure.  311 Norwegians and 7 Soviet prisoners of war were systematically tortured at Arkivet. You will get to know some of them when you go down into the Gestapo- basement.