The Museum of Underground Prisoners is located in Jerusalem where the central prison during the British Mandate.
The building was originally the “Russian Women Pilgrims Hostel,” built in the 1860’s as part of the Russian Compound. The inscription “Marianskya women’s hostel” can be seen in Russian above the entrance.
However, hostel was converted into a central prison during the British Mandate.
Alongside criminals, hundreds of underground warriors were imprisoned: Haganah, Etzel, and Lehi.
These were people who had been captured by the British on various actions, while fighting against foreign rule.
While the facility housed many death-row inmates, members of the Jewish underground sentenced to death were executed in Akko.
In Akko there was a prison for the north of Israel where underground prisoners were also held which is today the Underground Prisoners Museum.
They were not excused in Jerusalem because the British feared the Jewish reaction to executions in the holy city, so the gallows were never used for Jews.
Members of the Jewish underground were defined as political prisoners and tried by military courts.
They were charged with offenses that ranged from putting up posters, training in and possession of weapons, to physical assault.
Despite the tension between Arabs and Jews outside the prisons, the relations between Jewish and Arab prisoners were generally normal.
In January 1947, the tension outside penetrated into the prisons and a general fight broke out that spread throughout the prison. This outbreak was called “The Grand Toshe.”
Following this event, the prison was divided into two separate wings: the southern part of the prison became the Arab wing, and the northern part became the Jewish wing.
Sentences were determined according to the severity of the crime, ranging from several months to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
The prison was evacuated towards the end of the Mandate and was conquered by the Haganah with the assistance of the Etzel and Lehi during Operation Kilshon on 14th May 1948.
Following the establishment of the State the building was used for various civil purposes, including the warehouse of the Jewish Agency.
During the 1960s the Israeli government purchased most of the compound from the Russian government.
The building was renovated and restored in the 1990’s and became the museum.
Here you could see the prison cells, the escape room, the synagogue cell, the solitary confinement cells, the execution chamber, telling the sacrifice story of Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani, and an information center.
The museum describes the struggle of the Yishuv (Jewish population) for the establishment of the State through the unique story of the underground prisoners.
Guided museum tours explore the prison cells, an introduction to the story of the underground prisoners and the story of their struggle for the benefit of the Jewish population of the Land of Israel during the British Mandate.
The tour includes a film following a new prisoner at the prison, a visit to the escape room, the solitary confinement rooms and the execution chamber.
The duration of the tour is approx. 1.5 hours.