The project of the Montluc military prison was decided in 1914, it was finally built in 1921. With the release of the prisoners of war and the reduction of military prisoners it will be little used, in 1926 the prison is lent to civil justice. The civilian prison population also declined in the 1920s and 1930s, and the prison is closed in 1932.
The year 1939 marks the beginning of World War II, the military prison reopens its doors. In addition to military prisoners, rebels and spies, many communist activists are incarcerated there. In 1940, Lyon was located in the free zone under the Vichy regime. The Montluc prison was then at the heart of the violent repressive policy put in place by Pétain. From 1941, nearly 400 people were in this prison intended for 127 prisoners. In addition to the communists, there are the first resistance fighters, members of groups banned by the Vichy regime, as well as soldiers.
In February 1943, after the invasion of the free zone by the Nazis, the prison was completely requisitioned and administered directly by Klaus Barbie. The prison is made up of 122 cells, the individual cells are 4m2, they accommodate under the direction of the Nazis up to 8 prisoners. The people imprisoned are Jews, resistance fighters and political opponents, hostages, refractory to the STO. Montluc is a place of transit to the Nazi concentration camp universe, it is a first step in the process of dehumanization with overpopulation, increasingly rare meals, no possibility of washing, the proliferation of insects… Until its liberation in August 1944, it is estimated that between 9,000 and 10,000 detainees, men and women, were locked up in this prison for varying periods of time, awaiting deportation or transfer.
In 1947 the prison was made available to the prison administration. In 1955 it was decided that all the executions to take place in Lyon would take place in Montluc. The prison also plays a role during the Algerian war, 11 Algerian members of the FLN will be executed there between 1960 and 1961. Until 1982 the prison will be used by the court of the armed forces: conscientious objectors, deserters, rebels, antimilitarists, refractory to the war in Algeria…
Klaus Barbie was symbolically imprisoned there for a few days in 1983.
The prison was definitively closed in 2009, and was then listed as a historical monument, then transformed into a memorial.